Denver: Bloggers embraced at Democratic convention
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” The age of mom-and-pop pundit shops has arrived at the Democratic convention.
Bloggers are here by the hundreds, getting better seats and more respect than they ever have in their rather short history.
Mike Skowronek is a cattle rancher in Argentina. Mark Brooks is a retired land surveyor from Virginia. Vera Starbard works in public relations in Alaska. They are among the bloggers writing furiously from the convention floor or from a big tent with leather couches a mile away.
Bloggers say there’s a hunger for personalized information tailored to specific audiences. That’s why Skowronek’s blog, http://www.yanquimike.com.ar, is catering to U.S. expatriates in Buenos Aires, and Starbard, 26, is focusing on matters of interest to native populations in Alaska with alaskareal.blogspot.com.
Many people catch up with the host-city site http://www.squarestate.net to see what’s happening with convention logistics and local flavor.
And thanks to a post on http://www.keystonepolitics.com, convention-watchers learned that Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey couldn’t drive to the arena for a TV interview because his van didn’t have the right security pass.
“Running late, he jumped out and started on foot for a security checkpoint that shimmered in the heat a 15-minute hike away,” Greg Palmer wrote. “‘It’s blue-collar to walk in,’ Casey joked. He was right on message.”
Gina Cooper, a former high school teacher in Memphis, Tenn., who founded Netroots Nation, a community of bloggers, said the welcome mat for bloggers points to a changing culture. “There’s a different set of expectations,” she said. “Regular people expect to have access.”
Democrats issued about 120 credentials for bloggers at this year’s event, three times as many as they did in Boston in 2004. Hundreds more are here on their own.
When Republicans convene next week in St. Paul, Minn., there will be almost 200 credentialed bloggers, up from 12 at the convention in New York four years ago, GOP convention spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said.
“Technology is playing an important role in this convention, moreso than ever before,” Subbotin said.
The Democratic convention set aside a “Blogger’s Lounge” at the Pepsi Center. The room, located down the hall from dressing rooms for the television networks, has work space and TVs broadcasting convention speakers. The bloggers also have floor passes they can share for half-hour turns, and sometimes a chance to interview convention speakers and pose for pictures.
Out of the 120 blogs credentialed by convention officials, Democrats selected 55 as the “state blogger corps,” to represent 54 states and territories and Americans abroad. They have access to the convention floor and get to follow their state delegation.
One result is a lot of valentines from bloggers wowed by speakers and VIPs. Their own message tends to be on message with the party’s, and pictures come with captions such as “Senator Jim Webb and a very thrilled me.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said 52-year-old Tom Noyes, whose http://www.tommywonk.blogspot.com site was chosen from Delaware. “First of all, the Delaware delegation was moved from the back of the floor to the front when Joe Biden was tapped as Obama’s running mate. It’s a great view.”
For the bloggers who don’t have a pass to the Pepsi Center or prefer to stay away from the long security lines, local groups and blog supporters created “The Big Tent.” The two-story structure feels more like a garage than a media center, with leather couches and a bar serving microbrewed beer.
Markos Moulitsas, 36, founder of the Daily Kos Web site and one of the tent’s organizers, said about 500 blogs were given tent passes and more wanted in.
Bloggers at the tent, who mostly write for left-leaning sites, said they were more interested in sharing interesting political stories for their sites than getting the big scoops of the day.
“What made me get into blogging was wanting to have a voice in politics,” said Brooks, a 51-year-old who describes himself as breaking the mold of what people might imagine as a typical blogger, making time to garden in the summer and spend time with his family.
“I’m not blogging from my mother’s basement in my sweat pants eating Cheetos,” he said.
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