As Lisa Williams said today at BlogHer 2006, "bloggers are all self-publishers, and are disreputable for that very reason." Williams herded a gaggle of those disreputable political bloggers today, and revealed the very individual face that bloggers have brought to both global and local politics:
Lindsay Beyerstein blogs on "analytic philosophy and liberal politics" daily, and finds that the style of discourse in the political blogosphere has a traditionally masculine dynamic. This being said, men are willing to include women in the conversation once they're called on the gender disparity - it simply doesn't occur to them proactively. In addition, most of the blogs on Jarah Euston's Fresno Famous are written by men - it doesn't mean that women don't chime in and comment, but 80% of the active voices on the site are male.
Kety Esquivel of CrossLeft.org also highlighted the importance of men and women working together in politics. It's important for her movement of progressive Christians, and its leadership, to reflect the demographics of the country as a whole. Although a new generation of voices is entering the conversation, and there's an opportunity to change the voices being heard, it's important to include white males also. Given Esquivel's focus on getting more Latino voices online, this inclusivity is notable.
Unlike journalists, bloggers have infinite space to follow a story over time. Betsy Newmark followed a story over years that mainstream media players were not able to keep up on, since mainstream media outlets are driven by commercial rather than personal needs. (Note: As a board member at Backfence, this argument feels comfortably familiar to me!) Courtney Hollands of Wicked Local also believes that the more that local residents decide to participate, the better the coverage on what local readers are interested in. While Wicked Local is owned by Enterprise Newspapers, the staff is encouraged to seek out and include content from individual contributors.
In local politics, bloggers become even more important - most candidates don't have a web presence, so a web search results in independent blog posts. Lisa Williams blogs on news and events in Watertown, Massachusetts, and finds that one in ten Watertown residents are reading her blog for local news. As Liza Sabater of culturekitchen says, this is great for getting ads - there's no competition for delivering this content to a local audience.
Beyerstein is primarily a political blogger, but every so often there is something else that she wants to share. At those times, her blog is a platform that calls attention to marginalized stories in the mainstream media, even if she's not providing fresh commentary on it herself. Also, Ann Althouse runs a solo blog, and posts daily on politics, law, and the occasional life interest. Her real fever in being a blogger comes from opening up to the community. It's a lot of work - like other bloggers on the panel, she finds herself blogging at least three times per day.
Bloggers like Hollands bring a face and a personality to what's going on locally. Euston sees a lot of humor in Fresno's farm town politics, and as it seems, her audience has been looking for a place to make fun of their leaders in public. Williams brings a sense of personal ideals and fun to Watertown conversation, and finds that as a blogger, she is able to bring in snark when the local newspaper cannot. This alone makes it worthwhile to bookmark your local political blogger - or to become one.