Anyone who's ever covered a fringe political meeting—Communists, Libertarians, Chicago Republicans—knows how an event can turn from the subject at hand to bitter grudge-settling about the conspiracy against the group. You're supposed to be discussing logistics for the latest signature drive, and a couple jerks end up hijacking the meeting for rants about how the Trib doesn't take them seriously. I saw some of this at last night's Pajamas Media panel at the National Press Club. For starters, why a Pajamas Media event at the National Press Club, where the words of the MSM prophets are written on the bathroom walls? Why not a podcast? Or a triumphant party in some citizen journalist's living room?
Forget that. Assume that the concept of a PJ Media panel inside a swanky journo citadel is a sound one. The ensuing discussion still managed to deteriorate into predictable sniping and moaning that had nothing to do with the ostensible topic—partisanship. After Michael Barone, Tom Bevans, Mark Blumenthal and Jane Hall offered some quick takes on how the country was divided and how voters identified themselves, Cliff May, Paul "Powerline" Mirengoff, and Claudia Rosett went off on a tangent and discussed how the partisan MainStream Media was losing readers to the blogs because it was so very partisan, and so very mainstream, and they'd better watch out because bloggers are going to leave them choking on their bloggy dust trails. And this set the tone for the rest of the discussion, which turned to how quickly the liberal media and liberal professoriat could be upset by the soaring power of blogs/citizen media.
It's possible I was bored by this because I've bemoaned, previously in Reason, the red-team-blue-team balkinization of blogs. More likely, I was bored because this was boring. The power of blogs to challenge liberal coverage of politics or war zones has been pretty well established, and not all of the evolution on that front has been empowering—unless you think it's empowering that bloggers are bypassing the MSM to flack for political campaigns. Meanwhile, bloggers like the Porkbusters crew and Radley Balko have been using blogs to expose corruption in Congress and free a man from death row, respectively. They've done so without much whining about the mainstream media holding them down. (Note: Porkbusters' roster includes some bloggers in attendance at the PJM event.)