July 25, 2004

The DNC, The RNC, And The False Choice

The 1964 RNC in San Francisco was an interesting convention for the Republicans. Barry Goldwater and William Miller were the ticket, Goldwater gave a convention speech that is regarded as one of the 100 best American political speeches of that century, and pandemonium repeatedly broke out on the convention floor.

convention.jpgOne of the people reporting this pandemonium was legendary journalist John Chancellor, who, in a moment made instantly famous by the images of television, said as he was physically removed from the floor, “Here we go down the middle aisle … I've been promised bail, ladies and gentlemen, by my office. This is John Chancellor, somewhere in custody.”

It was an important moment in journalism: a staid institution, the RNC, was attempting to control a new medium and was quickly learning it could not … that ultimately, they had to embrace a medium they could no longer control. It was a stark contrast to the DNC just four years later, when TV openly captured every hostile and shocking moment in Chicago, and conventions (and the world for that matter) changed for forever.

I think of that moment, John Chancellor being lifted from his feet, radio on his back, wires dangling, as I consider the invitation of bloggers by the DNC (a path the RNC, we presume, we follow). We’re quite the story this year, we few credentialed bloggers. I’ve had two reporters tell me that they believe we’re the story in Boston, the “hot house flowers” in an otherwise “news-less convention,” as one said, forecasting “about a billion cameras” at the blogger breakfast tomorrow morning (sorry I’ll miss it … I’ll explain later).

My response, though, was that we’re NOT the real story here. The real story is not that the Political Machine decided to officially extend access to citizen journalists by extending a select few press credentials … the real story is that they already, although unknowingly, had.

At last count, there are 11 DNC delegates or DNC officials, with full access to the convention, who also happen to blog:

One would expect that these bloggers, especially the mainstream delegates, will blog the convention. And it’s here that we find the main point: the decision to extend press credentials to select bloggers was a false choice … the convention in Boston was going to be blogged, from the floor and by citizens with no editorial board, whether I or any other blogger received credentials or not. I presume the same will be true in New York this August.

I’m not saying the credentialing decision wasn’t significant … it did give a small group of non-professional, non-party-official citizens a window into a forum not otherwise available, and it does indicate that blogs have achieved a form of legitimacy among the media. But the REAL sign of the medium’s legitimacy isn’t that we were given the opportunity … it’s that the opportunity is purely symbolic in its importance.

In 1964, the Republicans learned that, try as they might, the time in which they could choose their level of TV news inclusion had long passed. The same is true for the DNC and RNC for blogs forty years later. It doesn’t matter if I or Dave Winer or anybody else is there … blogger delegates already will be, and will be with greater access than any of us.

To me, this false choice is the real indication that blogging has “arrived.” We’re becoming pervasive. In time, no forum of significance will be a forum without a blogger, and the result will be even greater transparency, openness, and democratization of information. And the convention committees aren’t the only ones facing the consequences: all staid institutions face the same false choice … we saw it in Iraq, and we’ll increasingly see it in China, Iran, Microsoft, and the Pentagon.

The printing press made us readers, the personal computer made us writers, and now, with weblogs, the Internet is making us reporters. The conventions will be blogged … of course they will … whether the DNC and RNC wish it or not, and they can never again remove the reporters from the floor.

(Cross-posted here.)

Posted by Avocare at July 25, 2004 10:53 AM | TrackBack
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