- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (May 19, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1416560106
- ISBN-13: 978-1416560104
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#3,838,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #1881 in Books > Textbooks > Communication & Journalism > Journalism
- #3091 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Elections & Political Process > Political Parties
- #4158 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Elections & Political Process > Elections
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Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Award winning journalist Boehlert (Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush) introduces the new generation of political muckrakers who took the 2008 presidential campaign-and old guard, by-the-numbers reporting-by storm. From the banner names of newly minted powerhouse The Huffington Post to the vitriol dished out by established liberal outposts like The Daily Kos, Boehlert presents a Web's-eye-view of the American left's grand reawakening. The netroots, as they became known, "literally kept the lights on during a very dark period for liberals"; prominent blogger Digby puts it more bluntly: "The Internet became available just as American politics turned bat shit crazy." That craziness only accelerated through the presidential campaign, including the polarizing campaign of Hillary Clinton, Obama calling small-town Pennsylvanians "bitter," and the entire shock-and-awry VP candidacy of Sarah Palin. Boehlert also examines the use and misuse of social networking sites like MySpace, and some seismic changes in televised news (including mainstream media's biggest new star, unlikely MSNBC news host Rachel Maddow). Blogger Markos describes his site as "a place for passionate activists, not conflict-averse weenies"; Boehlert illustrates that ethos well in this opinionated, impossible to put down narrative, chronicling with cagey insider detail the failures of copycat reporting and the inspired citizen-journalists picking up the slack.
"Eric Boehlert's book, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press, is a tour de force about the rise of activist political blogging that deftly describes the rise of political blogging in the Bush Era. It takes the issue of political blogging and its effect on politics and journalism seriously and provides many first person accounts of how it came about." -- TalkLeft
"If you're interested in the political blogosphere and the netroots in general, Eric Boehlert's Bloggers on the Bus is a great read....[A] terrifically readable and carefully reported book. Highly recommended." -- Mother Jones
Top customer reviews
Like millions of other news junkies, my reading habits now include a wide variety of political weblogs along with MSM articles and broadcasts. In this book, Boehlert demonstrates that during the 2008 Presidential primary season, the candidates' innovative use of all forms of cybercommunication transformed electoral politics forever. Even before 2008, bloggers who posted video and audio links influenced campaign results, as George Allen learned when his use of a racial epithet at a Virginia campaign stop--recorded and posted online--probably cost him that state's Senate seat in 2006.
Bloggers have made an enormous improvement in the amount and accuracy of information available to the electorate. The ranks of bloggers comprise many of today's savviest and most eloquent writers on electoral politics. It's impossible to think of elections now without, say, pre-YouTube Internet video pioneer John Amato of Crooks & Liars, pollster Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, the communities posting at firedoglake, DailyKos, TalkingPointsMemo, ThinkProgress, and Boehlert's own base at the media watchdog site, Media Matters, to name only a few.
The sheer luxury of space that bloggers enjoy allows their postings to include much more information than in traditional print journalism. Though both media allow embedding links, and to some extent allow readers to comment, bloggers are freer of the space restrictions of newspaper and television coverage, allowing them to include a seemingly limitless amount of detail for anyone to access.
For example, before late August 2008, to non-Alaskans Governor Sarah Palin was known primarily to policy wonks (like me) who were following "Troopergate" and her other ethical irregularities. Once Palin was named John McCain's running mate, readers who wanted to know more--much more--about her encountered bloggers who bore unfamiliar names, such as Shannyn Moore and Andrew Halcro, and sites including The Mudflats, Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis, The Immoral Minority, and PalinDeception, just to name a few. Worth the price of this book alone is "Saradise Lost," Boehlert's chapter on the tireless Alaskan bloggers who detailed the unlacquered history of McCain's surprise choice of running mate.
Boehlert may be among the first to document the enormous impact of the Internet on political reporting, but he certainly won't be the last. This book deserves a wide readership, no matter where your political loyalties lie.
The writing style is very much like a blog. Childish, random thoughts jumbled together incoherently. Each new character introduced is supposedly downtrodden and humble yet sentences later we hear that the character has been in politics since age 2, the family has a history of politics extending 10 generations, the character selflessly donated $50K to the cause, and blogged 14 hours a day for months for free. Oh, and lived a Forest Gump-like lifestyle with a dash of illegal behavior that should get them arrested. None apparently had to ever pay bills. Clearly these super humans aren't ordinary or maybe the author lies an awful lot. Dates contradict regularly, names change from page to page. Blogger rankings also rankle since you never know who is reading and if they are residents of America or not. It's difficult to take it all seriously.
In one chapter, Obama doesn't even know what social networking is and has to attempt to buy a Facebook group of 160K users managed by a fan for a year but in a later chapter, he supposedly hired a Facebook founder a year earlier to attract volunteers by creating a Facebook group? Surely a founder would have known how to do this? At the end, there is the claim that Obama ignored the blogging community completely yet supposedly bloggers are the point of the book? If Obama's campaign team did anything remarkable, you won't learn about it in this book except for one sentence describing how much money was obtained from online contributions. Apparently other candidates also used online fundraising yet Obama collected substantially more money. It is odd that blogging rants and conspiracy theories can be described in painstaking detail for months leading up to the primary yet the Obama team's use of the Internet is so opaque. Again one must ask, is this book real journalism?
Most importantly, given that 80% of the book describes blogging activities, why no serious discussion about their impact? 1) Does blogging really matter? ie. If most conversations diverge into flame wars between isolated loners, how seriously can we take this citizen journalism? 2) Why isn't blogging embroiled in lawsuits? ie. multiple examples of character assassination yet no follow through. 3) Do politicians now need to hire security to confiscate cameras and audio recording equipment in order to prevent misrepresentation by citizen journalists more interested in fame than fact? 4) Are blogging web sites for rent? ie. When a blog site owner actively purges dissenting opinions from a site and allows libelous rants to remain, clearly this isn't about coverage of news overlooked by mainstream media. Did the owner sell out to a corporation and now pretends to act as an advocate while secretly pushing the corporation's political spin? 5) When should bloggers be noticed? ie. how many views of the same issue are required before politicians feel as if they must respond? 1M? 10M? Are these views vetted in some way to confirm that they are not faked by software or irrelevant because readers are underage or not registered to vote or do we just count web page hits and hope for the best? 6) How important is any one blogger given that they all work for free and can be easily replaced by a like-minded drone? 7) Does this new form of yellow journalism mean we should stop purchasing news at the supermarket checkout stand or is the Australian's empire in serious trouble?
As I write this review we're learning still new revelations about the Nixon White House, and he left office over 35 years ago. This book ends on election night 2008. So it can only be a part of the conversation about the roles which bloggers and such played in that most recent campaign.
It is also depressingly poorly sourced in many places. The author warns against the folly of taking the comments posted at a blog as indicative of that blogger, or bloggers in general. But it seems to me that he does just that.