Sunday, December 03, 2006

Blogging for Bucks

We knew about it, but it is disturbing to see the dollars next to the bloggers next to the related politicians. Today's New York Times' lead op-ed lists 13 bloggers and how much they took from various politicians.

The bulk of the piece is a snazzy table by graphic designer Mike Essl. It displays small; click on it to expand to legible scale. This accompanies minimal text by K. Daniel Glover, editor of National Journal's Technology Daily and author of its Beltway Blogroll.

Payments seem to vary by eyeballs and perceived influence. At the high end, MyDD and Daily Kos blogger Jerome Armstrong got $115,000+ over 15 months from Sherrod Brown and $65,000 in 12 months from Mark Warner. Others got hundreds or thousands a month. Glover got the figures from campaign disclosures.

They all wrote glowingly of their masters, apparently happily trading independence for the world of PR (or some worse term). Glover does note that nearly all revealed their campaign ties, if not the stipend. At least one, Patrick Hynes of Ankle Biting Pundits did so only when other bloggers found out and screamed.

Apparently, the campaigns sought the bloggers and not the other way around. Glover writes too:
Over the past few years, bloggers have won millions of fans by speaking truth to power — even the powers in their own parties — and presenting a fresh, outsider perspective. They are the pamphleteers of the 21st century, revolutionary “citizen journalists” motivated by personal idealism and an unwavering confidence that they can reform American politics.
Those of us who do this because it is right and righteous don't and wouldn't roll over. At the very least, the credibility of those who do is worthless. ...Larry, Darryl and Darryl, anything for a buck.

Yet, this is a capitalist culture and not everyone performs volunteer avocations. It appears that those who shill for money have created a new class of bloggers, a dirty one whose posts have dubious value.

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8 comments:

Laurel said...

Applogies if this is answered in the article, but did any of these bloggers identify themselves as bloggers for hire? If so, I have no problem with it. If not, ouch. No better than Bush planting Gukkert in the Whitehouse press corps.

Anonymous said...

My name is spelled Essl. Not East.

Mass Marrier said...

For Mr. Essl, thanks for the correction. I updated it.

To Laurel, in general, they weren't clean. Some mentioned an affiliation, but that that they were hired guns per se. A few were outed by other bloggers before they 'fessed up at all.

In either case, they removed themselves from the blogger-as-journalist. As you noted, they became plants. Unfortunately, that reflects more generally on bloggers.

We don't have a code of ethics or a watchdog, but that far too clearly crosses a wide line. Those who pay the bloggers are piggybacking on their existing sites, but that's not fair. If the bloggers want to shill, they should set up a separate for-hire blog or the big site, like MyDD should set up a separate for-hire opinion area.

Harrumph.

A Hermit said...

Glover's article is highly misleading and is soundly debunked by a bunch of people, here are just a few:

MYDD

personaldemocracy

Pandagon

Mass Marrier said...

I read those, AH. I'm not as sure as you that these are debunking. They make some good points and some weak emotional claims.

In addition to those links, folks can look at Glover's own testy response to criticism on his blog.

Perhaps the best observation in the chatter on this came midway on the Pandagon one. David Mizner wrote in part, "More generally, as bloggers become important enough to get paid, either for their adspace or expertise, people in the blogosphere should take this kind of criticism more seriously. Is it a problem that, say, Atrios and Kos, take money from corporations? Ultimately, I say, probably not (or not yet), but it’s a question, like the one in the Times today, that needs to be asked, thought about, and answered."

Ryan Adams said...

I don't know, Mike. I'm of the mind that one of the reasons why Republicans win is because they retain their talent. While people should volunteer their time, they should also get paid a living wage to do what they love to do.

If someone who I personally liked and thought would be good for the state of Massachusetts offered me a paid position in a campaign, I'd probably take it. Does that make me a gun for hire? I don't think so, at least no more than Doctors accepting payments for treating medical conditions or painters accepting money for creating a portrait.

The fact is that if Democrats don't start to try to retain their talent - and offer decent wages with decent benefits - then the talent pool will leave for private sector jobs. When that happens, the Democrats are at a disadvantage. We keep putting out newbies against Republican veterans in campaign after campaign - and I've spoken to a few of the professional Democratic campaign people, who all too often complain that everyone they work with are rookies who make rookie mistakes.

Some of the rookies who leave will eventually come back, whether it be in small volunteer roles or as candidates at a later date, but they come back without the knowledge or ability to lead the efforts we need to win and sustain a movement.

Jerome Armstrong certainly has some questions left to answer and was getting paid quite a bit for his services, and certainly there are ethic questions to be answered (one basic fix is people shouldn't blog on their blogs about a campaign that's paying them - especially without addressing the conflicts of interest in big print at the top of the blog). However, the basic premise that progressives shouldn't be paid for their hard work is a self-defeating policy.

Mass Marrier said...

Well, I'm a simple man from the land of the oak trees. I also came out of journalism school.

To me, if posts can be so muddled that readers don't know what's real and what's PR, that's a foul.

Newspaper types at least put "ANALYSIS", "OPINION" or "ADVERTISEMENT" plainly on articles that otherwise would be misleading.

In the case of us bloggers, if I had so entranced Deval's campaign manager that he wanted to pay for my brilliant turn of phrase, I should start a new blog to do that. I could put links on this one. Maybe I would even have put up posts saying, in effect, hey, at my paid political blog, I'm writing about this or that.

If I wanted to mix my posts, crossing back and forth, I should lead into every post that mentioned Deval with a note that I was on retainer to his campaign.
No confusion, no misleading, no mixing bagels and donuts.

Sure, there's no inherent reason a progressive blogger can't make a buck. The separation issues shouldn't be difficult. However, despite the protests so far, some of us seem to be very cavalier about whether we are being clear on what's our opinion and knowledge v. what we are financially encouraged to or constrained from saying.

Ryan Adams said...

I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm a regular blog reader, or maybe not, but I can generally filter out the crap if there is any at all. However, I can say one thing about MyDD, they have been open about political jobs they've done in the past. Singer routinely referred to his work on behalf of Warner.

Maybe one of the problems is that people don't really know what exactly "compensation" means. The only surprise, for me, from the story you linked was just how much Singer earned.

In any event, here's a different take on the whole story that I think makes some good points.

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