Congress catching on to the value of blogs

It's starting slowly, but a group of senators and representatives are now blogging, and some observers expect the number to grow as elections near.

When someone calling himself "John Kerry" posted a diary on the popular liberal community blog DailyKos last week, its members reacted with both suspicion and amazement.

Some immediately welcomed Kerry to the community, expressing pleasant surprise that the Massachusetts senator would take part in "our little progressive group blog."

Others, however, were more skeptical. They found it hard to imagine that Kerry himself had posted on DailyKos, since it could have been one of the senator's staffers or even a random person using the senator's name.

But before long, the site's owner, Markos Moulitsas, posted a comment confirming that the diary was legitimate. All told, Kerry's post received 1,219 comments, many friendly and many from members of the community still angry at the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee for losing the election to George W. Bush.

Congressional bloggers

Eleven members of Congress have jumped into the blogosphere so far. Some have gone the whole nine yards and allow readers to publish responses to their musings. Other aren't there yet.

Web siteAllows posts?
Mike Conaway's Blog
Rep. Mike Conaway
R- Tex.
Rep. John Conyers
John Kerry's Diary
Sen. John Kerry
Congressman Kirk's Blog
Rep. Mark Kirk
Speaker's Journal
Rep. Dennis Hastert
John Linder's Blog
Rep. John Linder
Sen. Barack Obama

Rep. Frank Pallone
Give 'Em Hell Harry
Sen. Harry Reid
Rep. Louise Slaughter
Tom's Blog
Rep. Tom Tancredo

Just a year ago, a DailyKos posting from someone like John Kerry would have been all but unheard of, and blogging of any kind by members of Congress was almost nonexistent. But now that dynamic is starting to change, and slowly, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are beginning to appreciate the value of blogs.

"When I reach out to the blog community, it gives me an opportunity to begin a dialogue with an extremely politically sophisticated and active community that I otherwise might not be able to reach," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., wrote in an e-mail to CNET "Another benefit of blogging is that, as opposed to delivering a speech, you get immediate and unlimited feedback, both positive and negative."

Obama and Kerry are two of about 11 members of Congress who are blogging today, either on their own blogs or as guests on others' sites. Republicans like Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas have joined the fray, along with Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York.

That's still a small percentage of Congress, but some observers of politics and blogs think a greater number of Washington's elected officials will soon come around.

"I think there's a new level of comfort among many politicians that a blog is a way that you can put your positions out and carry on an

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