'Bloggers' Row:' In real time

  • Article by: KEVIN DUCHSCHERE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 3, 2008 - 8:51 PM

High up on "Bloggers' Row," dozens tap-tap on laptops to deliver their take on the convention.

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Amanda Carpenter, who blogs for Townhall.com, worked on "Bloggers Row" in the press box during the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Center.

Photo: Jennifer Simonson, Star Tribune

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Bloggers, often considered on the lower rungs of the media ladder, occupy a higher place than radio, TV and newspapers at the Republican convention. They're stationed in the press box at the Xcel Center, up in the rafters looking almost directly down onto the convention floor.

It's an area labeled "Bloggers' Row," and while it may not be convenient to the delegates, it's a prime spot for watching events unfold -- and writing about them in real time.

Amanda Carpenter, national political reporter with Townhall.com, wouldn't mind being closer, but she's not complaining. The Internet works, she said, and they can see the floor.

"Not being able to see the reaction would put us at a disadvantage."

Although blogging was underway in 2004, this year's conventions are the first to be lauded and skewered by a wide range of blogs. Convention officials estimated that at least 100 bloggers have received credentials this week, nearly as many as attended the Democratic convention in Denver last week.

Most of them here have a conservative bent, including Powerline, arguably the most famous blog to come out of Minnesota. A few, notably the New Republic's blog and the Huffington Post, are decidedly liberal.

Conventions are a natural venue for political bloggers, who "are among the most passionate bloggers," said David Erickson, director of e-strategy at Tunheim Partners in Bloomington. "They are more likely than other bloggers to build up a following by their consistency."

Alongside Carpenter and the Townhall crew Tuesday afternoon were bloggers with Red State and Hip Hop Republican, all three national blogs that have won loyal followings, especially among younger conservatives.

Hip Hop Republican cuts against all the stereotypes that insist Republicans are typically old, white and suburban. The website was started about four years ago by Richard Ivory, a young African-American who lives in Harlem and works for a large mental health provider in New York City.

"We find that the Democrats generally have a great deal of power over ideas in the marketplace, and we disagree with that," Ivory said.

"We feel that free-market principles are the best tool to address urban challenges," said Lenny McAllister, a North Carolina business consultant and political commentator who blogs for Hip Hop Republican. "For example, we believe that school vouchers are an opportunity to force public schools to either be more efficient or lose money."

Moe Lane, a stay-at-home dad in the Washington, D.C., area and blogger for Red State, said that the blog provides its own analysis and links to other articles its readers want to see.

The advantage that bloggers have over other media, Lane said, is that "if our readers want to read a 5,000- to 6,000-word essay on Uzbekistan, we can give them a 5,000- to 6,000-word essay on Uzbekistan." Resources, or a lack of them, are the downside.

Carpenter, who has appeared on numerous political talk shows and wrote a hard-hitting critique of Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2006, said that her readers are "overwhelmingly supportive" of Sen. John McCain's running mate choice, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, because it shows "that he cares about the things they care about." Lane agreed, saying the party's conservative base had been "worried that McCain wasn't going to be concerned about their desires."

Ivory said the pregnancy of Palin's teenage daughter only underscores the point that the governor is a real person. Even given the first African-American presidential nominee, Ivory said that he won't be crossing party lines.

"My heart is with Obama, but my head is with McCain," he said.

Kevin Duchschere • 612-270-1412

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