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Monday, October 24, 2005

Are Bloggers Toothless in Washington, D.C.?

Danny Glover, Editor of the National Journal's Beltway Blogroll, thinks the answer to the question posed by the headline above is a definite yes. Here's how he puts his argument:

"The bottom line is that on the big issues, bloggers are batting zero. Their only significant policy claim to fame this year occurred at the Federal Election Commission. The blog swarm against that agency arguably forced it to draft a less sweeping plan for applying campaign finance law to bloggers - but even that war is not over yet because the FEC has not finalized the rules.

"Bloggers are not powerless in policy circles and actually are gaining influence. Otherwise, official Washington would pay them no mind whatsoever - no conference calls with political chieftains, no question-and-answer sessions with lawmakers, and no other forms of outreach. But bloggers today are not as persuasive or as intimidating as they might like to believe."

To the extent the Blogosphere lacks whack in D.C. it is a reflection, in my judgement, of two factors:

First, the mainstream media has been the primary target for most of the Blogosphere's relatively brief history. In that arena, the power of the Blogosphere can be measured with one question addressed to Dan Rather or Eason Jordan and a host of other mainstreamers who have been effectively removed as the gatekeepers of America's news process.

Second, Washington, D.C. and the federal public policy process of government is only just beginning to get focused attention in the Blogosphere, most notably in the Porkbusters campaign that is becoming something of a pilot project for future endeavours.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (for you young people out there, a "record" is a solid piece of vinyl with a round shape and music imprinted in grooves on its surface. We Boomers wasted countless hours listening to real rock n' roll on records when we were adolescents), I have argued for nearly a year that the next great challenge for the Blogosphere is doing for government the same opening-up process already achieved with the mainstream meda.

In fact, my very first post on Tapscott's Copy Desk was titled "Can the Blogosphere do for Government what it has done for the Mainstream Media." You can read that initial post here, as well as successor posts on the topic here, here and here.

Perhaps Danny's post and the experience last week with the Coburn amendments in the Porkbusters campaign will help hasten the much-needed discussion among bloggers on how we go about achieving that opening-up in government.