Is the Future Bright for Progressive Media?
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"All day long during the trial, one Firedoglake blogger is on duty to beam to the Web from the courthouse media room a rough, real-time transcript of the testimony," noted a February 15, 2007, article from the New York Times . "With no audio or video feed permitted, the FireDogLake ‘live blog' has offered the fullest, fastest public report available. Many mainstream journalists use it to check on the trial."
After the trial was over, Firedoglake (FDL) blogger "Scarecrow" covered a panel at the annual Yearly Kos conference, where two other FDL bloggers -- Christy Hardin-Smith and Marcy Wheeler -- recounted their experiences. "As Marcy noted today, the bloggers knew what none in the MSM every [ sic] admitted, that the Libby trial was just as much about the media's complicity and its seduction by the favors of privileged access as [the] lies and obstruction of Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney," Scarecrow wrote. "And when the verdict came down, it was not just Libby who was found guilty, but some of the best known media personalities as well."
Covering the Libby trial was the high point of what had been a whirlwind few years for the FDL crew -- which included becoming one of the most popular blogs in the country. The attention they received during the trial was one of the first times mainstream reporters had acknowledged bloggers for their prowess as journalists. But what really set FDL apart was the influence that the site had built with its active and engaged community. The site had developed the power to move their users to rally around campaigns that included exposing mainstream media failures and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for progressive candidates.
FDL's ability to merge journalism with action set up a new power dynamic for progressive media organizations -- not just preaching to a passionate choir, but moving them directly to action.
The left is often derided for "preaching to the choir." Detractors argue that communicating with the already converted does little to bring in new audiences and merely reinforces accepted beliefs. Others believe that "preaching to the choir" limits debate and access to alternative viewpoints.
In a 2007 Chronicle of Higher Education article, Cass Sunstein, a University of Chicago law professor, wrote about the dangers of people seeking viewpoints that match their own:
As a result of the Internet, we live increasingly in an era of enclaves and niches -- much of it voluntary, much of it produced by those who think they know, and often do know, what we're likely to like. This raises some obvious questions. If people are sorted into enclaves and niches, what will happen to their views? What are the eventual effects on democracy? . . . A key consequence of this kind of self-sorting is what we might call enclave extremism. When people end upin enclaves of like-minded people, they usually move toward a more extreme point in the direction to which the group's members were originally inclined.
But others who operate within the politicized media space believe that reaching out and engaging the like-minded has an inherent and long-ignored value. Wrote blogger Chris Bowers earlier in 2007:
By preaching to our choir, and organizing that choir, the progressive blogosphere and netroots have grown to wield a large amount of influence within the progressive political ecosystem simply by harnessing progressive energy that had lain dormant and ignored for so long. Just as importantly, harnessing this energy has also greatly enhanced the capability of the progressive political ecosystem as a whole, by making better use of all the available resources in that ecosystem. As we have seen over the past few years, all that new money, media influence, activism, strategy, infrastructure and ideas generated in this new constituency have not just played a major role within the progressive political ecosystem, but within the broader American political ecosystem as well. If the progressive netroots had been so myopic to only and ever target the "swing," that energy would probably still be untapped, and progressives would be at the same disastrous level of infrastructure disadvantage to conservative that we were during the 1990s and the early parts of this decade.