Friday, September 15, 2006
There has been quite a bit of a dust up over who was/wasn't invited to the Clinton blogger lunch in Harlem, particularly because, as Blender Miss Wild Thing noted, "it looked like a blizzard hit the room." See Terrance's, Liza's and Steve's takes on it -- and the comments. Terrance does a great job of describing the "blogging while brown" phenomenon.
Steve wasn't invited by Peter Daou, organizer of the lunch (and is employed by sHillary) but he would have declined anyway:
Peter Daou saved himself some work by not inviting me. I don't go to private sessions with politicans. That is not what Jen and I do here. I don't give private advice to politicians. Period. I work for the readers. Not for the Democratic Party or a candidate. I don't even raise money for them, I only let people know where I contribute.The inclusion of more women at these types of gatherings is a positive sign -- I knew that would come sooner than the appearance of minority bloggers. It's just that predictable.
He would have done well to invite Liza, she's a smart, funny woman with a lot of good ideas. Same with Pam. Why Pete overlooked them is beyond me, but it was a mistake he should rectify.
As I said in my earlier post on this (and on the John Edwards dinner) the dearth of color that results when these blogger events are coordinated is not surprising (I was the only spot of color at the Edwards event). Many bloggers of color aren't first or even second string in terms of profile, and therefore aren't in the network of those in-the-know who organize events of this type.
That's not an excuse, of course, but an explanation. Oliver Willis, for one, was invited, according to Peter Daou (he emailed me about this), but couldn't make it. I don't know if there were other bloggers of color on the short list, or who they were. I really don't think the lack of color was intentional, as Peter has been an advocate of linking up to women and minority bloggers, including me. Nevertheless the picture speaks a thousand words.
Quite frankly, bloggers of color aren't always on the radar of the well-known bloggers either. Linking is powerful, and if it's concentrated among an inner circle of folks who all look the same, with few exceptions, it's going to be tough sledding to get in the mix. In many ways, the blogosphere is still about human nature, for better or worse. It just doesn't feel good when exclusionary behavior (intentional or unintentional) plays itself out in the virtual world, because people have fantasized that this would be one place that could be free of the crap. Sorry, folks. We're all a work in progress.
Part-time vs. Full-time blogging
I think the larger issue is not whether that there's a digital divide because of race socioeconomic factors (that's a given). I've been noticing another type of divide that will have an unknown impact on bloggers and political influence -- the difference between full-time and part-time bloggers and proximity to power centers.
For those of us who have full-time jobs unrelated to politics, one can only devote so much time to blogging, let alone networking and building a profile and traveling to events like this. It presents an interesting challenge for pols who wish to inform or attempt to influence bloggers. In spite of not being able to blog full time, many part-time bloggers are becoming influential in their spheres, despite not being connected to a DC/NY political thinktank or entity -- and we're not dependent on ad revenue to survive. We survive and thrive by building a base of loyal readers who stumble upon our blogs, like what they see, and return and contribute their comments, ideas and strategy. We squeeze in posts between winks of sleep, before getting up to be a wage slave in the Bush economy.
What does all of this hubbub mean in terms of inclusion in the jousting match that is American politics when practicalities of life get in the way of a blogger with a decent following? For instance, on my day job I may have to deal with subbing for staff who are out of the office or database troubleshooting; what if I receive an invitation to meet a potential candidate for office who wants my ear because of the blog? The full-time job has to win out almost every time. I turn down plenty of blog-related conferences and writing/guest posting opportunities simply because I have no time.
I'm not bellyaching about the Clinton lunch for my own sake -- for all of the above life circumstances common to part-time bloggers I wouldn't have been able to go anyway. I was only able to attend the Edwards dinner because 1) it was about 5 miles from my house, 2) it was after work, 3) I was invited. [BTW, I must have been a late addition, because I received the invite so close to the dinner. A good number of the folks who attended are regulars at local blogger events, but even then there were some odd omissions -- Coturnix, Anton Zuicker for example.]
The other problem that many part-time political bloggers face is that we live outside the power nexus of DC/NY (as much as I love my state of NC, it's not the center of the political universe). Full time, A-List bloggers in convenient locations can leverage that advantage of availability and proximity to further raise their blog profiles and influence the political process.
If the stars align and I can schedule personal vacation time to get to an event, I still have to pay my own way (or drain my very modest Blogad account). I think I'm describing a good chunk of you out there who are citizens of the B, C, D lists of Blogistan, of any color or gender, if you were to be invited to a political event because of your blogging.
And so there's another reason why you ended up with that particular group in that Clinton lunch photo.
There are so many talented part-time blogging voices are out there with plenty of relevant things to say, and many also have a significant politically aware and active audience to boot. How you reach the free agents of the blogosphere is going to take work on the part of pols (or rather staffers). They'll need to do their homework when organizing these outreach sessions because itís easy to step on a landmine or miss a golden opportunity to connect with the folks who can do them the most good in terms of spreading information (if the pols are able to present a vision worth advocating, of course).
However, pols also have to be prepared to catch the heat when bloggers don't line up with the message of the day. In the end, we're going to blog whether invited or not -- and what effect the smaller blogging fish in the pond might have on the political process is something that no one can yet predict.
Meanwhile, I'm just running this little virtual queer coffee house and fighting for my rights. Care for a cup of java?