WASHINGTON -- Forget the "smoke-filled room." Politics today are conducted in a Tweet-filled blogosphere. That mix of human and digital space will be at its buzziest and most influential late next summer, when the political parties hold their nominating conventions.
And in spite of -- and in some ways because of -- the ever-deepening flood of candidate advertising, politics (and journalism) today are do-it-yourself, web-based and socially-connected enterprises.
Which is where you come in.
Because you are reading the Huffington Post -- and this blog -- I bet that you will be inspired by a convention-season contest we are announcing today.
We want to find the best, most creative citizen journalists in America and Canada and send them, at our expense, to Tampa and Charlotte and help us cover the scene in their own way, with their own vision and their own ideas.
Do you think you could and should be one of them? All you have to do -- starting today and ending on June 29th -- is send us an embeddable video explaining why we should choose you, what you would cover and which medium (or mix of them) you want to use to do so.
Send the video to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll post it with others' videos. (See full contest rules here.)
Then, with the help of our reader/viewers, HuffPost editors will select up to 24 citizen journalists to cover the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 27th to August 30th and the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 3rd to September 6th.
The winners -- up to 12 for each convention -- will get airfare, hotel accommodation for five nights, a per diem and access to The Huffington Post's work/social sites near the conventions and to HuffPost and other newsmaker events.
The winners also will get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see history in the making, and report on it as it happens for one of the world's leading news sites.
If you become part of the citizen journalism team, you will also become part of the pioneering heritage of the Huffington Post, which supports citizen journalists in an election-year program called Off the Bus.
In the 2008 campaign, some 10,000 amateur, do-it-yourself journalists took part in one way or another -- from checking political advertising logs at TV stations to writing major pieces with major scoops in them.
At this early stage of the 2012 campaign, some 1,350 citizen journalists have been digging into coverage of the election. That number will grow as the campaign year goes on.
But you don't have to be an Off the Bus participant to enter the convention contest.
All you need to do is send in the explanatory video -- on the YouTube platform or whatever other platform you want, or by tagging an embedded video as "OfftheBus" on Tumblr.
If you've read this far you also know that the conventions in Tampa and Charlotte are likely to be two of the most pivotal in recent history.
For the first time in two generations, there is a chance of an open convention -- that is, one in which no candidate arrives with a majority of delegates in hand. That could happen at the GOP convention in Tampa this year.
The Democrats know whom they are going to nominate -- President Obama -- but the action in Charlotte could be interesting for two reasons: the Democrats' need to put on a show to impress the nation, and the possibility that Occupy Wall Street forces will be in the streets.
But we won't know until we get there. Want to come along?