We're bedded down in a KOA campground in the old town of Loomis, northeast of Sacramento, and about a fifteen-minute drive from where our daughter is competing in the NCAA Women's Rowing Championship over the weekend. We've both lived in California - Judy attended Mills College and I worked in Lake County, back in the late 60s - but that was a long, long time ago. This is our first experience in the Sacramento area. The suburban sprawl northeast of the city is amazingly strange, reminding me of why I decided to NOT live in California back then, even though the place itself is wondrous.
A week ago, the first important day of the Democratic Party Convention was convening in Palmer at about this time. Blog coverage of the event was far more multi-faceted and informative than coverage by the Alaska and Anchorage media. The most impressive, in terms of providing full audio and video - and text, when possible - of the major speeches by our candidates for statewide Congressional office, was Dennis Zaki's blog coverage. At both the Alaska Report, and at Zaki's more personal, more speculative new blog, he showed, once again, that he understands the rapid transformation of media in Alaska that is more and more being driven by the blogs.
One of the main structural differences between mainstream media like the Anchorage Daily News, for instance, and blogs like Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis, Dennis Zaki's Blog, Kodiak Konfidential, Progressive Alaska and What Do I Know? is quite easy to explain: The main working groups in the MSM newsroom work Monday-to-Friday gigs, centered around the newspaper's dead tree paradigm. It is a professional organization, and when its reporters have to post new electronic edition articles and blog entries over a weekend or late at night, they can only go so far without having to disrupt the weekends or family time of various editors or tech support folks.
As the main speeches of the convention were recorded, reporters like APRN's David Shurtleff, realizing his network couldn't possibly air complete speeches, provided professional level audio to whichever bloggers wanted the content. Within hours, sometimes minutes, both Steve Aufrecht had Shurtleff's or their own professional level content out there, on the web, for free.
The reporting by MSM reporters at the ADN, KTUU and others was quite good in the limited ways those platforms can deal with large amounts of information, but te reporters and bloggers gathered around the two round tables near the convention rostrum knew that a new media is happening, and developing rapidly, along a non-corporate model.
KUDO's Shannyn Moore, coming out to the convention Saturday, and a few of the bloggers discussed this. The structural problems at KUDO are caused by cowardice by old-school capitalist executives. Many corporations who rely heavily for their customer base upon moderates, liberals and progressives, like Subaru and REI - are forbidden from advertising on progressive stations such as KUDO.
That sucks, and really limits your station's growth potential and image in the community. Shannyn, Zaki, and I - some others, too - discussed the possibility of taking web radio like what Jeremy Lansman has created at KWMD-FM, and bringing it to another, more integrated, multimedia, open-source level. Zaki is already headed in that direction himself. A group of us will be meeting about this over the summer.
Alaska is what is known as a "low-information voter state." That is, our voters tend to rely upon figures like ministers, party demagogues, right-wing talk show hosts, industrial reps, and editorialists to tell them how to vote. The amount of real investigating the average Alaska voter does on candidates and issues is often minimal.
One thing that has struck me, as I've responded to questions from reporters, from commenters at PA, and from people e-mailing me about my concern of Ethan Berkowitz's taking very large sums from Rahm Emanuel, has been the lack of knowledge many of these people seemed to have of the ongoing power struggle within the Democratic Party, going back to 2005, between the Emanuel faction, on one hand, and the Dr. Howard Dean faction, on the other. Some who claimed to be aware of the dispute (basically Emanuel's "support non-liberal Democratic candidates over progressives every time" strategy, versus Dean's winning, "50-state" strategy), thought my concerns to be unimportant or misplaced. Others, including newspaper, TV and radio reporters, didn't even know WTF I was talking about. So, how can they inform their readers, viewers and auditors, if they aren't even aware of very important structural issues concerning national-level politics?
My two favorite moments, viewing from afar - during this past week in Alaska media coverage of the rapidly escalating 2008 Alaska political year, were Ted Stevens's reaction to KTUU reporter Rebecca Palasha's questions about various issues, and the questions posed by media to Jon Tester in the Tester/Begich press conference in Anchorage the other day. Do reporters hold back on asking more serious questions to these candidates and their supporters because they don't think they can explain the background to their audience within time frames they know their reports will be given, or because the reporters themselves don't know enough about issues thrown out by the politicians - particularly Tester's and Begich's support for the 50-state strategy, and references to ardent Diane Benson supporter, Max Cleland - to ask important questions?
I'm not sure which of the two it is.
Anyone who wants to see the gigantic, freedom-enhancing developments occurring in the open-source web continue to develop and happen, needs to be better informed than it appears most Alaska MSM reporters happen to be.
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