Carnival Of Blog Coverage

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Carnival #3: The Fight For Online Political Speech

Bloggers were the focus of attention in pockets of official Washington this week, as both the House and the Federal Election Commission pondered changes to campaign finance rules on behalf of bloggers. Neither body ultimately took action, but the press covered the developments as they unfolded.

News.com set the stage with a piece last week on a House committee's approval of legislation designed to largely exempt blogs from campaign finance rules. The House was expected to consider the legislation today but delayed action as concerns about the legislation mounted. Two major newspapers, The New York Times and the Philadelphia Daily News, voiced some concerns in editorials. The Christian Science Monitor and UPI also covered the story.

The Nation explored the behind-the-scenes maneuvering and politics in detail, and at Beltway Blogroll, my blog/column at NationalJournal.com, I took note of the "strange blogfellows" that have emerged during the debate over the past year.

Two other topics I've covered at Beltway Blogroll recently also have been in the news: Wal-Mart's outreach to bloggers and blog ethics.

The Wal-Mart story was hot last week, after publication of a New York Times story that raised questions about bloggers parroting information straight from Wal-Mart's public relations firm. An executive with that PR firm discussed the issue in an online chat at washingtonpost.com, and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz also covered the story.

The ethics issue arose when a writer at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy penned a piece on bloggers who take free trips designed to promote, say, a destination or a business. I had addressed the issue earlier this year and was quoted in the story. Most bloggers weren't too fond of my take in my first blog entry, and the latest blurb generated more criticism.

Blogging generated a bit of controversy in China recently, too. Word spread that the government there had closed a couple of top blogs, and mainstream media outlets like Reuters were all over the story. The next day, however, Reuters reported that the blogs had reappeared. Apparently that's because the whole story was a hoax -- a fact that China Daily happily reported. Curiously, some Chinese officials started blogging at about the same time.

China Daily also had a recent piece on the increasing popularity of blogging in China, and so did National Public Radio. Similar articles have reported on blogging in Kenya, Lebanon and exotic places like (tongue planted firmly in cheek) Buffalo, N.Y.

Other news from the blogging front the past two weeks:

Government and politics
-- White House adviser Karl Rove has had some praiseworthy things to say about blogs in the past, but he apparently has seen the dark side of the blogosphere, too. The Chicago Sun-Times recently noted this not-so-flattering quote from Rove: "There is so much ugliness and viciousness and fundamental untruths that the blogosphere transmits. It also is a vehicle for ugly rumors, for scurrilous personal attacks, an avenue for the creation of urban legends, which are deeply corrosive of the political system and of people's faith in it."

-- Two members of Congress want bloggers to review pre-war intelligence documents related to the war in Iraq. The documents have been made available online.

-- The Mixed Signals blog of National Public Radio notes a recent exchange about the military and blogging between a House lawmaker and a top general testifying before Congress.

-- A few newspapers have taken a recent interest in the increasing political impact of blogs. The newspaper in Asheville, N.C., ran a piece on blogs and free speech, and the Washington bureau of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explored the role of blogs in the nation's capital. The longtime statehouse reporter of the Tallahassee Democrat in Florida, meanwhile, tried his hand (or mouth) at audio blogging this year's legislative session. And a New Jersey paper editorialized against the move by one lawmaker there to ban anonymous speech at blogs.

Media
-- "A lame excuse? A case of recovered memory? Or something worse?" Those are the questions Slate columnist Jack Shafer asked in closing the column where he ridiculed former New York Times reporter Judy Miller for arguing that blogs killed her career. Blogger Arianna Huffington offered an equally harsh criticism of Miller's anti-blog whine.

-- Some Washington Post bloggers are paid extra for their online work; others are not. Guess who is jealous of whom?

-- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer announced newcomers to its citizen blogging effort.

International
-- Bloggers are engaged in the effort to convince Iraqi captors to release freelance reporter Jill Carroll.

-- People in Singapore apparently don't have much confidence in blogs as a news source.

Entertainment
-- George Clooney is no blogger and doesn't want anyone to think he is, so The Huffington Post had to remove the entry it manufactured and attributed to him.

-- Bloggers beat their journalistic counterparts to the punch in reviewing a stage production of "Lord of the Rings" in Canada.

Business
-- More companies are deciding that blogging may not be such a bad idea after all -- and it might even help the bottom line if they do it right. Another piece calls the concept "blogging the brand," and a third article said blogs can be viable marketing tools. Bloomberg also had a story on corporate blogging. All the interest might explain why the blog software maker Six Apart is selling business-friendly blog tools.

-- That said, human resources experts said employee bloggers still need to be careful of what they say and do online. That's because it is still possible to get fired for blogging.

-- Newsweek profiled "blog king" Jason Calacanis, who made millions of dollars last fall by selling his upstart blogging company to America Online.

-- Federal Computer Week compiled a list of tech blogs for its readers to peruse.

-- A newspaper in Florida gave a plug to Technorati, the blog search engine, in an article headlined "Deciphering Blogs from the Blech."

Miscellaneous
-- Last week's Carnival of Blog coverage noted some of the controversy surrounding MySpace, a blogging service popular with young people. One concerned parent tackled that subject in a newspaper column about the "MySpace monster" last week, while a newspaper in Tennessee penned an article on what parents can do to help clean MySpace.

-- Blog-based books, or "blooks," now have their own award, the Blooker Prize. "An Army of Davids" isn't eligible for the prize, but that blog-authored book continues to generate interest. Both the New York Post and TCSDaily reviewed it recently.

-- There also have been recent blurbs about blogging and philanthropy, and blogging and tourism.

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