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Cybertourists in Boston

CNET News.com's Charles Cooper says blogger coverage of the Democratic convention ranged from forgettable to utterly ridiculous.

Professional politicians aren't famous for being early to embrace new technology. So when the Democrats extended credentials to bloggers to cover the party's national convention in Boston, I was left pleasantly stunned.

With all the pageantry and the circus-like atmospherics that make up an American political convention, you couldn't ask for a better backdrop to show off blogging's potential. In full view of the rest of the journalistic world, here would be the most welcome--albeit belated--recognition yet by the establishment that the media landscape is changing before our eyes.

With a few exceptions, most of the credentialed bloggers came off like cyberhayseeds in the big city.

All the more disappointing, then, to report back that blogging blew its big chance in Beantown.

With a few exceptions, most of the credentialed bloggers came off like cyberhayseeds in the big city. Many dared for the painfully obvious as they updated their posts. Most of the blogging entries I have read ranged from the insufferably pedantic to the sublimely mediocre. There were exceptions, of course, but the see-me, hear-me tenor of their reporting was only exceeded by the vapidity of the banal commentaries peddled as analyses.

Did they get co-opted? Sure seems that way at first glance. Maybe the ego-lifting moment of their 15 minutes of prime-time fame got in the way of clear thinking. Or maybe they were simply starstruck at rubbing shoulders in the line for the men's room with folks like Ben Affleck and Warren Beatty. I remember covering my first political convention as a college junior in 1976 and how wowed I was when bandleader Peter Duchin deigned to smile at me.

But these are big boys and girls. After spending years belittling the shortcomings of the mainstream media, they had me expecting more. Instead, I had to content myself with gems such as, "Bill Clinton looks really small from the upper tiers of the Fleet Center." Really? If that knocks your socks off, my advice would be to take in the view from the bleachers at Fenway Park sometime.

Truth be told, it's especially frustrating to have to write these lines, because I still believe blogging is one of the most exciting developments of the last five years.
Whatever the reason, few came to town with their "A" game. And that's a shame, because I'm sure many from the world of mainstream media left town thinking they had little to worry about if this is the best the blogging world can produce.

Truth be told, it's especially frustrating to have to write these lines, because I still believe blogging is one of the most exciting developments of the last five years.

When the Internet began to gain traction in the mid-1990s, I got jazzed by the promise of a new journalism. At the time, the media landscape was otherwise bleak. With ownership concentrated in relatively few hands, the idea of a multiplicity of viewpoints existing in a world of Big Media rang quite hollow.

The Internet changed all that. First came the zines--the small, independent online magazines that sprouted during the heyday of the bubble. But when the economics of the business put an end to that experiment, blogging moved into the vacuum. With their noses pressed up against the glass, as befits any group of outsiders, blogging pioneers such as regularly lambasted the shortcomings of big media, offering fresh alternatives to the usual spin. It was new and exciting, and the mainstream world only belatedly caught on to what was taking place right under its nose.

Until this week, bloggers enjoyed the luxury--and the right--afforded to all armchair critics. They could take the easy potshot.

But as they took their place alongside other credentialed media, bloggers finally had to put up or shut up. I don't know how many would ever admit this gig was a lot more difficult than it looked from the outside. But with the pressure on to work under the constraints mainstream hacks have to contend with on a daily basis--get the story, get it right in all its complexity, and oh, by the way, get it 10 minutes ago--they were found wanting.