Few organizations at the state level in Maryland have seen the benefits of blogs enough to start doing targetted media outreach to us, but the supporters of the Purple Line are among them. They're personally inviting blog readers to sign their online petition:
The Purple Line Now coalition is launching an on-line petition. The aim is to show the breadth of support for building the Purple Line as light rail from New Carrollton to Bethesda.
I posted yesterday about the Maryland Politics Watch series on the Gazette, which is the most popular story they've had over there in a long time. Adam Pagnucco's a nice guy, and while he criticized their labor policy, he never said anything about their journalism or past accusations about right wing pro-business bias.
So I was a little surprised to read this ham-handed little bit of biased retaliation. Background: Adam Pagnucco works for the carpenter's union, and for a while now his union has been advocating for a prevailing wage law in Montgomery County. This past week, the County Council finally passed the law by an overwhelming majority. But if you read through the Gazette article about it that I linked to above, you'll notice the following:
- It provides information entirely on one side of the issue. It describes a number of different anti-prevailing wage talking points, and only mentions the arguments for the bill in the context of a single quote, buried more than halfway through the article.
- It quotes four opponents, and only one supporter. One of the opponents quoted is Anthony O'Donnell, who doesn't even live in Montgomery County.
- Nowhere does the Gazette even attempt to describe the point of view of the carpenters union, a major supporter of the bill. But it does find the space to print this quote, from the head of Montgomery County's anemic Republic Party, effectively arguing against both the prevailing wage law and any other wage-related laws like the minimum wage, the living wage law, and the equal pay act:
"The marketplace should govern wages and employee and employer relationships,"
In other words, it's what you would expect to see in a press release from the Republican Party or the National Federation of Independent Business, not from a newspaper claiming to journalistic neutrality. I can't imagine it was intended as anything except retribution against Adam and his union for his having had the gall to question the Gazette's business model. Although I guess you could make the case that the Gazette was just biased to begin with, and that the above quote is simply their reaction to Adam's criticism of what they pay their employees. And the stupid part is, it's bad for business. Montgomery and Prince George's County are two of the Gazette's prime markets, and a lurch to the right is not exactly going to boost their readership among the vast majority of people there who are Democrats.
If this continues, it may be time to begin treating the Gazette like we treat Fox News, and demand that Democratic elected officials no longer speak to Gazette reporters.
Adam Pagnucco over at MPW has another great investigative blogging series up (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Follow-up on salaries), this time about financial problems and consequent staffing cuts at the Gazette newspapers. The Gazette is the dominant local paper in Montgomery, Prince George's, Frederick, and Carroll Counties, and as such is a fairly influential media outlet. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably followed a link from one of my postings to a Gazette story. So it hurts the community when a key news source is being downsized, and Adam documents the specifics about the economic problems at the Gazette, and how they're trying to balance their books on the backs of their reporters.
It's caught the attention of someone in the Gazette management, though, because they've starting commenting anonymously about how great a workplace the Gazette really is, and about how bloggers are all biased buffoons. Fact is, the way news is delivered IS changing. Blogs have provided a new source of news, one which is much more responsive to the needs of readers. The Gazette can't be a portal for discussion of state and local politics from both the liberal and conservative perspective. Which is why sites like Red Maryland, Free State Politics, and Maryland Politics Watch exist. And as a newspaper with two releases a week, it can't respond to stories as rapidly as the blogs. But the Gazette and papers like it are still essential for their teams of full-time employees who can seek out stories in a way that local bloggers can't, because we have full-time jobs of our own. So it'll be sad if mismanagement, mistreatment of workers, or market forces lead to a further weakening of the Gazette, whether or not the editorial page continues to align itself with the business wing of the Republican Party.
That said, it begs pointing out the irony that in saying that blogs don't report real news, the anonymous Gazette management commenter was insulting his or her own parent newspaper, the Washington Post. The Post runs a huge number of successful news blogs on its website, including blogs on local and state politics, like Maryland Moment, and prominent national blogs, like Chris Cillizza's The Fix.
Peter Franchot has a blog up now. So far, it's nothing more than what goes out over his e-mail list. It'll be interesting to see if they use it as an effective campaign / candidate blog, or if it's another weak attempt by a politician to have an online presence, without putting in the effort to create a real one.
If you have sitemeter and us Internet Explorer, they are not working together and will not allow you to get into your blog. What it also means that I cannot read any blogs with sitemeters on them. THIS is a HUGE problem in blogspot land right now. What you do is: go to blogspot.com log in get to your dashboard then layouts remove sitemeter....
I had the same problem loading my blog in IE (I usually use Firefox) and it did work after removing the Sitemeter Code. Don't know what that's all about, but I wonder if it's somehow tied into this spam issue. Problematically, I seem to be having issues publishing to my server at the moment (I'm not hosted on blogspot) this is just a bad day all around for everybody:
There's a spate of political blogging sites being flagged as spam blogs on the widely used Google software tool Blogspot. One of the sites that has been locked out is our arch-nemesis Red Maryland, but it's a nationwide problem and affecting sites on both ends of the political spectrum. It won't affect Free State, because Isaac runs this site on different software. No sense yet whether it's a software glitch or some sort of petulant partisan back and forth flagging, but in the mean time people will have to depend on the traditional media for their local political news in a lot of places. Good luck to Red Maryland on getting everything up and running again.
I missed the time window for commenting on Native Son's 27Jun diary A Modest Blogging Proposal, hence this diary. First I will note that the link to Colorado Pols needs to be fixed - removing the text string 'freestatepolitics.us' from the embedded URL in the original diary should fix it.
On the actual subject of the diary, having a "blog of common ground" managed jointly by folks of varying political stripes is a good idea in principle, and occasionally works, as the Colorado blog seems to illustrate (minor nit to pick - based on a cursory read-through, I would not describe that blog as "nonpartisan" but rather "bipartisan", or even "polypartisan" if they let in Libertarians, Greens, and other "third party" participants.)
For this sort of thing to work, the folks who set it up and run it have to trust one another, and establish and strongly enforce guidelines for posting, especially in regard to what constitutes abusive language - generally, though not always, self-evident - and irrelevance, e.g., permitting long diatribes from 9/11 Truthers on a state politics blog will likely drive readers away. Again, the trust thing is important - the folks running the show have to come to terms on the goals of the blog and the rules for posting, constantly monitor the blog, and stay in touch with each other with sufficient regularity to quickly resolve disputes before they become flame wars. Such conflagrations have been known to turn once good blogs into charred embers (to continue with the tortured analogy).
I've never run a blog, but I've read enough of them to know how much work they are for the proprietors of even single-issue sites, let alone sites where a few hotheads with different world views can really stir the pot. There are a few sites out there that make it work - a national-level one is Obsidian Wings, which has kept going even with changes in its group proprietorship over the years, with only a few changes in the strictly enforced posting rules required during that time (fyi, my favorite poster there is Hilzoy, who is a Philosophy prof. at Johns Hopkins). On the other hand, I couldn't see this working on any large scale in the toxic miasma of, say, Texas state politics, whose once kinda-sorta bipartisan environment was replaced some years ago with the demon child hatched by Tom Delay and Satan (Karl Rove was the midwife, I think).
If the would-be proprietors of a bi/polypartisan Maryland blog know each other in RL - say, as students who cross paths at college - it would probably increase the odds of such a thing working, since it's harder to sustain dark, lurid fantasies about your political opponents (and potential blog partners) when you can see that they are regular, decent folk in RL. Given some of the contentious matters facing Maryland, especially tough budget/taxation decisions, that sort of comity becomes even more important in keeping lines of communication open.
Apropos of my post from yesterday, Marc Steiner's blog is fascinating reading. In particular I'd like to associate myself with his thoughts on Barack Obama's speech on race Tuesday:
We live in a nation where race has always been at the root of our social and political discussion. Race is at the root of our national persona. It is complex, very complex. Our generation, our race, our region, our gender, and our exposure other races define our feelings and sense of race as a nation. Barak Obama clearly understands the complexity of race in America. My own sense of him is that growing up as a Black child raised by a socially and politically open white mother, with conservative white grandparents in a white world, with an African father whom he did know, defined his own search for racial identity in America. He lived in other cultures and saw race not just through the lens of Black and White but through Asian worlds that most non-Asian-Americans ever touch. This is a life journey that took him, and continues to take him, wrestling with race through all its American complexities.
America needs to have this conversation with itself. Maybe Barak Obama is the only one, at the moment, who is able to create this conversation among ourselves.
And here's Obama's speech itself for good measure:
I have a soft spot for the Washington Post, despite the various heresies of their editorial page on issues I care about, like, for instance, whether teachers deserve to be paid. Soft spot aside, I think they've been smart to embrace blogs on their website, and Maryland Moment is smack dab in the middle of my favorites list. But it's interesting to me that they haven't taken off in the way I expect they would. Post reporters have access to news stories and newmakers beyond what any volunteer blogger can muster. And yet, their comments pages are often slim on reader responses (as are ours, I'll admit).
So here's my little note of assistance to the Post (who I'm certain don't read this blog): The WashingtonPost.com's loose policy on comments means they have less reader feedback than Ficker feedback. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, Robin Ficker is the most annoying man in Montgomery County, and perhaps the universe. He's run for Montgomery County executive a dozen times or so, one of those perennial ego candidates that makes you question democracy. So Maryland Moment is periodically plagued by some mildly delusional comment from Ficker, and, when someone steps up to disagree with him, a dozen really obvious sockpuppets pop up to support Ficker. Geeky lingo warning: a sock puppet is a false identity created by a user to submit comments supportive of themselves of their ideas under the pretense of being a third party.
Or, to better understand what I mean, look here. 1. Ficker states his support for a wingnut candidate for the council special election. 2. A couple other commenters call Ficker an idiot. 3. Not one, not two, but six consecutive comments with fairly obviously made up names follow, all in support of Ficker's guy. One even calls the real commenters the KKK. Because, you see, it's racist to dislike Robin Ficker, who's whiter than whipped cream. And bizarrely, Ficker often uses Hispanic names when creating these sock puppets.
Point is this: if the Post wants to create a real online community that allows actual debate on their blogs, they're going to have to go after the Robin Fickers of the world. They'll need to look at banning users who create sock puppets. Whether they care to do that, or have the savvy, is another question. But until then, their attempt at replicating real blogging communities is going to completely stall out.
Wei Wenhua was a model communist and is now a bloggers' hero -- a "citizen journalist" turned martyr.
The construction company manager was driving his car when he witnessed an ugly scene: a team of about 50 city inspectors beating villagers who tried to block trucks from unloading trash near their homes.
Wei took out his cell phone and began taking pictures. The city inspectors saw Wei and then attacked him in a beating that lasted five minutes. By the time it was over, the 41-year-old Wei was slumped unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital but was dead on arrival.
A call to arms in support of decency, autonomy and justice. PLEASE NOTE AND ALERT: may be a severe TRIGGER EVENT for multiple forms of PTSD for assault survivors or others. Posted here as well as at Daily Kos because Maryland is as vulnerable to the issues involved with sexual violence as any where else, style may reflect Kossack-ese, so to speak, and because this fine blog with its largely male contributor base can benefit from more exposure to the realities that women face.
Michael Swartz's list of local blogs to watch in 2008 is pretty good. It is missing a few good blogs of note, however:
Lost on the Shore: Tom Wilson's blog posts are more traditional op-ed pieces than the link-heavy and blockquote-heavy bits that usually make up the blogosphere, and like op-ed pieces, only appear a few times a week. But they're always worth your time; I especially recommend his recent series of posts on the Chesapeake Bay.
Crablaw's Maryland Weekly: Like Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Godfrey was born to run, er, blog. He went on hiatus a few months back, but recently brought back his blog in Drupal format, and is as delightfully acerbic as ever.
Blog Arundel: As the name implies, this blog is focused on Anne Arundel County issues, particularly relating to sprawl and development. But the person writing as N.D. Sproll (ha ha) has a very engaging and insightful voice.
Kevin Dayhoff: I find his actual blog hard to read -- its look is extremely busy and most of the posts are just link aggregations -- but I'm including it here because I find his writing on political issues, while certainly conservative, thoughtful.
Newsrack: Thomas Nephew blogs mostly on national issues, but his local blogging is also quite good, particularly on Takoma Park and voting reform.
Jay Hancock: The Baltimore Sun's business columnist does a lot of good writing on electricity and energy issues in Maryland, and on Maryland's political economy in general.
Bay and Environment: Another Sun blog, B&E is a great complement to the Sun's print articles on environmental issues, both in Maryland and beyond.
Maryland Moment: One reason why blogs won't likely replace mainstream reporting is that it's usually hard for part-timers and amateurs to travel from place to place to report on news events as they're happening. The Washington Post's Maryland politics blog is a good example: I'd like to not poach from it as often as I do, but then, no one pays me to blog full-time.
Maryland on My Mind: Bernie Hayden doesn't have a laser-like focus on political issues, but when he does talk politics, it's a good read. (He also coined my favorite new phrase, "The Free-Lunch Libertarian Nativist Party" -- you can guess what that describes.)
Through the magic of Google Alerts, I occasionally turn up websites addressing Maryland politics that would otherwise fal outside my radar. For example, this morning I found this website called Wryoak.com. It's a blog written by people who evidently work in or around the state government in Annapolis, and has a snarky, Wonkette-esque tone to it. Here's their mission statement:
You’ve heard that phrase, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” Not true! We don’t have a burning desire to monitor sausage production, but it turns out watching how laws are made can be entertaining as hell. That’s especially true in Annapolis, where many of the players, like the sausage cases in our analogy, are full of baloney.
The trick to appreciating all the situation art generously offered by Annapolis officials and staff is seeing it in the first place. Good luck finding that in the MSM! But that’s where we come in - State Circle insiders willing to show you what’s really going on. We live the dream year round, yet until now couldn’t share the stories without horrifying editors, supervisors, clients or constituents. Look for wryoak.com’s State Circle Insiders to share the perspectives you can only gain by watching the cooks back in the kitchen.
So how do you stuff three hundred pounds of baloney into a two hundred pound sack? Just watch …
If I had to describe the blog's politics, I'd say it's "cynical." Democrats get no love, but Republicans seem to be a special target for the blog's ire. Consider their reaction to Bob Ehrlich's endorsement of Andrew Harris:
In 2004, Ehrlich and his people chanted ‘incumbent protection’ as the excuse not to support State Senator Rich Colburn’s primary challenge to Wayne Gilchrest. Yes, that’s the same Congressman that Ehrlich wants to oust today. In race after race from 2002 through 2006, ‘incumbent protection’ was something Ehrlich championed only when it served his own purposes. It became a policy of convenience.
So much for intellectual consistency and integrity.
And loyalty? Ehrlich and Gilchrest served together in Congress for eight years. Looks like loyalty is a matter of convenience too.
In any event, I think this is a blog worth turning to when the special session gets going at the end of this month.
Over at Open Left and other activist blogs, they're celebrating the fourth annual Blogosphere Day, in which the left blogosphere rallies to support some progressive campaign that isn't getting the support it deserves. In 2004, it was Ginny Schrader; in 2005, it was Paul Hackett; in 2006, it was Ned Lamont; and this year, it's progressive PAC ActBlue:
ActBlue allows small donors to organize themselves to raise real money for progressive candidates. With money, especially early money, driving so much about political campaigns today, from a candidate's credibility with the MSM to the perceptions of whether the campaign should be targeted by party committees and national PACs; from the ability to attract quality staff to the ability to do effective early targeting, polling, analysis, and research- early money is essential. And ActBlue allows regular folks, rather than just special interests, to organize themselves and get in the game. It allows all of us to influence how campaigns are perceived, and how well they are organized. Today, on Blogosphere Day, please give directly to ActBlue to allow them to keep building and expanding their ability to help all of us. Supporting ActBlue directly, allowing them to expand their reach, will do more to strengthen progressive politics than any other contribution you could make.
Like the Dread Pirate Roberts, the blogger known as MoCoPolitics (actually the second person to blog by that name) is retiring and is casting about for a successor. Best of luck to him (or her) and to MCP's co-bloggers Mdhawk and Midcomaven.
It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog (www.thenewsblog.net), passed away early this morning. He was 41.
To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.
We will post more information as it becomes available to us.
Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.
Steve meant so much to us. We will miss him terribly.
- the news blog team
I'll say this much for him: the man did not take shit from anyone. For that reason alone, he was one of the leading lights of the blogosphere. I actually learned a lot from reading his blog, be it military history, World Cup soccer, or what to cook for the Super Bowl. Also, in a milieu that is too often stereotyped as Caucasian, his perspective on the African-American experience was invaluable. (His posts on Michael Steele, for example, were bracing things to read, to say the least.) He blazed a trail for what blogging could be that the rest of us cannot help but follow; would that more of us had his honesty, wit, and sense of humanity. My sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
I hadn't noticed this before, but the Baltimore Sun has a new blog called Bay & Environment. It has a bunch of content-heavy posts on policy affecting the Bay, but also some lighter material on fishing and sailing. Check it out.
This is what Editor Tom Marquardt wrote in The Capital on April 1:
QUOTING FROM BLOGS - The emergence of blogs - running commentaries that virtually anyone can post on the Web - have posed ethical challenges for traditional media.
Not everything you read on the Internet is accurate, or even within several miles of accuracy. This particularly applies to blogs, freewheeling online discussions in which anything can be said and anything can be challenged. Most blogs have no editors, no fact-checkers, no ethical parameters. So should a reporter quote from a discussion on a Web site?