« This and that | Main | Cotillion Ball VIII -- Sizzle and steak »

July 18, 2005

Bear Flag League Summer Conference

I came away from the BFL conference satisfied and enthused. Great speakers, good company and a room that sparked with ideas. And it was fun to put faces and voices to the writers I've run across in the blogsphere. Reminded me of a high school reunion where you do a great deal of peering at the nametag while introducing yourself to someone you "know".

I've been reading over my mountain of notes this morning with an attempt to summarize all the points covered. You'll find my review over the jump. Here I will also link to the sites that have their own summaries and some pictures of the conference and attendees.

Flap -- pics and notes and will be posting more pictures over the next day.
Patterico - notes
Right on the Leftbeach -- pics
baldilocks -- notes and pics and a growing list of attendees

It might be noted that this conference fielded a pretty diverse group, contrary to The Dean of Scream's contentions about Republicans and right-of-center individuals. There were even :::gasp::: liberals at the event! Heck, I didn't see anyone flinging food or silverware at Kevin Drum or Marc "Armed Liberal" Danziger (who Kevin gibed as not a 'real' liberal).

Scott Schmidt, BlogCabin, welcomed us, conducted introductions and moderated the event.

The keynote speaker was Dan Weintraub who writes and blogs at the Sacramento Bee. A California Insider, Dan began his talk with us on relating how he segued into blogging from his usual political columnist postion. He attributed it to being a "messy-desk person." He found after doing columns he had two piles left on his desk: one, of leftover "stuff" -- quotes, resources, et al -- that never made it into his column and, two, a pile of emails (which he always prints) from readers who comment or give him ideas. This was "stuff" he wanted to use and he first developed a newsletter and then (as a confessed techophile) a blog.

Dan believes that newspapers, as we know them today, are going to cease to exist. Not within the next few years, but within 20 or 50 years the archetypical newsprint publishing house of huge building, presses, centralized staff and early morning delivery to customers will no longer exist. The rise of the Internet and its increasing ubiquity is/will undercut traditional newspapers in two ways.

Dan believes these two points will transform traditional journalism, with journalists and newspapers as "gatekeepers" of information through their control/exclusivity of original sources, into "open-source journalism."

However, Dan does point out at this time, if bloggers are serious about being more than opinion writers and really wish to move into a "citizen journalist" role, they need to pay heed to the following four points:

Dan intrigued us with tossing out a possible model to deal these points, especially the last. He posited that a group of interested people, bloggers or not, could form an association where, say 50 people put in $1000 a year, and have one blogger who would, full time, pursue those four points and report on a blog on behalf of the association. Dan feels something like an independent, full-time reporter may be what takes the place of traditional newspapers.

The next speaker was Bob Hertzberg, former Speaker of the California Assembly and former LA mayoral candidate. He is particularly bullish about how the Internet and blogging will effect political campaigns in the future. He feels that politicians are going to have to embrace the technology or be left behind. Bob also spoke of the way the immediacy of the environment provided the checks and balances that have been dropped by the traditional press corps. He talked about bloggers being a "great repository" of ideas and, when they coordinate, they have the power to exert pressure to move forward agendas in the public realm.

Joseph C. Phillips, Actor, writer, teacher ... lover of cooking and western films and member of The Conservative Brotherhood first spoke on how he believes many traditional journalists dismiss blogging as a 'fad' because they fail to grasp that bloggers are a community. He pointed out that grass-roots politics is about community and bloggers are networking and uniting in their analysis and attention to what is happening around them. He related how on his own website when he put forth the question to his readers on whether or not he should make a run for California State Assembly, he got immediate feedback and ideas. Joseph also received a great deal of encouragement from audience members on turning that idea into reality.

Ted Costa, Fair Districts, regaled us with the latest in the gerrymander wars and lawsuits directed against Prop 77. Ted looks at the Internet and blogging as the modern equivalent of the politicians at the founding of this country actually going from door to door and knocking on doors for votes. Ted spoke of the ability of the 'net to rally support around single issues regardless how people may differ on other issues.

Our final speaker for the afternoon was Allan Hoffenblum, California Targetbook. A political-consultant for over thirty years, Allan believes that the Internet will actually do more to "reform" politics than the abomination of McCain-Feingold ever even thought of.

As Allan frames it, there are the "86ers", that percentage of people for whom politics is just not a priority. They only think about it during "high turnout" elections (state/national) and rely on television and direct mailers for their information. Then there are the "14percenters", those people who get up each morning and want to know what's going on in politics, locally, statewide, nationally, internationally. Those are the people who also vote during low turnout elections (local, off-year). These people are also the ones that do not rely on traditional sources for information but are looking, specifically at the internet, for more sources and cognizant analysis delivered in a timely manner. Allan believes that bloggers have a great deal more impact with the 14percenters than with the 86ers.

So far.

Allan forsees a change, especially as the populace gets disgusted with the obscene amounts of money spent by "independent" entities that are actually figleafs for partisan groups. In California, Independent Expenditure Committees pop up like toadstools on the lawn after a rain -- recent example of nurses' and teachers' groups spending millions of $$$ to smear the Governor in tv/radio ads. People will increasingly turn to the 'net for information on these issues.

Allan also pointed out that the 'net provides a great opportunity for people looking to run locally without deep pockets. As 14percenters are already going to be more 'net friendly, use of the 'net, especially blogs, is eminently more affordable for a local candidate in terms of recruiting and organizing volunteers, receiving and publicizing endorsements and getting the message into the hands of 14percenters. He believes as a few local elections are won in such a manner, campaign managers will embrace the change (though, he also pointed out, campaigns will change only when campaign managers want such change, and not before.)

All speakers were happy to take questions from the audience and even after the conference officially ended, we all stood around on the patio and chatted for another hour, reluctant to leave.

I was very impressed with this first summer conference, from the list of speakers to the participants to the venue (excellent food...no rubber chicken circuit here!). I look forward to more such events.

Kudos to Hosts Calblog, Irish Lass, Local Liberty Blog, Little Miss Attila, Boi from Troy, and The Pirate's Blog.

Posted by Darleen at July 18, 2005 01:15 PM