By Ben Carlson
The 2004 Democratic National Convention may have been more scripted, micromanaged and shrink-wrapped than ever before, but at least you could find media coverage that was refreshingly unpandering. For the first time, one-man-sapper crews of bloggers were welcome on the convention floor, undermining the sterile, party-approved packaging to present their subjective view of the events.
To quickly acquaint those unfamiliar with the art of blogging, here are a few basics. In the last few years, bloggers (short for “web loggers”) have emerged as a popular alternative to traditional news sources. Blogs come in a variety of flavors, but the most famous one is a frequently updated journal in which the blogger provides personal, often irreverent commentary on matters of interest. Topics range from technology to alternative medicine to politics, and the credibility of the bloggers varies similarly. (Michael Moore keeps a blog, as does journalist Stuart Hughes.) Some blogs, such as TalkingPointsMemo.com, reach audiences in the tens of thousands.
This year, convention organizers recognized the growing influence of blogs by granting 37 bloggers press credentials. (A further 27 journalists kept blogs in addition to their normal reporting.) Even the mainstream networks dispatched “blogger correspondents,” tapping already famous names like Chris Matthews of MSNBC's “Hardball” and Pulitzer Prize-winner Walter Mears for the Associated Press. The Democratic convention offered a Blogger Breakfast and designated a Blogger Boulevard in the arena for these unconventional but important new reporters.
So how did the bloggers fare? As expected, they added humor and humanity to Convention reporting. Take a look at a few of the highlights:
Thomas Schaller of gadflyer.com reported that in a conversation with Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz (who was “slightly tipsy” at the time), Luntz predicted that “Kerry will win” because “Bush's numbers on the war are bad, and it's spreading.”
Barnstorming keynote speaker Barack Obama aroused diverse, but almost uniformly positive reactions from bloggers of all stripes: Conservative magazine editor Terry Jeffrey confessed his “Obama envy” and concluded that “Obama could have delivered the same speech at the Republican convention next month to just as rousing a response.” Matt Stoller of bopnews.com praised Obama's style, describing how listeners “bubbled into effusive incoherence when trying to describe what they liked about it.”
Byron L. at BurntOrangeReport.com exposed the absurdity of a story in the Dallas Morning News that claimed that Oscar Mauzy, one of “The Democrats best known to Texans,” was “MIA at the DNC.” Mauzy, in fact, died in October 2000. Byron wrote, “if they want to list dead Democrats as being MIA in Boston, they ought to include ... Lyndon Johnson.”
Eric Boehlert of Salon.com reported that CNN, during the convention's closing celebration, accidentally broadcast the behind the scenes fury of a Democratic producer who flew into a rage when a glitch prevented all the balloons from dropping: “What's happening, balloons?... Where the hell—there's nothing falling! What the fuck are you guys doing up there?”
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National History Day is a year round program that encourages thousands of middle and high school students nationwide to engage in research on a topic of their choosing that relates to the yearly theme. This year’s theme is "Leadership and Legacy in History." Students create projects and compete in regional, state and the national contests. The projects may take the form of research papers, performances, documentaries, websites or exhibits.
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