Session 2: The Power of Participatory Journalism

Warren Kinsella

  • Blogs are “punk rock” media: angry, do-it-yourself
  • “Corporate blog” is an oxymoron
  • Wag in audience during technical difficulties: “This may be the
    first time in history that Warren Kinsella has been silenced by
  • Daily blog campaign:
    • What is the big hairy deal about blogs?
    • Who is my target?
    • What is my message?
    • Why should anyone care?
  • What’s the big deal with blogs?
    • They’re free
    • Proudly biased
    • Really easy to access
    • Hegelian dialectic on speed
    • They’re populist
    • Google power
    • Specialists are welcome
    • Interactions are welcome
    • Pithy as heck!
    • Rather faddish at the moment, aren’t they?
  • Are they the digital pet rock?
  • Tips on ensuring blogs last past Christmas
    • Tell a story. Facts tell, stories sell.
    • Be brief: your readers demand it
    • Leave no charge unanswered
    • Take it seriously: hit back or lose!
  • Who is my target audience?
    • Nobody does it for themselves: otherwise they’d just write into a locked diary
    • Don’t try to be all things to all people
    • Your target audience isn’t the world, but the people you want to get onside
    • The Pyramid of power:
      • Top: Big bananas — presidents, prime ministers, etc
      • Next: Commentariat — senior staff, big-shot reporter
      • Third: Chattering classes — people who stay informed and involved
      • Bottom: The rest of us — little power and interest, but they
        vote governments in and out! “They are what blogs are for and about”
    • “You own personal computers, which means you are suspicious of the government, like me”
    • Don’t ignore layer 4: they’re the ones everyone is afraid of
    • The soccer mom vote in 1992 US elections / Canadian equivalent is “new Canadians” — watch out when they get angry!
    • More influential than big bananas, than bureaucrats, lobbyists and politicos put together
    • They are us — reach out and hold onto them
    • You (bloggers) are uniquely qualified to do that
  • Warren’s corporate media tips:
    • mainstream media will not be able to absorb blog culture
    • Mainstream media wired differently than us; different DNA
    • Failure, misery, disaster make their bells go off
    • Bloggers answer only to themselves
    • Bloggers have the last word
    • The
      media have a different focus. Consider Roger Ailes orchestra pit story:
      “If you have two guys on stage,” he said, “and one of the guys says ‘I
      finally have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy
      falls into the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the
      evening news?”
  • Why should anybody care?
    • Most of the time, people don’t — not because they’re dumb, but because they’re busy.
    • Make readers care: make it interesting, you’ll get read
    • Be unique — deliver a message the opposition can’t
    • Hebrew National story: competing against Oscar Mayer with “We
      answer to a higher authority” — something that Oscar Meyer couldn’t say
    • Be repetitive: simplicity, repetition, volume
    • Don’t let them change the channel on you!

Jay Rosen

  • Will cover how his blog, PressThink, decided to cover the convention
  • Wanted to try out blogging the DNC because it hadn’t been done before
  • PressThink tries to operate within a “newsy” way within its own domain
  • Story about who got credentialled
  • Instead of simplicity, repetition and volume, it’s complexity, depth and nuance (the opposite of Warren’s approach, BTW)
  • Jay’s approach: wants to limit the readership — it’s not for everybody, but it’s for a specific type of reader
  • “The very last thing I would assume about my audience is that they need something drilled into their heads.”
  • Interesting observation: media says that conventions are less and less relevant, yet they keep sending more people to cover it
  • Story about regimes of political convention coverage: see this entry in PressThink.
  • Another kind of coverage: inspiration from the past — Article on how Norman Mailer covered the 1960 convention for Esquire
  • “People have subscriptions to newspapers, people have relationships to the blogs they follow.”
  • Newsday’s reporting online had no links “because that’s the way they think”
  • Including links to the material you’re drawing from “is what any
    responsible journalist should do” — that’s an advantage that weblogs
  • “The way you blog an event like this [the DNC] is that you participate in it.”
  • Story about Obama: Obama said he had a blog and met with the bloggers. He asked for tips. Rosen’s reply: “Write it yourself!
  • Thought it was amazing that the DNC had a CEO — asked to interview him.
  • Convention: communication vehicle for party message. People get
    news from different ways, hence they had different groups: bloggers,
    TV, talk radio, etc.
  • Interview with Thomas Edsall: Bloggers are breaking up the groupthink
  • “The most serious journalists are serious about blogging.”


  • Chris Waddell: Does not believe in Kinsella’s “pyramid of
    power” — 50% of America is disenfranchised. How do we re-enfranchise
    them, via blogging?
  • Kinsella: Blogging — not sure the world changed with bloggers at the DNC, but I’m sure they changed
  • Rosen: Important to ask the questions about employees doing
    weblogs. What are the consequences of individual authorship? Suggests
    studying the most popular weblogs: what makes them good or effective?
    “Start local” — make it real to people in your area.
  • Rosen: The very first weblog that a mainstream journalist that becomes a success will point the way for the others
  • Rosen: There is a “phony competition between mainstream
    journalism and weblogs”. Suggests to journalists to learn from
    webloggers — “Every skill that a journalist has is tapped by the
  • Kinsella: The “mainstreaming” of blogging may “denude” blogs of their essence, which is to say “up yours!”

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