Matt Welch

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© 1986-2004

. Who knew that a non-Democrat non-politician could be so interesting!

And the questions ... well, let's just say that I would have liked to see the 100 journalists in attendance from The New York Times, or the tent of sage-looking scribes from The New Yorker answer things like "Who did you support in the Democratic primary? (Or, if it's not applicable, who do you plan to vote for in November?)" or "Why should people read your coverage?"

Of course, it's difficult to explain why people should read your coverage when you're spending too much time talking, and not enough rocking. For it's true, even though I wasn't one of the Indy 35, I did have a hungry weblog to feed (reason.com/conventions), and when you are one of a reporting team of two, and possessor of the operation's lone computer, every minute spent doing one thing is a minute not doing something else.

Which is why I feel some tribal defensiveness at the generally lukewarm Big Media reviews of the blogathon. "This first effort can be best described as an experiment," wrote The Associated Press's Anick Jesdanun, in a typical summary. "As a member of the traditional media, I don't believe I need to look for a new job yet."

As a member of the traditional media, Jesdanun and most of her colleagues enjoyed all kinds of perks most of us could only dream about -- paid-for workspace, technical support, plenty of colleagues to share the workload, and so on.

Unlike the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles four years ago, there were no computers provided anywhere for the luckless one-man reporting acts. A single overcrowded "press filing room" inside the FleetCenter offered room for maybe 80 straggler journalists total, 30 on the last day when John Kerry's travelling press pack took it over. Tech support, for those of us who have trouble turning on our own cellphones without assistance, was limited (in my case) to desperate calls to friends in Los Angeles.

The other option was the pathetic little "Bloggers Row" up in the very top of the arena, but the echo from the stage made all speakers sound like Charlie Brown's teachers, and the patchwork wireless Internet connections on offer were, in the memorable words of Technorati.com founder David Sifry, "totally FUBAR."

In my lone 120-minute visit to the Blogger Dungeon, maybe 110 minutes were wasted bugging Sifry to fix my computer's Internet access. The moment he did (using the time-honored method of pretending to hit my laptop with a sledgehammer), I was approached by a reporter from NBC Radio. "Hi, I'm doing a story about bloggers...."

Five minutes later, the Internet was again FUBAR, and I was AWOL, heading outside the security perimeter to the Loser's Press Filing Center a couple of blocks away. After finally establishing a usable workspace, I headed back to the arena, only to find the Boston police had locked it down shut. "They handed out too many credentials," one cop shrugged.

Hundreds of us watched Kerry's "I really did serve in Vietnam" speech from the hot vantage point of a faraway television. For which, naturally, the bloggers were roundly mocked. (Not only were we being cross-examined at every step, several news organizations -- including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and others -- had their own institutional weblogs that did nothing but blog about the bloggers. I kid you not.)

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's always fun to have your work read, and any press is good press, as long as they spell your name right. (Psst! Globe and Mail guys! It's W-e-l-c-h!)

"Blogger" may be one of the English-language's most unfortunate words -- my Boston friends were already refusing to pronounce the thing before the convention even started, and I tried whenever possible to substitute the word "booger" -- but there's something to be said for spitting out 15,000 words in real-time while the Journalism School professors fret and The New Yorker uses a small army to pinch off two Talk of the Town snippets. By the time the circus moves to New York, we may even get the hang of it.

© 1986-2004; All rights reserved.

© 1986-2004; All rights reserved.

FACE="Arial" SIZE="2" COLOR="Black">© 1986-2004; All rights reserved.