BOSTON – In colonial America, the politically active spread their ideas in pamphlets still fresh from the printing press. Today's pamphleteers — the "bloggers" who can put every idle thought on the Web — are being invited to the Democratic National Convention (search).
"You've been doing it ever since the Revolutionary War," Eric Schnure, a former speech writer for Vice President Al Gore (search) and the official 2004 DNC blogger, wrote in a pitch for the party's Web log, or blog. "Dumping tea and deleting spam. They're kind of the same, don't you think?"
The DNC, in what its officials believe is a first in the world of politics, is granting convention credentials to a carefully selected group of bloggers. They will join thousands of conventional journalists covering the festivities July 26-29 at Boston's FleetCenter.
These traditionally non-establishment social commentators will be chosen based on their professionalism, the number of readers who check their blog on a regular basis, and how much of their content is original. DNC officials have not determined how many credentials will be issued.
During an election cycle transformed by Howard Dean's (search) use of the Internet to raise money and motivate supporters, Democrats are trying to engage a wider array of Americans as delegates meet to nominate John Kerry (search) for president.
"We hope to bring back to political conventions something of the spirit of the early American democracy, the wide-ranging, freewheeling, and raucous discussions about the state of the nation and the state of the party," Matt Stoller, the DNC's blog community coordinator, wrote in his first posting.
Bloggers and those who monitor their influence said the DNC's announcement is a milestone — and a testament to Dean's lasting influence on the political process.
"They're just trying to pick up on what they seemed to have lost with Dean," said Alex Halavais, an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo's School of Informatics. "There was a luster associated with the Dean campaign — the luster of the grass roots — that Kerry hasn't quite managed to pick up on."
American University broadcasting professor M.J. Bear said the DNC's blogger credentials have caused a buzz on the Internet.
"I think it's being seen as 'Our time has arrived,"' Bear said. "This is a mainstream acknowledgment that we are an important way to communicate."
California blogger Mary Spio argues, however, that endorsement by an official entity such as the DNC is not something that many of her colleagues will embrace.
"Bloggers have very little interest in being part of the establishment," said Spio, editor of One2One Magazine, which is dedicated to the singles lifestyle. "The entire 'blogosphere' is founded on the basic distrust of traditional organizations."