Acapitalblog.blogspot.com) give political coverage a shot; we, the bitter old-school media, grade them.
Googling your tax dollars was made possible last month by lovable lawmakers holding hands across the aisle (senators John McCain, Barack Obama) and bloggers, who threw a wet sheet around the exposed shoulders of a new bill and ran it through the burning house that is Congress (senators Ted Stevens and Robert Byrd blocked the passageway — zoiks! — until savvy bloggers exposed their secret “holds” on the bill). Now anyone can track $1 trillion in federal spending in an upcoming online database, proving once again that the stars of citizen journalists are on the rise. To wit, the issuance of a White House press pass to FishbowlDC blogger Garrett M. Graff (not to be confused with James Guckert, alias Jeff Gannon, the conservative media mole and gay escort). To wit, Apple Computer could not pry loose online journalists’ sources after new product info was leaked: A California District Court of Appeals in a May ruling in the Apple case said First-Amendment protections were extended to online publications, too.
Result: MSM (mainstream media) and Tribune Company chieftains are getting night sweats as advertisers two-time with younger, more vibrant online media. Newspaper editors are scrolling and scratching their scrotums, asking, “How did we miss this story?”
Something like 12 million Americans keep blogs: 63 percent explore themes beyond sexual misadventures and household pets (still, the world’s most popular blog, courtesy Chinese actress Xu Jinglei, has many flat-faced kitty photos). Here’s our review of a few Texas-themed blogs to watch for midterm election coverage, and then some.
— Keli Dailey
Dear PinkDome: Last week you warned the public, “Do not fuck with PinkDome. It’s not going to work out for you and you’re just going to wind up sad.” I’ll stop short of outing your four anonymous bloggers, but here comes the pain: Sure, you’ve mastered the art of towel-snapping politicians in the ass with your progressive cheekiness, but you’re also blogging snobs and you ain’t got the goods to back your shit up. You’ll call other blogs’ designs “train wrecks,” but when I open PinkDome in Safari or Firefox, you’re just an illegible mess of misformatted, overlapping blocks, like Mark Rothko through broken glasses. You contract your design with a pro? Where’s your RSS feed? Do your trackbacks even work? Go ahead, pat yourself on the back for “20,000 unique visitors a week.” They’re bots and spiders, kids. Consider yourself fucked with.
P.S. The only way you’ll make me sad is if you don’t comp me one of your sweet “Adios MoFo” anti-Perry T-shirts.
(Updated several times daily.)
— Sincerely, Dave Maass
BURNT ORANGE REPORT
Burnt Orange Report is basically a glorified collection of links and news excerpts. It adds nothing of substance to any of its discoveries, serving simply as a “look-what-I-read-today” source of informaton. This kind of thing has its place, as anyone hooked on Salon’s The Fix can tell you, but BOR’s lack of supplemental information bespeaks a certain laziness. If you missed a recent TV commercial attacking Republican State Representative Gene Seaman or you need links to Democratic podcasts, BOR will get the job done. But don’t expect too much. To put things in perspective, a recent highlight/lowlight was this joke provided by one of the blog’s readers:
Q: Why doesn’t Mark Foley use a bookmark?
A: He likes to bend over pages.
Expect a lot more of this stuff on BOR in the next few weeks.
Updated several times daily.
— Gilbert GarciaA CAPITOL BLOG
There are legislators who sit on committees, click “Yea” and “Nay,” make speeches in places with poor parking, and expect the media to pass on the information to their constituents. Then there are legislators, like State Representative Aaron Peña from Edinburg, who take it upon themselves to bare the deep heart of Texas politics directly to the public. Peña launched A Capitol Blog on January 1, 2005, in order to help his constituents “understand my thoughts and opinions on issues that face our community.” The name implies it’s just another politician’s journal, nothing special. That’s too modest. It’s thoughtful and sensitive, not only documenting his dutiful visits to schools and hospitals, but his reflections on a life in local politics within the context of a rapidly changing geopolitical climate. He reminds us that politicians are human like the rest of us, with a view of the world just as equally affected by Foley fallout as by Steve Irwin’s death.
— Dave Maass
Burka is the dean of Texas political writers, so it’s understandable that he takes politics a lot more seriously than his blogging peers. While other bloggers dutifully trot out poll numbers that have appeared in various newspapers, Burka can break down the data and spot some notable trends. For example, he noticed that Rick Perry’s Latino support is now up to 42 percent, and chalked it up to a combination of voter weariness with corrupt Democratic practices at the precinct level and Latino comfort with GOP positions on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.
He veers somewhat unpredictably from state to national issues, and while his state coverage is the real attraction, he can grab you with his national insights: On October 2, with the Mark Foley scandal brewing and Bob Woodward’s new book grabbing headlines, he wrote “Today may be the worst day for Republicans since the Watergate burglary.” Did any other major media figure make that claim?
On the downside, his site is visually dull and not particularly comment-friendly, which might explain why so many of Burka’s thoughtful posts meet with no response.
— Gilbert Garcia
IN THE PINK TEXAS
Think of this as the anti-Burka. In the Pink’s founder, known as the Pink Lady, has serious journalistic credentials: She received a master’s degree from the Medill School at Northwestern and has worked in print and online news. But her take on current events falls somewhere between The Onion and The Daily Show, with absolutely no one spared her frequently funny jabs. She attracts a considerable number of irreverent comments, and claims more than 24,000 page views per week.
She astutely interprets George W. Bush’s statement of support for House Speaker Dennis Hastert as Beltway code for “Dude. You just got Scootered.” Another In The Pink contributor, identified as Fled the Asylum, offers a witty, if pointless, retrospective on British PM Tony Blair, recalling that at the time of his election, he was considered the third most handsome man in England, behind only Hugh Grant and Benny Hill. She and her followers even poke fun at Burka for being boring and for his inability to attract readers.
In the Pink is stubbornly capricious, and it’ll frustrate anyone wanting a consistent take on Texas politics, but it’s an endlessly readable ramble on the clichés of modern media coverage, from someone who’s been on the inside.
Updated several times daily.
— Gilbert Garcia
A LITTLE POLLYANNA
One of the most visually appealing political blogs you’re likely to find, A Little Pollyanna mythologizes its creator with graphics inspired by a 19th-century carnival poster, with Pollyanna as the featured attraction. A Louisiana native with strong Texas roots, the self-described Queen Supreme of the Media Kingdom doesn’t quite live up to the implications of that title.
She seems to treat the blog as a casual, part-time exercise on which she’s as liable to share pictures of her baby niece as to excoriate Rick Perry for his indifferent response to Ann Richards’s death. The entries come irregularly, and they’re often so short that they feel like email messages to close friends. But you’re unlikely to find cuter baby-niece pictures anywhere.
— Gilbert Garcia