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2006 05 15
MESH Conference - Will Blogs Change Politics in Canada

Are Canadian politics influenced by blogs? Will we follow the path of the US? Here is a synopsis of the discussion:

This afternoon Warren Kinsella lawyer/consultant talks with Paul Wells of Maclean's, Andrew Coyne of the National Post and Brad Davis, National Director of Policy and Internet Strategy, of the Michael Ignatieff Leadership Campaign.

Andrew Coyne of the National Post - and an economist - is leading off the panel. The power of the blogosphere is its ability to break down issues into small pieces that can be studied and reconnected. He calls this phenomenon "Horizontal Editing." The benefit is how it breaks up the group-think of the main-stream media. Now, because of blogging, issues are less predictable.

Brad Davis says that he is inspired by blogs. During the recent election, he had twenty people across Canada following the various political blogs. This continues with the leadership campaigns. They are managing the relationship with bloggers as though they are as influential as MSM. Blogs to the Ignatieff team is a way to inform their campaign.

Paul Wells of Macleans says he doubts that blogs will have an influence. He talks about the Dean campaign in the US. There is a boom and bust cycle related to blogs - too much attention leads to a pull back of support. Wells is waiting to see blogs influence the leadership campaign. But his blog seems to have influence, at least with the Ignatieff campaign. He has not seen evidence that it drive votes. Next month that might change.

WK: There is an MIT study from '04 that says 65% are male, 80% are white, etc. Will bloggers ever include other demographics?

Panel: The "recombinant loops" are changing the way politics is communicated. It is accelerating the way the message gets out. Messages get out in a matter of minutes not hours or days.

Audience: Will blogs change the type of candidates elected the way radio and TV did?

Panel: Sooner or later the traditional media will catch up especially on a national level. It won't change the type of candidate but will change the type of campaign they run.

Audience: Are bloggers doing the work of journalists?

Panel: For journalism the "future looks a little bit like a sledge hammer" but you need things that the reader was not expecting to find and that is what good journalists do. There will always be a place for people who think hard about issues.

These postings are by necessity summaries of key points. Complex issues like the nuances of politics and journalism defy transcription even at the best of times. This afternoon's discussion skewed away from blogs influencing politics to blogs disinter-mediating traditional media. The panel's consensus was that blogs might knock off the Sun but the National Post will survive.

[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 05/15 at 06:16 PM

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