Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blue Tiger media

A few years ago an organization of Democrats that wanted to reengage the party in civic engagement sprung up in New York. They talked a lot about the club houses Democrats used to have and the concept of civic engagement. Democrats getting into the day-to-day business of their community.

Of course, that was a lot easier to do when patronage jobs were common in politics, but their point was well taken by me. Politics and being political is too removed from day-to-day, parties need to reengage the common.

Anyway, one of the the things the Blue Tigers didn't talk about (I think they're gone again, their website is down) is the old parties and their use of media. Many newspapers, especially pioneer newspapers during the first explosion of media in the early 1800s were extremely partisan:

By 1835 papers had spread to the Mississippi River and beyond, from Texas to St. Louis, throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and into Wisconsin. These pioneer papers, poorly written, poorly printed, and partisan often beyond all reason, served a greater than a merely local purpose in sending weekly to the seat of government their hundreds of messages of good and evil report, of politics and trade, of weather and crops, that helped immeasurably to bind the farflung population into a nation. Every congressman wrote regularly to his own local paper; other correspondents were called upon for like service, and in some instances the country editors established extensive and reliable lines of intelligence; but most of them depended on the bundle of exchanges from Washington, Philadelphia, and New York, and reciprocally the city papers made good use of their country exchanges.
Holy cats, if that doesn't sound like the worst, most base description of blogs, I don't know what does. But, that doesn't really matter because it just shows that blogs are simply replicating an older form of media.

Lately, we've been talking about (here and here) the future economic nature of journalism. I think one of the futures is direct partisan support for partisan online publications. Think of a direct subsidy from Democrats to horsesass.org to subsidize coverage of the legislative session.

I'm not sure it would ever occur to the actual party organization to subsidize a partisan journalist, especially since the thought of even starting their own blog was so foreign just a little while ago. But, it would be interesting to see as the old media outlets around town dry up, whether liberal and conservative donors start realizing there's going to be a vacuum there and that they can fill it with some good ol'partisan journalism.

3 comments:

Chad Lupkes said...

The main limitation I can see working against a party org being able to subsidize a partisan blog or other media outlet is the sheer cost. It's one thing to provide hosting and web screen space. It's another to do what really needs to be done, which is to pay a living wage to someone who does nothing but write. I'd love to see one of our party organizations like King County get enough membership support to literally hire a full time media person, to write a blog, write for local newspapers, be available for radio and TV spots, things like that. Show me the membership, or better help me build the membership, and we'll make it happen.

Jim Jekyll said...

Yeah, again the bitch is in the business model.

That's an interesting idea but I don't see it as "news" (while understanding that we are in the midst of redefining this right now). I still believe it takes an "independent" outlet, even a seemingly biased one, to rise above the level of a press release. Some of the best journalism in recent years come from publications with an obvious slant (Mother Jones and The Economist) and some of the worst (Fox News), the difference being the latter claims to be "objective."

But that doesn't forego the need for better partisan communication by any means and any organization not taking advantage of the ability to speak directly to their members through new media is falling way behind.

Specifically, wouldn't party machines be able to solicit segregated donations for this specific task, though? Wouldn't people be more interested in giving for a specific product? Hmm, not sure.

Good topic.

Emmett said...

@Chad: Goldy only asked for $15,000 to pay Josh Feit to cover the leg. I may be wrong, but that's not totally out of the question in terms of funding by a handful of political groups. Tim Eyman could fund that out of his office supplies.

In terms of form, this is from a comment I also posted at Olyost:

What would happen if the House/Senate Republican caucus stopped spending money on PIOs and media relations and just let all of their media staff be bloggers and citizen journalists.