Over the last few days, the Austin American-Statesman has focused on Netroots Nation in their paper with some really well-written, well-rounded articles. Here's a link to those articles:
Let me first, very clearly, state that I enjoyed reading these articles. I think all the reporters did a good job telling the story of the goals of bloggers coming to Austin, the history of the convention, how the convention came to Austin, and what the local blogging scene is like. Both KT and Matt are featured prominently in all the articles, too -- which shows the reach and success of our site, two things we're always working to expand.
However -- the Statesman editorial board blew it. Complete with a thoroughly dismissive and derisive tone, the Statesman editorial board chose to chide the netroots.
From the editorial: Netroots Nation converges on Austin, we get this kind of language:
- "hyper-opinionated liberal blogosphere"
- "something called "The Pundit Project: How to Outtalk the Talking Heads," which purports to train would-be TV and radio proselytizers"
- "out of touch with what matters to the rest of the country"
Even more than their language, the paper creates a straw man-like frame of what the goal of the netroots is. In the second paragraph, we get this rather odd introduction to the goal of the netroots:
What remains to be seen is what kind of an impact they will have on the general election when their candidate is moving toward the political center.
After a few charity paragraphs of our influence, they conclude their editorial with this:
But progressive bloggers — despite their early and often loud support for presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama — are far from being the kingmakers of their party, a fact they sometimes seem reluctant to admit
Their support alone won't decide the 2008 presidential race.
Why would we admit to failing to reach a goal we never aspired to reach?
The netroots isn't largely concerned with the Presidential race -- if anything, we're trying more to hold Obama accountable on his positions and policies than anything else. I know holding candidates accountable for their actions isn't a priority of the Statesman editorial board --- since they often support progressive, Democratic policies yet happily endorse Republican candidates for President and Governor --- but consistency is something we try to maintain.
The real goal of most bloggers is to actively support a policy that's important to their local area, or a candidate that is in their region. Daily Kos, MyDD, Open Left, Swing State Project, and more of the prominent national blogs focus much more on electing a real progressive majority in Congress than anything else. But here in TX, Texas blogs aren't trying to elect Obama President.
We're trying to elect more Democrats to the State House. We're talking about oil wells and how corrupt Republican leaders are destroying the environment. We're writing investigative pieces on ethics violations. And we're creating a public forum for our audience and readership to share their opinions.
It's a shame the editorial board had to lay such an egg on this one, especially considering the high quality of reporting the news staff is showing on internet reporting. They could actually read the blogs; their perception of the netroots sounds a lot like the misinterpretations you see on a lot of national pundit shows. Anyone who actually reads national blogs on a regular basis knows that our goal isn't to be kingmakers, especially not for the Presidential race. We want to help elect Obama President, but that's not our goal:
Our goal -- or at least, the broad goal as I understand it -- is to create a more active, more participatory electorate that understands issues, is interactive with candidates of all levels, and elects progressives that are responsive to their constituents.
Maybe someone can run this over to the Statesman editorial board so they can learn that.