Conference urges Internet access as a way to increase citizen participation/ New York Times narrows on line access to a select few.

Though it couldn’t last forever, it seems somehow fitting that on the day of the Personal Democracy Forum the New York Times announced that it will start charging for select articles and commentary. At the conference citizen and veteran journalists converged upon the City University Graduate Center to talk about blogging, on line organizing, citizen (citizine?) reporting, high grade fact checking, online political activism and over 20 other topics related to the Internet and politics. Present to share their experiences at the dawn of online journalism were veterans Hugh Hewitt, Joshua Marshall, David Sifry, Chris Nolan, Jay Rosen, Christopher Rabb Andrew Rasiej, Micah Sifry, and Craig Newmark to name a few.

As participants talked about ways to make the processes of reporting, organizing and campaigning on line more accessible and transparent to any old folks, the New York Times was busy unveiling its plans to do just the opposite.

Often late from the gate in contemporary culture, the Times also announced Monday that in its Business section, blog reviews will be provided for readers bi-weekly! How ultra cutting edge, considering the plethora of on-line news sources providing daily blog reviews, like, where I submit two daily reviews.

I found the conference overwhelming, personally, since I tend toward more solitary occupations. BUT – it was an unqualified success, hoisted and kept aloft by a team of professionals and volunteers who stopped at nothing to surmount the inevitable obstacles that always emerge during performances of any kind. The attendees were voracious and energetic, constantly interested, always conversing, steadily occupied in the service of information gathering. No vacancies here. At its height, I think about 450 people were attending panels, chatting, blogging, podcasting, interviewing, and of course – drinking coffee. You can read about the conference at the above links, and from attendees like HughHewitt, Chris Nolan, Daily Kos and Josh Marshall.

These bloggers and hundreds of others have turned blogging into an incisive medium for political commentary and activism. They force publications like Newsweek, and news organizations like CBS, to come clean when they make grievous mistakes like Newsweek’s recent fallacious article on Koran burnings, that has resulted in the deaths of military and civilian personnel. On their watch, citizen journalism is tenaciously pushing news reporting away from the homogenized predictablility into which it has lately slithered, and toward accessible, up to date truth – which is what journalism is supposed to be.

Since I review blogs, I have been struck by what appears to be a surfeit of white, male bloggers -somewhat stultifying on occasion, though their demographic certainly doesn’t detract from their contributions. But it does get thick with homogeneity. Though the conference was certainly composed of mostly white males, and at moments it seemed the lobby was pulsating with only white Ivy League, there were some women in attendance, most notably CultureKitchen, and I learned about Chris Rabb’s Afro-netizen, the first blog on the internet dedicated to Black history, politics, civic affairs and geneology. It was a refreshing relief to learn about Chris since I have been sorely aware of the absence of Blacks, women, minorities and people of color in the American blogosphere. Not so of course, in the international blogosphere which features a healthier, albeit not wholly balanced mix.

I haven’t thought enough about why the apparent American imbalance exists, and what questions need to be asked. So more on that – later.

1 Comment so far

  1. Chris Rabb (unregistered) on May 18th, 2005 @ 11:55 pm

    Thanx for the plug!

    I’m glad that my comments on the panel did not fall on deaf ears.

    It was hard to tell as I passed many sets of down-cast eyes as I headed out of the auditorium after the end of my panel with the thin-skinned Markos Moulitsas and other fellow panelists. ; )

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