I just wanted to follow up on the reactions here a couple of weeks ago to conference on Blogging, Journalism and Credibility at Harvard, which was co-sponsored by the Berkman Center and the Shorenstein Center, along with the American Library Association.
Kevin Lyda had created an entry in dKosopedia about the conference where he asked questions about the apparent dearth of progressive bloggers at the conference. This had followed my abrubt introduction to the dKos community, courtesy of Paul Lukasiak (bushsux).
I went to the conference, and followed up the week after with emails with Paul, Kevin, and Mike Pridmore, as well as several other "outsiders" to the proceedings, and used what I learned to write up a 4600-word report on inclusiveness at the conference. You can comment on the report at Civilities.Net, or read more about I feel that this specifically applies to the dKos community.
I considered nine different axes of inclusion: not just political view, but race, national origin, first language, religion, gender, socioeconomic class, creed, credentials. My conclusion is that political view mattered very little. It was hardly the case that the three identified conservatives-- Jeff Jarvis, Robert Cox, and John Hinderaker ("Hindrocket" of Powerline) spouted off conservative talking points. In fact, some of the worst offenses of propping up conservatism were done by others-- Dave Winer and Dan Gillmor. I like Dan as a person, he's thoughtful and attentive, but sometimes, on his blog as well as in these conferences, he's just winging it.
What's more important for your considerations-- and let's don our Thomas Frank union caps here-- was that it was the class bias that was persuasive, and not the political bias. The class of journalists sitting around the table were more closer to "buckrakers" than the "muckrakers" we long for to look after our interests when the government doesn't (the working reporters for the big papers covering the event, mostly young women my age seated on the outside, all politely demurred when asked if the conference inspired them to get blogs).
I offer this in order to help clarify the liberal concerns about the media. I have written, following Thomas Frank and Ron Suskind, that it is the conservatives' interests that are often met by populist attacks on the media, as its part of a larger attack against intellectualism and reason, our "reality-based community." That's not to say that the media is blameless. I also stop short of expecting blogs to come to the rescue of the traditional media (which the blogging priests at the conference wanted to project). The problems of today's media predate the blogs. An excellent book I am reading now is James Fallows's 1996 Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy. Fallows's big target is not the print model or the editing process, but the corrupting influence of over the last two decades of television punditry and the speaking engagement circuit. It is Fallows who delightfully nails the celebrity-journalists as "buckrakers," a term introduced to him by Michael Kinsley who "confessed" to being one after the Crossfire gig. Fallows still writes for the Atlantic Monthly; Kinsley is now editor of the LA Times after years at Slate, and they're both masters of the craft. You never see either of them on television, not Kinsley anymore. The talking heads who are running from TV show to radio interview to this speech and that, are, more often than not, just winging it.
None of the bigwigs have posted public responses to my piece, it has fans in Rebecca Blood, N. Todd Pritsky,
Seth Finkelstein. Jeneane Sessum wrote a solid review. One woman who will be attending the so-called "GodBlogCon" linked to the piece, but skipped mention whether she'd follow a similar study on inclusiveness regarding a conference for "Godbloggers."
Though I have been following up with some of the academics privately. I've successfully pointed out to them that many of the big bloggers, InstaPundit, for example demand accountability for others while ignoring themselves. This is a very important think for the academics studying this to realize, despite the mindless picture painted by Winer et al.
So I conclude with a quote from Ron Bryneart: "I am shocked at the antipathy expressed by so many democrats for the idea that bloggers should subscribe to certain ethics." I agree with Byrneart. The things we strive for to achieve credibility (as Dan Gillmor put it recently, though this is no different from what Walter Lippman asked for a century ago)-- thoroughness, accuracy, transparency, fairness-- should serve liberals well, and always counter the bogus and unapologetic missives from the likes of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Reynolds.