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The political parties have launched a noble experiment, letting friendly bloggers into their conventions.
So far, however, the bloggers are flunking the journalism test.
It's not that they're biased. They're just not coming up with anything new. (That's one of them, Markos Zuniga, from his site.)
News networks and newspapers send teams of reporters to follow newsmakers. They write what they hear, and a whole set of technologies are employed to get the words, and their insights, to the people. The circus tent must go up before the reporting begins.
Since bloggers do everything themselves, they don't have this infrastructure behind them. Thus Atrios mumbles about the technology set-up, and MArkos says "watch it on C-Span -- here's an open thread."
Since I'm an experienced reporter I'm not surprised by this.
First, conventions are TV shows, and the best way to cover a TV show is to...watch TV. (This guy is coming up with real insights on the convention, because he's doing it from his home in LA.)
Second, and most important, there is a four-step dynamic in real news coverage -- reporting, writing, editing, and production. Blogging software eliminates the fourth problem, and talent can get you past the middle two. But reporting and writing are two separate things, the first requiring presence, the second the quiet needed to organize insight.
Bloggers are best at organizing insight. We're writers. We're not really reporters, who observe and do first drafts of what they observe. Software can do a lot of things, but it can't offer that quiet needed to transform what we see and hear into something coherent.
I have found this true myself when I tried to blog events. I would take good notes, but then I would need several hours to compose something based on those notes. That time doesn't exist, not if you're trying to meet an instant deadline. In the middle of a hectic event, when you're trying to cover the party as well as the Party, there's no way to get it done. You're spending the whole day newsgathering, and by the time you get to the typewriter you're woolgathering (or nursing a hangover).
The only way to really cover an event, I've found, is to stay at your desk for an hour after you've seen it, and get your real work done then. File and, if you have time, then go schmooze. But if you're blogging keep your head about you there as well -- if you find a story at the party you must get it down somewhere before your head hits the pillow. I know, that's hard.
All those stories of hard-drinking reporters from the Mencken Era (that's the great H.L. himself, from the MenckenHouse site) involved working very hard, and very sober, then bending elbows hard after work. Yet the real stories -- the kind of stories bloggers could be best at getting -- happen at the parties, not at the Party.
So, blogger friends, whether Democratic or GOP, if you are called to the aid of your party take my advice. You're not there for the party. You're there for the story. No booze, no snooze, or you lose.
UPDATE: Here's how you do it, boys and girls. I'm no Howard Fineman fan, but they gave him a Blackberry (pictured), and when he found he couldn't handle the keyboard (I could have told him that) he switched to a laptop and pounded out about 600 words at 9 AM about the previous night's party. You may not like his insights, or his point of view, or his writing style. But this is called doing the work.