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Up in the rafters, bloggers are flying high

They don’t have space in the media pavilion, and are forced to pay exorbitant prices for lunch at the press café – unless they are willing to wait in long lines at McDonald’s in the FleetCenter or bring their own food.

The crowded workspace they do have is in the rafters of the convention hall, which they would be sharing with pigeons if this were the old Boston Garden.

They are bloggers: Those who write weblogs, online journals of sorts with regular entries chronicling anything from the latest in tech gadgets to opinions on the Iraq war to personal reflections on their favorite band or the joys of growing eggplant – most with extensive links to other weblogs or websites, helping to fulfill the promise of the Internet by serving as one part of the connective tissue that is the worldwide Web.

They may not have much in the way of amenities here, but they are wearing a piece of gold around their necks: Credentials certifying them as members of the media sanctioned to cover the Democratic National Convention.

We chatted with several bloggers as they sat high above the convention floor. Here’s a look at those we talked to, with excerpts from and links to their blogs, and audio of their thoughts on covering the convention. 

Dave Winer, uber-blogger and founder of UserLand Software
Winer’s blog – more of a conversation with a series of very short entries -- doesn’t lend itself well to excerpts. (Besides, he asked us not to run excerpts for that very reason.) But he did give us his thoughts:

“Blogging has already played a substantial role in the presidential campaign of 2004. However, its role on the local level, in the House races and Senate races and in state races, is going to be much greater than it is on the national level.

“Blogs are essentially a decentralization technology; it makes it easy for an individual to create a publication and to influence other people and to share ideas, and so forth.

“This is a milestone, but it’s not the last milestone…In four years at the political conventions, basically everybody will be a blogger. Politically active people who don’t have weblogs will have a hard time competing with those who do.”
Jessamyn West, a librarian in central Vermont
july 27, 2004

obama speech
The first speech I've really heard that got me at all jazzed: Barack Obama's speech. [more]

the map is not the territory
What's it like? It's like Burning Man for Democrats, without the nudity or the drugs. Everyone is walking around grinning like they've just had their first threesome. I can't even imagine what it's going to look like on Thursday, but I am starting to get just a little nervous.

some speechifying
Kennedy's speech is happening now. I've archived a copy of it here. Feel free to read it. It's been a hectic day up in the blogger treehouse. It's fun talking to reporters and meeting all the other bloggers, but then it becomes harder to "get things done." I wind up uploading pictures and doing the bulk of my work at my sister's house in the morning while drinking coffee and wearing my pj's. [more]

dnc day 2
My photos from the second day are up and viewable. I've just gotten my daily credentials across the street from the Boston Public Library ["Why every day?" I asked "For security." they said, end of discussion] and am enjoying fast Wifi while I can. Though they tell us they've added a second access point in the Fleet Center, I remain skeptical. Today I hope to go on the floor, say hello to the Vermont delegation, and maybe check out the alternative festivities happening on Boston Common.
David Sifry, CEO of Technorati
Day 3 wrap-up, 7/28
Here's some highlights, from both inside and outside the FleetCenter. Working our way through the evening:

· Kucinich's bold anti-war stance: His speech got him grassroots credibility among the liberal bloggers. Zoe VanderWolk wrote, "Why has Kucinich been stuck holding the bag? Why isn't anyone else talking about Iraq? The reaction to his condemnation of the war has been overwhelmingly positive, and according to a delegate from NC I talked to the Kucinich delegates have been treated 'like kings'."

· Jesse Jackson: Both liberals and conservatives weighed in on Jackson's speech, and the overall reaction was negative. Jesse Taylor of Pandagon opined, "Jesse Jackson's onstage now...and not really impressing. He just came off a Wyclef Jean performance, and the speech is just...weird. The more inflammatory elements of the Democratic Party are not coming off well in this new "hope springs eternal" message group."

· More on Obama-mania: Positive reports keep coming in on Barack Obana, soon-to-be-senator from Illinois. David Weinberger: "The good news for Hillary is that she might get State Department when Obama is President in 2012.". Thomas F. Schaller at Gadflyer marked this as a turning point: "That said, at some future point we will realize that last night marks the point where Obama eclipsed Jackson as the standard-bearing voice of black Democrats. Sorry, Jesse: That unofficial title has finally been passed to a new generation."

· Al Sharpton: Sharpton proves again that he is a masterful speaker. Dave Winer wrote in an email, "Sharpton was inspiring, had the crowd on its feet 18 times. A soul revival. Killer speech." Dave Johnson had sympathies for the man to follow Sharpton: " Who did Bob Graham piss off, that he has to follow Al Sharpton?" Other liberals were not as kind, and saw hypocracy in Sharpton's speech: "I just heard Al Sharpton address the convention and I was rather astounded by the glorious reception he received. 'Our vote is not for sale,' he thundered. This from the man who leased his entire campaign consultant named Roger Stone. The only line missing from Sharpton's speech: 'I have a scheme.'", wrote Marc Cooper.

· Best delegate blogging from the floor award: Goes to 19-year old Karl-Thomas Musselman, the youngest delegate from Texas. His reporting on Kucinich's, Sharpton's and Graham's speeches were refreshing and showed his excitement at being on the floor, but be sure to read his earlier entries revealing more behind-the-scenes of a delegate's life.
Hugh Hewitt, syndicated columnist and law professor in Los Angeles
Howard Kurtz writes that "conservative media have a bullseye on [Teresa Heinz Kerry's] back." I don't talk about her, and hope most commentators leave her alone as well for fear that she'll get a little sympathy-for-the-billionaire-victim wave going, but it isn't really fair for Howard to slam pundits after the DNC puts THK front and center on the podium. If you want to avoid the slings and arrows, stay off the field. It is very easy to do, as the First Lady did in 2000. That doesn't mean don't campaign, but it also doesn't mean you can push to center stage and then demand a zone of protection for your delivery and content.

Fred Barnes has John Edwards' number. In two weeks, you won't remember a thing Edwards said, and he'll still be Senator Lightweight.
Thomas Lang, blogging for the Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk
July 28

It's all about having a seat at the adult table. The place to be, status-wise, is the press center atop the former site of the storied Boston Garden a mere 30 yards from the FleetCenter. It has the paneling and girth of a golf dome, but is shaped more like a large HAZMAT tent. All the usual suspects are front and center. After passing through the food court (which offers mediocre and grossly overpriced sandwiches) you immediately hit the Washington Post. Beyond them, Newsweek. Next is the New York Times and the Boston Globe, which each occupy a few thousand square feet according to the giant mockup of the pavilion on display as you enter. Up the stairs you go, where you'll find Gannett, the Associated Press, and the Tribune Company occupying gigantic spaces up to 8600 square feet.

It's the space itself -- not the banal workstations -- that defines who you are at this convention. In an attempt to play with the big boys, small regional papers banded together and won a sliver of room in the upper corner of the second floor. Jake Thompson of the Omaha World-Herald sent out a notice late last year to members of the Regional Reporters Association asking who wanted in on his application to the Senate and House press galleries. Six responded, including the swing-state Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The space is adequate, says Thompson, noting that it's smaller than in past conventions.

The Boston Herald, this city's equivalent of the New York Post, seems, at first glance, to have some prime real estate. That is, until you realize that the closer you get, the larger the goose bumps get on your arms until you can see your breath: The paper's workspace is directly under what is labeled as "AC Unit" on the pavilion's floor plan.
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