When Howard Dean ran for president in 2004, supporters touted his blog as evidence of his progressive attitude. He was the first presidential candidate to start a blog, which at the time felt like a giant leap forward into technology for a candidate; four years later, and we're criticizing John McCain for having just begun to use the Internet.
It is quite amazing how far we've progressed in a matter of four short years. Instead of being a newfangled alternative to the news, blogs have become the news. Citizen journalists, both in the U.S. and abroad, have taken their interest in the 2008 elections and turned it into a force for traditional media to reckon with, and every outlet from CNN to The Guardian are trying to keep up.
Most fascinating, perhaps, are the initiatives taken by foreign media to provide perspective on the upcoming elections. While many U.S. outlets are turning to the public (for example, CNN's iReport), global publications are looking toward foreign journalists to provide perspective...by blogging.
The Washington Post's PostGlobal calls itself "an experiment in global, collaborative journalism." Twice weekly, foreign independent journalists answer a question put forth by PostGlobal's moderators, or one suggested by readers. Although the site is not geared solely at politics, the elections will undoubtedly take center stage for the next two months.
The current topic questions what the panelists think of Sarah Palin's beliefs and lack of foreign policy experience and asks, "What does her selection say to people in other countries about how U.S. politics works?" The responses, from a Palestinian-Jordanian, a Brazilian, and an Iranian, among others, are telling. Each journalist expresses skepticism at the current state of U.S. politics; none are Palin supporters.
Another example of this phenomenon is the UK's Times Online which, via a special section entitled Across the Pond, provides perspective from professional journalists in a blog format; meaning, although professionals they may be, their style is adapted to a conversational feel.
In one recent post, Times reporter Hannah Strange, referring to Sarah Palin's acceptance speech, writes:
Conservatives are swooning, liberals terrified - that's how I would sum up the media reaction to Sarah Palin's big moment in St Paul last night. Never mind that she told a fair few porkies - both about her own record and Barack Obama's - the young governor of Alaska issued a rallying cry to the conservative Republican base that will go down in the annals of the culture wars as one of the most energising opening salvos of recent times.
In this first-person account, worlds away from typical reporting, Strange even delves into the blogosphere to provide a broad perspective.
Although there are plenty of foreign bloggers focused intently on the elections (one need only look to Voices without Votes, which aggregates such blogs, to see just how many), projects such as PostGlobal and Across the Pond lend a certain credibility to blogging the elections. Readers who might otherwise avoid blogs for fear of misinformation may be more apt to trust major publications and thus take their first taste of the global blogosphere via mainstream media sites.
This week OffTheBus is publishing a variety of stories that cover the presidential election from an international perspective.