Citizen journalists converge on party conventions

Audiences have more ways than ever to access audio and video coverage of the political campaigns--whether politicians like it or not.

ST. PAUL, Minn.--The Republican National Convention has reached out to new media by providing credentials to around 200 bloggers here at the Xcel Energy Center, but the use of media like streaming footage to cover events may be more than either the Republican or Democratic parties bargained for.

Thousands of protesters have converged in the Twin Cities to protest the Republicans' presence, and their movements have been meticulously tracked by reporters streaming live coverage to Online audiences have gotten an unedited look at potentially controversial moments, such as the arrest of Democracy Now host Amy Goodman and two of the show's producers, shown below. Free Press, a nonpartisan media reform group, On Tuesday asked St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and local law enforcement officials to drop all charges against all journalists arrested while covering protests outside the convention.

After police arrested about a dozen people over the weekend, the National Lawyers Guild and Communities United Against Police Brutality filed a court motion Saturday asking to a judge to stop law enforcement from confiscating video cameras and cell phones at the protests.

Citizen journalists took coverage of the Democratic campaign into their own hands as well. On Foneshow, a cell phone-based platform for short audio messages, one of the most popular programs offered to "Barack Obama Media," which provides radio ads and other media clips from the Obama campaign. It has thousands of subscribers.

"These are people who are not involved with the campaign, taking chunks from speeches or conference calls and sending them out as Foneshows," said Erik Schwartz, founder and CEO of Foneshow.

Foneshow works essentially as a radio-on-demand platform--subscribers receive text messages that provide access to short-form audio clips as soon as they are published. The service is providing coverage of the RNC via The Stephanie Miller Show, a syndicated liberal talk radio show.

Schwartz said the political parties and their candidates are not leveraging new technology to the best of their abilities.

"The Obama campaign has done a lot of things with text messaging, but at the end of the day, he's only got 160 characters," he said.

Until the campaigns themselves start providing more creative media, voters will be more interested in what bloggers and citizen journalists have to offer, Schwartz said, "because it's accessible and because it's fresh. The political conventions are populated by these passionate people, people who want their information right now."

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