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Shattering Blogger Stereotypes

Shattering Blogger Stereotypes: Part Three - Age & Experience

by: Phillip Martin

Tue Jul 29, 2008 at 09:00 AM CDT

The following is part of our ongoing series, "Shattering Blogger Stereotypes." Part 1 shattered the myth that females don't blog. Part 2 shattered the myth that "old and new media" are some sort of adversarial, dividing line.

Today's myth -- that all bloggers are young, inexperienced, and have no business weighing in on these important political issues. As if the talking heads on TV and political consultants that run campaigns are infallible, or something.

Here's a concrete articulation of this myth, courtesy of none other than Joe Scarborough (via Matt Yglesias):

Also during this segment, Scarborough attacked liberal bloggers for correcting McCain's error, saying they were probably "just sitting there, eating their Cheetos" and saying, "Let me google Anbar Awakening!" He added, "Dust flying - Cheeto dust flying all over. They're wiping it on their bare chest while their underwear - you know, their Hanes."

The absurdity of such a statement is best articulated by highlighting the age and experience of some other progressive Texas bloggers who are members of the Texas Progressive Alliance. While there's often a focus on Burnt Orange Report -- and you can read about our age & experience here -- the truth is we're just one group of dozens of active bloggers in Texas. And what we lack in age we make up for with experience.

But this isn't about BOR -- this is about the Netroots as a whole. With that said, the following is based on feedback from our TPA group - some chose to remain anonymous, so are identified as "Female/Male A/B/C/etc."

Here's the experience of Texas bloggers - in their own words:

Ted McLaughlin

I am 61 years old, but still feel 26. I am a juvenile parole officer and have worked in various aspects of law enforcement since 1976. I have a B.S. in Social Sciences from a church college (Texas Wesleyan University), but I am an atheist.

In the late sixties and early seventies, I was a hippie, and that still guides my political beliefs. I was a state delegate for Jesse Jackson twice, and attended four other state conventions as a delegate. I have been a Democratic precinct chairman in Tarrant County, and currently hold that position in Potter County.

Anna Brosovic

I'm 35 years old, a tech worker, born and raised in the Deep South by a Dixiecrat Dad. My political awakening came around the time of Iran Contra. My family was deeply effected by Reagan's economic policies, so I hated Saint Ronnie by the time he left office. I did more work than I could detail here during the 1990s.

Then the bastards stole the election in 200, and I thought, "hey, we're now a banana republic, but f*** it cause this a**hole's only getting four years." During that first summer of the Bush regime I was comforted by his low 40s approval ratings, and then of course 9/11 happened.  I started my blog that day and have been railing publicly against the Bushies ever since.  

With Jerome Armstrong and Aziz Poonawalla, I started the Howard Dean movement online. I've put boots on the ground or generally volunteered for at least 8 house races, 2 state senate races, 2 us house races, 2 primary/presidential campaigns, and I'm sure there will be many more in the future.

Female A

I'm 55. I was in middle management in the oil and gas industry for 12 years. I was raised by a pull yourself up by the bootstraps, conservative, single mother who used to yell, "Fornicator!" when JFK appeared on TV. She was, however, for equal rights. But, she informed me that she wouldn't help me with college because I could just get married--that worked out so well for her. She felt it was more important to help my brothers get an education so they could support their wives. Neither of them did so.

When I was 5, I became an equal right activist because I saw a tiny African American boy trying to get a drink, but he couldn't reach the water fountain. I lifted him up so he could get a drink. His mother shrieked in horror and fear, yanked him away and literally ran from the store. When my mother explained the "white" and "colored" drinking fountains, I felt a profound sense of shame.

Alexander Wolfe

I'm 34, an attorney, married with two kids. I'm half Cherokee by my dad's side, so I either am or am not a minority depending on which side you're looking at.

I am relatively inexperienced at politics. I'd say it was the rip off that was the 2000 election, combined with the continuing idiocy of this administration and Republicans in general in the face of some very serious and difficult problems, that drove me to become more partisan and ideological. And I'd say it was the trend towards easy access blogging for anybody anywhere that finally led me to start putting some of my rants online.

Female B

I'm a 46 year-old white woman, who after a politically active youth in high school and college got sucked into the necessity of being an adult and making a living. My drama production degree didn't exactly have employers pounding down my door. Eventually, I backed into a software development career, and started to relax a bit.  

2000's selection enraged me.  9/11 terrified me.  I got drawn in to the news, despite the gnawing feeling of helplessness that anything I could do meant any damn thing at all.

In the run up to the 2004 election, I discovered Daily Kos and Atrios, and suddenly I had a focus for my re-awakened political consciousness. I started commenting, sending money, and then writing diaries.  Suddenly, instead of just helpless, unfocused rage and despair, I had a fight. I will be fighting this fight the rest of my life.

Because I'll be damned if I'm going to leave this mess for the next generation to fix.

There's much, much more to read. Click "There's more" on the link below to learn more...

There's More... :: (20 Comments, 1880 words in story)

New Media, New Methods: How Texas' Newspapers Report Politics Online

by: Phillip Martin

Wed Jul 23, 2008 at 11:00 AM CDT

This is an unofficial part of our "Shattering Blogger Stereotypes" series. The myth shattered -- that bloggers hate the traditional media. The following is a report on an extensive study I completed as part of my coursework at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University. -- Phillip

In the early twentieth century, five Russian-born Jews living in Manhattan passed out some leaflets denouncing President Woodrow Wilson. They were accused of violating the Espionage Act. They were arrested for criticizing the government, and ultimately -- in Abrams vs. the United States -- the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the arrests.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his dissent, wrote that the leaflets created no real danger, arguing instead that they embraced one of the central tenants of the constitution: a "marketplace of ideas"

[...] The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas...that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.

Today, in the early twenty-first century, information consumers seek a free trade of ideas much broader than what the market has traditionally offered. Print and television journalism competes with online journalism, where electronic leaflets travel much farther than the streets of Manhattan. YouTube videos, blogs, and Facebook messages are all relevant players in today’s marketplace of ideas.
Texas’ newspapers are adapting to the new online medium in noticeably different ways, especially when it comes to political reporting. An examination of the nearly 1,000 blog posts featured on the respective political blogs of the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, and Austin American-Statesman during the month leading up to the Texas primary shows that formal conventions of journalism often do not make their way from the paper pages to the web pages of Texas’ leading newspapers.

For those of us counting on the successful adaptation of Texas’ political reporting in the rapidly expanding realm of web-based media, the loss of formal convention may be a very, very good thing.

Introduction: About the Study

The purpose of the study wasn’t to determine which paper had the best online coverage – it was to examine what kind of coverage is out there in the first place. Reporters from each of these papers were interviewed for the original study; however, their quotes and input will not be directly attributed here, since the original study was conducted for academic purposes and to ensure their anonymity is respected.

The study examined at length the methods and attitudes of three of Texas’ major newspaper political blogs, focusing on the time period after Super Tuesday (February 6) through just before the Texas primary (March 3):

It should be noted that the Chronicle maintains several political blogs, including Texas on the Potomac, which has a national focus. For the purposes of the study, only the posts on Texas Politics, which has a Texas focus, were tracked, since most of the print reporters that cover Texas politics only blog on the Texas Politics blog. The study was completed for the Harvard Kennedy School of Government course, “Press, Politics, and Public Policy,” as taught by Professor Tom Fiedler, former Editor of the Miami Herald. As the general election approaches, similar studies will be conducted for comparison. 

Finding an Online Voice: The Choice between Formal and Informal Language

In 1961, Theodore White’s book, “The Making of the President: 1960” set the standard for political and campaign reporting. Ever since that time, political journalists have used White’s model – along with the very traditional “who, what, where, when, why, and how” formula – to create and sustain a formal language in their writing. The use of traditional, non-changing formal language signals a context of objectivity and authority for most readers.

However, many of Texas newspapers’ political blogs have abandoned traditional conventions in favor of a much more informal, opinion-based language. As Chart #1 shows below, the more posts that are written on Texas newspapers’ political blogs, the greater the chance that the language used will be informal.

Chart #1: Type of Language Used from 2/6 thru 3/3





Total /

# of total blog posts




















For the purposes of the study, formal language is considered “traditional newspaper” writing, often in 3rd-person. Informal language is considered “conversational-style” writing, which may combine first and second-person language and feature humor and/or editorializing. Mixed language-posts consists primarily of formal language but contain editorializing, humor, or a call for reader response not normally found with the use of formal language.

The Dallas Morning News reporters wrote nearly three times as many posts for their blog than their Houston Chronicle counterparts; not surprisingly, their language was much more informal. Strengthening the observed correlation, the Austin American-Statesman finished in the middle of each category.

There is much, much more to be discussed. Click on the "There's More" link below to read the rest.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 2813 words in story)

Shattering Blogger Stereotypes: Part One - Female Bloggers

by: Phillip Martin

Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 04:30 PM CDT

The following is the first part of our "Shattering Blogger Stereotypes" series.

Stereotype: Almost all bloggers are male; there are no female bloggers.

The stereotype that all bloggers are male is one of the odder, most obviously false stereotypes that pervade many conversations about the Netroots. I think it's most appropriate to tackle first, because breaking it apart breaks down many of the gender-specific roles that are unfairly assigned to bloggers.

National Scope: Huffington, Malkin, Wonkette, Gawker

One of the Contributing Editors to Daily Kos, MissLaura, wrote a diary on the subject of "why are there no female bloggers?" last April. Her (correct) argument follows:

Time and time again, reporters write articles that reproduce the divisions they claim to be questioning. They ask why there aren't more well-known political bloggers who are women, and refuse to mention widely-read counterexamples. They ask why the best-known women bloggers are feminist, not political, bloggers (as if feminism isn't politics), and quote women identified as feminist bloggers to make their point.

MissLaura is one of several front-page writers for DailyKos that is female. Additionally, the Executive Editor (#2) for the site -- Susan G. -- is a female. And while it may be easy to roll off names like Markos, Chris Bowers, Jerome Armstrong, Atrios, and Matt Stoller, think of all these other national bloggers you (undoubtedly) know of:

  • Arianna Huffington, of Huffington Post -- As MissLaura put it, Arianna is "building a freaking empire" with the HuffPo. More so than any online news magazine, Huffington Post is exploding with influence, breaking stories, and power.

  • Wonkette --The ultimate snark-blog, Wonkette is one of the sharpest, most consistently entertaining political blogs in the country. She's pioneered a style for countless blogs across the country (including some right here in Texas).

  • Elizabeth Spiers, founding editor of Gawker -- When she starts a blog, regardless of the target, people flock to the site. More importantly, like Wonkette, her style is mimicked by many but matched by few.

  • Michelle Malkin -- Does she drive me up the wall with her right-wing wackiness? Of course. But her columns are syndicated in newspapers across the country. There's no denying her power.

  • Digby - Female.

  • Jane Hamsher - Founder of firedoglake -- which has more visitors than almost any other national blog -- Hamsher has built one of the most responsive online communities in the country. Firedoglage has interviews with prominent candidates across the country, and their press secretary resides here in Austin.

These are just some of the hugely successful, national female bloggers I'm familiar with. If you want to learn about more, follow this link to an informative, "top-50" style rundown.

Texas Scope: Texas Kaos, In the Pink Texas, Muse, & More

Female prominence in the Netroots isn't limited to national case studies. Here in Texas, we have numerous active female bloggers that provide incredible coverage of local and national politics.

  • Anna Brosovic -- What can be said about Anna? She founded the Texas Progressive Alliance. She, along with Jerome Armstrong and a few others, helped start the Howard Dean movement. She's prominently featured in Nate Wilcox's new book, Netroots Rising. She's a rockstar, and she is someone all of us in the Netroots are endlessly proud of.

  • Texas Kaos -- Under the leadership of boadicea and TxSharon, Texas Kaos is one of the longest lasting blogs in Texas. Often covering stories we overlook, their reach to tens of thousands of political activists is important for the progressive movement in Texas.

  • Musings -- Led by Martha Griffin (a board member of TexBlog PAC and campaign manager for one of the hottest State House races in Texas -- Sherrie Matula vs. incumbent Rep. John Davis), Musings is a great place to read any news out of the Fort Bend and Harris County area.

  • Eileen Smith (In the Pink Texas and Texas Monthly's "Poll Dancing") -- After managing ITPT for years, Eileen was invited to work as online editor for TexasMonthly.com. Her posts -- often filled with biting humor, sarcasm, and cross-self-promotion -- are widely read in Texas. Often quoted in many newspaper and television reports, her influence (as much as she tries to pretend its not there) is very real.

I feel obliged to note that Burnt Orange Report, unfortunately, does not have any female bloggers writing on the front page of our site -- though it's not for lack of trying. Every time we ask for new writers, we beg for female applications. I've even cornered several female friends to write for our site. But we can't force it -- so other than a few past writers, we have no female front-page writers. Though some of our best and most active community commenters and diarists are females.

Please apply, if interested.

Conclusion: Prominent Women Bloggers Are Influential in the Netroots

There's no doubt that there still lies an imbalance of male vs. female bloggers in the Netroots. That is an imbalance that exists in many sources and places of business -- including newspaper rooms, where many "firsts" are still being cracked.

However, the imbalance is not what many would think. Female bloggers are wielding great influence in the Netroots from all angles (progressive, conservative, business, and more). The stereotype that only men blog is inaccurate, and one you shouldn't need to repeat again.

I'll let MissLaura bring it home:

We're here, writing thousands of words a week on every political topic imaginable. If you don't see us, look to yourself.


Discuss :: (18 Comments)

Shattering Blogger Stereotypes: A Series

by: Phillip Martin

Tue Jul 22, 2008 at 08:00 AM CDT

Dear Readers, 

One of the most dangerous ceilings the Netroots must still shatter has nothing to do with crashing party gates or supplanting the influence of corporate lobbyists. No one seems to question our technological ability, our passion, or our talent. And while a very few are engaging in fascinating discussions of "citizen journalism" and how bloggers are redefining the medium of news reporting for the 21st century, that's unfortunately not what most people are talking about.

No -- as in most social situations since the middle school cafeteria, stereotypes rule the day.

What I learned from reading the coverage of Netroots Nation in my hometown of Austin, TX (as well as other coverage from general news reports from around the country) is that bloggers have a long way to go to shatter stereotypes that have been created and perpetuated over the last four years.

These are stereotypes that were generated, largely, by different groups that wanted to see us fail -- including Democratic insiders during the rise of Howard Dean in 2003-04, the TV talking heads on national news networks that like to editorialize without the facts, and Republicans who don't appreciate the public holding them accountable for their crimes and corruption (a reason why plenty of Democrats don't like the Netroots, either).

Some of it is our own fault -- there are characters within the netroots community that fit the caricature, as in all social circles. We all look a little like each other sometimes.

Unfortunately, this caricature is the only way bloggers are understood by many people that comprise the larger factions that interact with politics  -- whether it's the press, politicians, or the public at large. Most images and imaginings perceive the "typical blogger" to be something like this:

  • He's a he.
  • He's white.
  • He's young and inexperienced.
  • He hates the traditional/mainstream media.
  • He doesn't operate in the "real world" -- whatever that is.
  • He isn't willing to compromise, and doesn't care what you think.

Obviously, there are many more superficial stereotypes, but these are the ones that are the most pressingly damaging to our efforts -- and the ones, not coincidentally, that are by far the most inaccurate. 

Well, it's time to correct those stereotypes.

This week, I'll be writing a series titled "Shattering Blogger Stereotypes." It is my intention to inform everyone who reads the series about what's actually going on in the netroots, to dispel some of the more disastrous perceptions many appear to have of us, and to bring the conversation of our purpose front and center.

I hope you enjoy the series. Part 1 later today will focus on gender in the blogosphere. Be sure to check back, and as always, thanks for reading.


Phillip Martin

Senior Adviser, Burnt Orange Report 

Discuss :: (13 Comments)

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