Guest Author - Tracey-Kay Caldwell
I had the fortune to interview political blogger Kyle E. Moore about his blogging. Kyle began blogging shortly after President Bush was elected for his second term. He began blogging at a solo blog, then moved to a unique group blog with contributors of differing and opposing ideologies. When that blog failed, he continued blogging with a friend at the excellent political blog, Comments from Left Field. In this interview, Kyle explains to us the world of political blogging.
Question) First, let's start with the basics, What is a blog?
Kyle) Blog is short for "web log" and it's essentially an online diary. It's completely and totally free, takes about five minutes to set one up, and from there you can write whatever you want, and with a single button *poof*, you've just posted your first article on the web.
Considering that you manage your own content without any external pressures whatsoever, blogs can be about anything, from a simple "this is how my day was" diary, to a cheap and easy to use forum to post your own art, photography, fictional or non-fictional writings. But as I'll talk about a little bit later, what I'm particularly concerned with is political blogging.
Question) Why do you blog?
Kyle) Because it's important. For one, this is, I think, the future of the nation's debate. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can blog (doesn't even have to be high-speed. One of my dearest friends and one of the better bloggers out there does so through a 56K modem). For far too long political discourse has been one way; what we hear on the radio, what we read in the newspaper, what we see on television.
Blogs are different and interactive. They are an effective tool for dissembling massive quantities of information, and a great resource for both new and unique opinions and ideas as well as news items that you may not necessarily catch on your evening news or through a quick skimming of the local paper.
As the internet becomes more and more accessible, more people have the option to read and write blogs, and share this information and interact and self correct each other. Even more important, and this is one of the things I'm trying to do now, is that not only do blogs give us the opportunity to participate in the national debate, but they have a vast potential to CHANGE it. We have the opportunity to look at the dynamics of old debates like abortion and the death penalty, and instead of follow along in the old patterns that political groups have us do, we can turn the whole paradigm on its head and say, "we refuse, we want to look at it from a different angle."
Question) What sort of routine to you follow each day to get ready for blogging?
Kyle) Heh. I'm kind of a nut. I wake up, and the first thing I do is check my daily reads; news aggregators that pull headlines from all kinds of different sources, political insider tip sheets, and other blogs. I do this until something catches my eye. For me it's important not just to be part of the "echo chamber" (a common phenomenon in blogs where you merely echo what everyone else is saying), but I try and pick stories that allow me to attach my own personal theories or insight, and I write. The average article takes me about a half hour, and after that, I go back to the headlines. When I don't have family in town, I try and get about five articles written in the morning, and then I head to work.
After assessing my workload, I usually through the day try to squeeze in about another five articles. All in all I would say I spend upwards of ten to fifteen hours a day reading articles and writing posts for my blog.
There are other things you do to help visibility for your articles that take up some time, but the bulk of the work is reading news and writing it, connecting the dots, and providing analysis.
Question) What is unique about your blog?
Kyle) I work with two talented writers who both are very readable and very passionate, and they really help to create a great political read. What I think makes us unique though is the analysis. A lot of blogs you run into are a part of the echo chamber mentioned above. It's not uncommon to see a multitude of blogs that will link to a news article, write one sentence about it, and then move on.
That is an extreme rarity at our blog. We focus on analysis and narrative building, or connecting the dots. That's to say, it's not enough to just link to an article, but we'll piece many different articles together to show you a broader picture of what's going on.
Another thing that we do is meme building and broadening the debate; thinking outside the box politically and in regards to policies and the national dialogue. This is something I'm personally focusing on more and more as the days go buy with some of my pet projects including an attempt to take a look at big picture and factorial solutions to old debates and hot button issues.
Question) What have you learned from blogging?
Kyle) Way too much to list in an interview. Here's one thing, to be a successful blogger, you have to understand that the learning curve is steep and continuous. Some expert bloggers stay in their own realm of expertise, and that's fine, but if you cover a wide range of issues like us, then you have to understand that the influx of information is nonstop from one day to the next and you are constantly redefining your world views as more and more information is made available.
I think I'm an information junkie at this point, and I'll learn something just to say I learned it.
Outside of the content of your blog though, you do learn valuable skills about networking, self-promotion, a little code writing I guess, all the peripherals that maximize your ability to express yourself and be heard.
Question) Do you think blogs will have an impact on the 2008 presidential election?
Kyle) Most definitely. A great example is DailyKos. Kos is a Democratic blog started by a young military veteran that by now has grown into a large community of hundreds of thousands of people. A couple of years ago, Kos started a yearly convention, and this year in Chicago many of the Democratic candidates actually attended.
Blogs are becoming a larger part of the political scene at an exponential rate. Liveblogging of debates becomes an interesting and useful tool for voters who want more insight into what's going on at the debates. Also, nowadays, when you see a blogger on the web, you have to think this isn't just one person, but a person with their own readership as well as a network of other bloggers with whom they work regularly, so blogs also become a very useful tool for message dissembling. Also, blogs are becoming a much more significant check on the mainstream media, especially when you think that whenever any headline hits the wires there are THOUSANDS of bloggers picking it up immediately, fact checking it, verifying the veracity of it, and weighing the overall value of it.
In fact, we already know the effect a blog can have on politics. In 2004, Dan Rather was a little premature in providing to the public documented proof of Bush's failure to meet standards while surviving in the Air National Guard. It was a conservative blogger that caught a minor detail (the use of superscript in the document) and did the research to learn that typewriters with superscript capabilities were not available at the time the document was generated. It was this episode that in one fell swoop ended Rather's career and saved Bush from the political fallout of the document that was discovered to be a fraud.
If bloggers made a difference then, I've no doubt in my mind we'll make a bigger impact in next year's contest.
For Kyle’s interesting insights in to all things political, check out the excellent blog Comments from Left Field.
Kyle E. Moore is a political blogger for the Comments from Left Field blog. After a career in the Navy, he now works as a civilian for the Department of the Navy. He lives with his wife and two daughters.