The democratic and republican parties made a smart move at their conventions this year when they accredited bloggers with official media passes.
Bloggers covered the convention live and conveyed their thoughts on the action to thousands of readers across the country sitting at home. Politicians are scrambling for the youth vote and are stymied by low voting numbers from a demographic that often prefers blogs to traditional media for their daily dose of information.
A combination of a diary entry and commentary, Web logs (blogs) have reached an unprecedented level of success with the information-craving public. The number of blogs has grown in the past two years from 500,000 to almost 3 million.
Presidential candidate John Kerry relies on the ramblings of his own blog (blog.johnkerry.com) to bolster support for the anti-Bush campaign, but curiously, he doesn't write it. The point is that blogs are supposed to be personal and direct, not churned out by a PR machine (although in this case it does lead to some gems like guest entries by people like Dave Grohl).
Bloggers are muscling their way into mainstream consciousness. A few weeks ago, they were the first to pick up on CBS's dubious memos about Bush's National Guard service. The Washington Post and ABC got their initial information from Internet chatter that eventually revealed that the memos, said to prove Bush's abysmal record in the military, were counterfeit.
In the summer, blog discussions also heavily influenced how the media approached the highly partisan Swift Boats Veterans for Truth campaign. The traditional media were slow to condemn the mud-slinging, but blogs immediately raised a stink and forced the mainstream pundits into commenting on the contentious subject.
In Iraq recently, some of the most honest and poignant accounts of daily life have come to us through personal blogs by on-duty soldiers writing daily updates of the chaotic situation. While some of them are overtly partisan, many are refreshingly apolitical. Unfiltered by the journalists "embedded" in the action, entries are designed to put the reader in the middle of the melee from the point of view of an actual GI.
Although they're popular, blogs do not yet enjoy the legitimacy of the more traditional media. And although high-profile bloggers record tens of thousands of clicks per day and might even see their stories pop up on CNN, most of them still don't receive any sort of remuneration for their efforts, even though paying for domain names can be quite costly.
But that's starting to change thanks to those in the vanguard of technological reform: advertisers. Ads for Turner Broadcasting and The Manchurian Candidate recently appeared on a handful of blogs. Nike hired Gawker Media to produce a three-week blog this summer.
It's nice to imagine that the media powers that determine the editorial content of the evening news are starting to wane, but it's more likely that blogs will eventually get sucked into the orbit of the big media conglomerates.
Make sure you check out the good stuff before it gets filtered by Ted Turner or Conrad Black.
Check out these blogs - refreshingly unfiltered by the media - from American personnel stationed in Iraq.