Blog Campaigning Thesis - More Extras: Who Really broke the ‘macaca’ story?

(Wikipedia privdes a brief summary of the 'macaca' controversy for those not familiar with the incident. Click this link. The video can be viewed here.)

In my Blog Campaigning thesis I base my conclusion about the role bloggers played in sinking Senator George Allen in the 2006 Virginia Senatorial race on statements spoken by Jessica Vanden Berg, Jim Webb’s campaign manager. You can read what I write about this here

In regards to how the Webb team strategically used the ‘macaca’ video to target media and bloggers, Vander Berg argues, according to e.politics' Colin Delany:  

According to Vanden Berg, they [the Webb team] chose to post the video on YouTube because it was free (simple enough). But before they tossed it out to the public to see, they’d already pitched the story to a Washington Post reporter, who wrote it online on Monday [the video was captured on a Friday]. Only after the Post story appeared and the issue had been properly framed did the Webb folks send an email to their supporter list and to friendly bloggers.  

However, this not the story as Lowell Feld, Webb’s Netroots Coordinator knows it.  

When I recently sent my thesis to Lowell, offering him the opportunity to share his take on how the incident went down, he replied:  

Espen: [...] With regard to the "macaca" incident, I don't fully agree with the assertion that the campaign sold the story to the Washington Post before it told the bloggers.  At least, it wasn't that neat and clean in reality.  If you go back and look at how the story first broke, on the Not Larry Sabato blog, you'll see that it leaked on August 13 (Sunday), a day before the story was published in the Washington Post. You'll also notice that there was a huge frenzy over at Not Larry Sabato. Would the Washington Post have jumped on the story if there had NOT been a blog-induced frenzy already in progress, plus a YouTube video?  I don't know for sure, but my guess is that it would have been less likely and less effective…

Here is the link to the Not Larry Sabato post that broke the story which clearly states that the story was leaked from inside the Webb campaign (See also how the NLS blog first spelled ‘macaca’: Mukakkah! And check out Jeffrey Feldman’s research on the word's meaning – Great stuff!).   

Going over the comments in the NLS post you will really see that the post started a huge frenzy, just as Lowell claims! The post received a storm of comments - 477 to be accurate. The question is: Would the Post have pushed the story without this post starting a huge frenzy? Yes, it probably would. They had the video! But I would still argue that it was a wise choice to leak the story to a blog.

I don’t think Lowell ’s point changes my conclusion in regards to the role bloggers played in sinking Allen. If anything, it supports my claim that bloggers were an important intervening variable in the scenario that turned the campaign on its head - And it definitely supports Henke’s claim: that blogs can establish narratives that the media pick up on. In addition, it really proved that the Webb team did play the ‘macaca’ incident very nicely!    

Note: Lowell Feld blogs for Raising Kaine. He is currently writing a book about the incident – where he promises to tell the entire story! Can’t wait to read it!

- Espen

The rise of the Netroots

The liberal blogosphere started out as a place to swap polling data and bitch about Iraq. Now liberal bloggers do journalism, activism, raise money, run for office, and have vibrant outposts of progressive politics in nearly all fifty states.

Interested in learning more about the rise of the netroots? Head to TechPresident and let Matt Stoller of MyDD be your teacher!

The Age About Citizen Journalism: Not a Real Alternative

This morning I came across a piece in the Age titled DIY journalism is not a real alternative. The point its author is trying to bring across is:

Just as having Photoshop installed on your computer doesn't make you a graphic designer, setting up a blog doesn't make you a journalist — much less a news organisation. Quality journalism requires enormous amounts of skill and money. Expecting the same depth of reporting by committed amateurs is fanciful.

Fair enough - Citizen journalism might have its issues (check the Jill Leovy part). But I think what the author overlooks is the fact that this form of journalism isn’t about a single author but a whole sphere of blogs and other means of publication that, due to the expertise of all its contributors, can paint an extensive picture of events and give broad background information. Maybe even more so than the commercial press (particularly in Australia where one man, Rupert Murdoch, controls the supply of paper used for newspapers). But then again: What else is the writer supposed to do besides defending his profession against the ever growing competition?


The Hill: DCCC reaches out to Netroots

With an eye to 2008, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is off to an early start in fostering its relationship with Netroots, The Hill reports.

According to The Hill, DCCC chairman, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), has committed to participating in a monthly conference call with bloggers and has talked to several on an individual basis since taking the post earlier this month. Also DCCC’s executive director, Brian Wolff, has close ties to Netroots activists. Chris Bowers of Mydd is positive to the close ties and suggest that the relationship is already paying off. “I think we already see it paying off as there are now strong Netroots and grassroots requirements for frontline candidates,” Bowers told The Hill.

Netroots and the establishment

"As the smoke began to clear after Election Day, two things seemed clear. Though the netroots have forever changed how campaigns raise money and find votes, the results demonstrated that they cannot yet win elections on their own. But the Democratic Party cannot win major national elections without the netroots", wrote Nicholas Confessore in a New York Times article November 12. I must have missed it, because I just spotted it on the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet website. Confessores article is good. It looks at the relationship between the netroots and the Democratic Party during the election campaign, and offers a honest and balanced take on the question we all want to know: What impact did the netroots have on the election outcome.