Category Archives: Blogging

Time for Blogging

I have broken one of the rules for blogging; I did not blog for three months. I wrote in an earlier post that you should blog whenever you have time. December, January, and February just passed by with Christmas, lots of guests from Denmark and Brussels, a sick kid, Inauguration, and a trip to the US Virgin Islands. I have also started my capstone project at Georgetown University.  And I am the program coordinator of the Lantos/Humanity In Action Capitol Hill Fellowship this semester which does take more time than I assumed – but it is great fun to be with 12 European law and journalism students.

I do not expect I will get more time – but now I will try to find time for blogging. I have missed blogging. Missed the conversation with peers from Georgetown, and it is a good way to reflect on what’s going on.

 

I wrote two pieces for the Danish communications magazine, Kommunikatøren in January. One story iss about my day on Inauguration. The other story is about corporate communication (or the lack of) during the financial and economic crisis. (Sorry they are both in Danish)

 

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Red versus Blue Blogging: Friday Round Up

 

Vanity Fair’s Blogopticon of Huffington Post/Off the Bus (OTB) and Instapundit matches very well my impression of the blogs. (Vanity Fair ranks Huffington Post and not OTB). The blogs are not scurrilous or earnest, but something in between. Neither of them are pure neither news nor opinion. I am not sure what criteria Vanity Fair has used, but I might have ranked Instapundit a bit more opinionated than Vanity Fair does. No doubt, OTB is very opinionated. However, it has been a blessing reading two so different blogs. It took forever to dig into the long, op-ed-style entries on OTB, and it was quick but fun reading Glenn Reynolds comments on the daily news (check also his photo section).

 

Progressives or Democrats read OTB and Republicans read Instapundit because “we” tend to get the news that fits our political view. I guess, progressives enjoy reading the “slandering” or critique of Republicans and McCain on OTB, and Republican enjoy reading Reynolds’ ironical comments on Obama. But do the two groups engage in a unified debate?

 

Garrett Graff mentioned in class on Monday that the public discourse – as we know it from, for instance, Habermas, is suffering from the divided blogosphere. Graff mentioned a study from Maryland University showing a tendency that Republicans, watching Fox News, saw it as fact that there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and Democrats, listening to National Public Radio (NPR), saw it as a fact that there were no WMD. It is essential to democracies having public discourses. Social media is not the only force segmenting public discourse into several arenas. Habermas has analyzed this and pointed to the decline of a public discourse since the 1840s.  

 

In public relations, I have worked with the assumption that “public opinion is more than the collected views held by a particular category of individuals at one point in time. Public opinion is not adequately defined as simply state of individual cognition. Instead, it reflects a dynamic process in which ideas are expressed, adjusted, and compromised en route to collective determination of a course of action” (Effective Public Relations by Cutlip, Center, and Broom, 2006, p.207). This means that like-minded people constitutes one public discourse and might act together. One thing is to handle this in marketing, another is to engage different public discourses in democracies or engaging voters in the same discourse.

 

Social media is part of the problem, but it is also part of the solution. Howard Dean’s campaign in 2003 and 2004 showed that “ordinary people were hungry to get involved in party politics again” (Graff, 2007, p.70). The mid-term election in November 2006 showed that it is easier today to hold politicians accountable for their actions, messages, and words. For instance, Senator George Allen, VA seemed to be unbeatable until his “Macaca-quote“ surfed YouTube, the blogosphere, and mainstream media in September 2006.

 

Furthermore, social media leads to a new way of campaigning: two-way campaigning. Social media is a tool for (re-)establishing the dialogue between elected officials and voters. “This means….where the views and opinions of the American people have an impact on the leadership, so leaders are with the people instead of seeking to lead folks that aren’t interested in being led by them” (Graff, 2007, p.283). However, the challenge is not only for Republicans or Democrats respectively to engage each party’s voter base. The challenge is to connect the two (or different) views debating the future of this great country especially when the election is over and the politicians (including the new President) roll up their sleeves and get the job done.

 

Red versus Blue Blogging: Wednesday

Here’re my notes on the red and blue blogging on Wednesday June 11, 2008.

 

Issues/stories

One of the headlines on the front-page of New York Times was related to the election, and it focused on the economic policies of the two candidates as it did Tuesday. But presumptive presidential candidate, John McCain (R) was on NBC’s Today Show where the host Matt Lauer asked McCain whether he could estimate on when the troops could be home from Iraq. McCain answered (see also):

 

“No, but that’s not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine.”

 

The Obama-campaign picked up this sound-bite and criticized it on a conference call later in the morning and later, the McCain campaign responded. Both conference-calls (here and here) were published on Off The Bus (OTB), and M.S. Bellows Jr. blogged about the debate that ended up being more about partisan attacks than about the candidates different stand on foreign affairs.

 

Instapundit mentioned Obama’s economic policy and the controversy of Jim Johnson, leader of Obama’s vicepresidential search efforts. Five out of 15 links and comments were related to Obama. For instance:

 

OUCH: “If the Obama campaign was really committed to debating substantive issues of war and peace in good faith and in a civil tone, they’d repudiate the comments being pushed by their surrogates. And if Obama thinks that McCain is indifferent to the sacrifices being made by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, let him say it himself. (After all, just a few months ago the Obama campaign showed such a deep appreciation for context and the danger of exploiting soundbytes for political hits.)””(Glenn Reynolds, June 11, 2008 on Instapundit)

 

Authors, Style, and Arguments

The authors of the entries on OTB are like yesterday writing for a living – either as reporters, novel writers, or bloggers. Compared to yesterday, the entries tend to be more opinionated and less structured, and less fair. Glenn Reynold’s comments to the news had also more edge on Wednesday compared to the day before.

 

Red versus Blue Blogging: Tuesday

Tuesday June 10, 2008

Here’s my first entry on Red versus Blue Blogging (my post describing the assignment) with Instapundit and Off the Bus (OTB) as examples of blogs from either side of the political aisle in U.S.

 

Issues/stories

As far as I can see, the mainstream media covered the candidates’ policies on the economy (For instance, Obama, Adopting Economy Theme in New York Times and Says Obama Run for Carter 2nd Term on the Drudge Report). Neither Off the Bus (OFB) nor Instapundit covered the economy yesterday. Actually they did not blog about the same issues, besides both touches on the theme of the first lady. OTB blogs about strength and weaknesses of Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, and Instapundit links to a story about Laura Bush defending Michelle Obama’s patriotism.

 

Seven out of nine blog entries on OTB were analyzing or criticizing the current administration (for instance impeachment, neuclear waste on the Yucca Mountain, felons without the right to vote) or the presumptive presidential Republican candidate McCain. Instapundit covered all from the Democratic Vice President candidate to Ron Paul’s convention.

 

Discussion and comments

Six out of nine blog entries did not get more than one comment. Dawn Teo’s blog McCain Acknowledges He May Lose Arizona and Daniel Nichanian’s blog on the same theme got 36 and 52 comments. The entry written by Jane Hamsker from firedoglake on Mayhill Fowler got 64 comments. All fairly dissent.

 

Style and arguments

OTB has few but long entries. Instapundit has many entries but they are short (one or two sentences and a link).

 

Both amateur and professional reporters contribute to OTB. On Tuesday, most of the reporters were also professional writers (reporters or PR people), and their blogging style or structure are very similar to print journalism. Some of them use the structure of op-eds. They are all trying to enhancing the Democratic agenda but some of them, especially those who are not affiliated with a news outlet, seem to be more “opinionated”. A quick read gives the impression that the arguments are persuasive and dissent. They chose a strong argument to fight against, instead of slandering the opponents.

 

Instapundit covers everything from politics to sex and employs a certain sense of humor. Reynolds is not slandering the Democrats in any way but he makes fun of them from time to time. I am quite sure I do not understand everything that is between the lines, because it is the first time I read the blog. 

 

Authors

OTB has a variety of authors, Instapundit has one.OTB had on Tuesday most bloggers, who professionally also work as reporters or bloggers. All of them are related to the left wing. 

 

 

 

 

Red versus Blue Blogging: Intro

This week Garrett Graff has assigned us to follow two blogs; one covering the Democratic side of the aisle, and one from the Republican. I have chosen to compare Off the Bus on Huffington Post, on the left side, with Instrapundit on the right side.

 

Off the Bus (OTB) is a project of Arianna Huffington, founder of the blog Huffingtonpost.com, and Jay Rosen, professor at New York University and blogger on PressThink. It is “a citizen-powered and –produced news site” “founded to better presidential campaign reporting”. 

Right now Huffingtonpost.com is the most popular blog on the Internet according to Technorati’s ranking system (authority: 26.208).

 

Instrapundit is written by Glenn Reynolds, law professor at University of Tennessee. In the section about himself he notes: “I’m interested in everything, but my chief interest is in the intersection between advanced technologies and individual liberty. The vast majority of my writing touches on this in one way or another.” The blog ranks 507 on Technorati with an authority of 7.328.

 

For the rest of this week, I will publish an entry about the issues, stories, comments, arguments, and authors of the blogs. (I might be influenced by the techniques you can use in op-eds and speeches to persuade – I am going through all that in my class The Power Of Opinion with Mike Long). I will also keep an eye open on the truthiness of the blogs.

 

I have the impression that this will take me to a conclusion that the blogs are covering the two different views of the presidential campaigns, and they are not really engaged in the same public discourse. I will compare the issues of the blogs to the front-page stories of New York Times and The Drudge Report. Thereby, I am working on the assumption – inspired by Timothy Crouse’s the Boys on the Bus – that mainstream media is pack journalism; if a story is on the front-page on any of these media “it is undeniable news”.

The PR War between China and Tibet

               

Watching the build up to the Olympics has been, for me, like watching the world’s biggest, slowest traffic accident. For a while now its been pretty obvious that a lot of contentious issues about China were going to come to the front as we approach August 8th, but the problem is that there are two completely separate parallel worlds on these issues: the Chinese one, and the rest of us.” (Dave on Mutantpalm).

The PR war is also a war of realities. Most Chinese are baffled by the protests for a Free Tibet or Tibetan Independence because they have been taught that Tibet has been a part of China for more than 700 years (PRC official White Paper, 1992). On the other side, Westerns have been baffled with the emotional and nationalist Chinese response you see here.   

We are also witnessing two different approaches to PR.

China is a relatively closed system and does not seem to understand or accept social networking and social media. China is a good example of executing old way communication: one way and top-down.

 

The Tibetan organizations are relatively open systems which are listening and responding to their supporters or peers. They are engaged in a “two-way communications model”. You can argue that their survival and growth depend on the interaction with their supporters.The Tibetan organizations are grass root organizations, and the new way of communicating fits their purpose, agenda, and organization.

 

We do see blogs in China, but we do not see that many bloggers on each side that participate in a conversation. Since the Chinese government monitors the Chinese netizens, I would assume that they are nervous about engaging in these kinds of conversations. A few weeks ago, Hu Jia was sentenced 31/2 year in jail because of interviews he gave to foreign media and entries he had posted on a Chinese language U.S. based Website.

 

Right now, the Tibetan organizations are the winners of the PR war. Time will show if they can turn this PR success into political change and action?

 

 

Politics are conversations too

Markets are conversations and the same holds true for politics. Politics are conversations too. The authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto argued that we have to go back and recreate the conversation that happened on the marketplaces in the good old days. I will argue that politicians need to do the same.

 

Hillary Clinton entered the presidential election in January 2007 with the video “I’m In” where she said: “I am not just starting a campaign though, I am beginning a conversation with you”. But what she is learning with the rest of us is that it is not enough just to use the Web 2.0 platforms for social networking and collaboration. You have to leave the top-down approach to running a campaign like the Dean campaign did in 2003 and 2004. Even Barack Obama is accused of being top down too. Or maybe that is the learned lesson of 2008. Is the key to a successful campaign to mix the top down approach with collaboration?

 

We are witnessing a shift from one-way campaigns to two-way campaigns. Especially the Democratic candidates are experimenting with Web 2.0 platforms like blogs, twitter, and video “where the views and opinions of the American people have an impact on the leadership, so leaders are with the people instead of seeking to lead folks that aren’t interested in being led by them” (Howard Dean quoted in First Campaign, p.283).

 

Bloggers like Ruffini and TechRepublicans from “the Rightosphere” are calling for better strategies for debating, fundraising, and mobilizing on the Republican side. Jon Henke argues:

 

The Leftroots can deliver messaging, money and mobilization, so Democratic candidates become path-dependent on them. They have sufficient power to move politicians to their ideas. The Right does not. Meanwhile, what is the Right passionate about right now? Not much. To build an online infrastructure as effective as the Leftosphere, the Right must find its own story to tell – an organic story, relevant to current grievances, with politically viable solutions – about which people can be passionate, around which a coalition can rally.”

 

 

Can everybody turn their culture around? To me, the Republicans are not really that grass root oriented. But the lesson learned this semester, I will argue political parties as well as corporations have to turn around and choose “the new way” if they want to succeed in the future.  

 

The political conversation after the presidential campaign

Politics are conversations also in between presidential campaigns. As Garrett Graff, my professor points out in his book First Campaign there are important issues in the United States that call for action – and debate like education, health care, and infrastructure. Maybe politicians and governments on all levels can learn something from Dell’s Ideastorm and Starbucks’ MyStarbucksIdea.

 

 

PS. Read more about Garret Graff’s book here, here, and here.