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Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

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"Bloggers' Boulevard" is a detour from the conventional coverage

By Knight Ridder Newspapers and The Associated Press

MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES
Internet bloggers work on their items during the Democratic National Convention at the FleetCenter in Boston on Monday.
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BOSTON — This is the medium of the moment in action: Dave Winer, 49, arriving for his media credentials at the Westin Copley Place and realizing that he doesn't have to stand in the long radio, TV and print line.

He's a blogger. There's no line. Two tables, no waiting. Just go in, show your ID and you're done.

"That was depressingly easy," he says, pulling out a microphone and plugging it into his computer. Now he is recording every conversation he has — yes, it will be online within minutes — so the world can listen as he experiences the subway rides, the protests, the pageantry of the Democratic National Convention.

Welcome to "Bloggers' Boulevard," a section of the FleetCenter where independent Web scribes post their musings about the Democratic National Convention on personal Internet sites as events play out on the floor below them.

So-called bloggers are in the hall covering a national political convention live for the first time ever, joining the estimated 15,000 mainstream broadcast and print-media staff members chronicling the event.

Democrats accredited about 35 writers of Web logs or "blogs," choosing from more than 200 applications, in an effort to expand the media bullhorn that will amplify the convention's messages.

While the accredited bloggers are covering the convention, there are delegates blogging, too, members of the "old media" blogging, bloggers on the periphery of the FleetCenter, and bloggers blogging about bloggers.

The hot new thing at conventions this year, bloggers also will receive credentials from the Republican Party at its gathering next month.

Winer, 49, has flown in from New York to feed his blog (scriptingnews.com), which is short for Web log, the millions of personal diaries, digests, screeds, lists, links and notebooks gone digital. A former software entrepreneur and Harvard Law fellow, he hooks up at the hotel with Michael Feldman, another credentialed blogger (dowbrigade.com) and a language professor at Boston University. Rick Heller (centristcoalition.com), a blogger from outside Boston, makes it three.

First, there are people typing in the lobby. Who are they? Winer wants to know, and is there a free wireless network? He interviews a writer from L.A. Weekly, so three bloggers are interviewing a print reporter as another takes notes.

"Piranhas eating piranhas," Feldman says.
 
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With little news expected, bloggers are this convention's sideshow attraction.

And in serious demand.

Karl-T from BurntOrangeReport.com expects to be busier than Kerry and Edwards at the convention. Karl-T posted his schedule of media opportunities on his Texas-based blog — 24 as of Monday, including The Boston Globe, The Dallas Morning News, The Associated Press, ABC, CNN and the BBC.

CNN, meanwhile, has teamed up with the blog-watching site Technorati (politics.technorati.com) to report on which Web logs are the most popular and which subjects have the most buzz.

Winer thinks bloggers got invited because the Democrats saw how vital a role they played — drumming up support and sometimes even raising money — during the primary season. "They liked what they saw and they wanted to keep it going."

The bloggers have cred. A blogger breakfast Monday attracted the CEO of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, who says they fill the void left by network TV. Also present was Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who got a standing ovation and told them, "What we've created here is a real community."

Not surprisingly, many of the credentialed bloggers come from left-of-center, with names like Liberal Oasis (liberaloasis.com, "where the left is right and the right is wrong") and Opinions You Should Have (tomburka.com) whose creator, Tom Burka, is a New York lawyer delivering progressive political satire.

Says Burka: "It's not cool among young people to be an activist these days. This is a cool way."

Others play it more neutrally, such as The Command Post (command-post.org) a news-based blog, or Centerfield (centristcoalition.com/blog). Heller, Centerfield's managing editor, thinks blogs have impact because they mix sharp point-of-view and autobiography. No one has real objectivity, says the 45-year-old Massachusetts blogger. But if you are truthful about your own background and biases, people will respond.

Winer, famous among the bloggers as a somewhat cranky innovator, is busy reaching for the stars. Minutes after he arrives, he is interviewing Falun Gong protesters, a teenage delegate from Iowa, subway workers, singing satirists from Texas — capturing their sounds, snapping their pictures, posting it all on his blog.

It isn't long before bloggers have found it, and are passing judgment. Former MTV host Adam Curry listens from Belgium where he now lives, and ventures: "If Dave had been working for a radio broadcast organization, and filed this report he would've been looking for a new job within five minutes," Curry wrote on his blog (live.curry.com).

But Curry loves it anyway. "It isn't flawed, it's beautiful. It's raw and personal, just like a Web log."

It hasn't been all smooth sailing on the boulevard.

Just a few hours before the convention was gaveled to order, DNC technicians were trying to ensure the bloggers had constant high-speed wireless Internet access inside the FleetCenter as promised. The system was on the blink.

"If we're not online, we don't exist," said Jay Rosen, 48, a New York University journalism professor and an accredited blogger. "We're going to be useless."

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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