Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, November 21, 2005

Municipal Election Blogging - Postscript

Via One Damn Thing After Another, an article in the Tyee about blogging and the municipal election. Here are the first few paragraphs:

"People who hope blogging will revolutionize politics may be surprised by the results of an experiment at the UBC Journalism School. After extensive analysis of media coverage of the municipal elections, the Thunderbird Online Journalism Review has found that blogs pale in comparison to some corporate media.

"Vancouver's blogosphere is just not being charged up by this election," said UBC Journalism Professor Mark Schneider.

In contrast, both Schneider and Richard Warnica, the student who is leading the project, singled out CanWest publications the Vancouver Courier and the Vancouver Sun for their excellent coverage.

Schneider theorized that there is "something about Canadian reserve and respect for decorum which prevents bloggers from expressing themselves enthusiastically."

By contrast, their American counterparts have been credited with breaking stories and both the Democratic and Republican parties allowed bloggers to cover their nominating conventions in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election."

First, a quibble on verb tense. Presumably, people who 'hope that blogging will revolutionize politics' are by definition not surprised that it hasn't happened yet. Only people who think blogging has already revolutionized politics would be surprised.

Second, if you compare to three years ago, I'm guessing blogs had a much bigger impact this time around, especially Downtown Eastside, the blog of independent candidate for council Jamie Lee Hamilton. I'm not sure how much more enthusiastic (or 'charged up') you can be than getting into a libel suit with a mayoral candidate.

Third, blogging may have influenced the election in some less than obvious ways. Would the Tyee have its highly entertaining and informative open comment threads if these had not been popularized by blogs?

Fourth, I have to laugh at Schneider's theory of some kind of national character of 'reserve' which prevents bloggers from expressing themselves. Has this guy ever read My Blahg, Canadian Cynic, any random Blogging Tory?

Still, for all my quibbling, the article has a point that, compared to say a provincial or federal election, coverage on blogs for the municipal election was pretty light. But for real insight as to why, it makes sense to get opinions from some bloggers, so you need to go to Rob's post and read the comments from him and Ian King. I agree with the reasons they offer for why there may not be a lot of blogging about the election, especially the lack of a substantive audience for posts about local issues and the lack of online information resources to use as blogging fodder.

Just a couple of additional things I would add, speaking from my personal point of view.

One: municipal politics is kind of boring, the issues (borrow money for sewers? bike lanes on bridges? 15% or 20% social housing in new developments? Wal-Mart or no Wal-Mart?) generally don't stir the (my) imagination the way a debate on same sex marriage or global warming or taxation policy (ok, I'm a geek) or standardized testing or universal health care does. Plus the scale of everything involved is smaller. After all, you don't see much coverage of the White Rock municipal election, do you - scale is crucial?

Two: Mobility. I've never lived in the same city for more than 4 years since I moved out of my parent's place, so I don't really have much knowledge of the city which as compared to my knowledge of the province or, especially, my knowledge of the country. If I had lived in Vancouver my whole life, or was planning to live the rest of my life in Vancouver, I would be more passionate about municipal politics, but I haven't and I'm not going to - and I suspect I'm not the only one.

But, having said all that, I have to return to my earlier comment about how much blogging has expanded in just 3 years (I for one, had never heard the word 3 years ago). If blogs keep getting a wider readership and growing in organization and sophistication for the next 3 years, then the people who hope (fear?) that blogging will revolutionize politics may yet get their wish1.

1Although I suspect that 'revolutionize' is going to be too high a bar, perhaps 'significantly influence' might be more attainable, if a little less catchy.


  • -Lower interest in municipal politics overall, which affects all of the following:

    -Less municipal politics coverage in the media, and therefore less source material for bloggers

    -Less bloggers who are interested in writing about it

    -Less of the network effect... each new blogger out there writing about the same subject as you can make your blog more valuable as you link to each other, comment on each other, etc. This happens less when you write about municipal issues... even if municipal issues were popular, there are just fewer bloggers in your locale.

    -Less readership

    On the other hand, I have found that municipal politics blogging can be interesing if you are willing to get out there and attend public events. You can be your own source of news.

    Also, at least for me during the 2003 Toronto Municipal Election, I was able to score very highly on Google for a lot of issues related to the Toronto election. (Eg., Google "barbara hall airport".) My traffic was never that high, but I do feel that I may have influenced one or two voters along the way.

    Of course, by that point I was involved as a partisan... but bloggers are supposed to be opinionated!

    By Blogger Andrew Spicer, at 2:13 PM  

  • Your feelings about being involved and influencing the municipal results reminds of how I felt about the referendum on STV. I never got a ton of traffic (or even a half-ton!) but I feel like I might have influenced a few people, and I was more directly involved in the process than I would be for say a provincial or federal election.

    But I'm just not that emotionally involved in municipal issues. I think sometimes I still care more about Toronto issues than Vancouer ones (maybe I just like rooting for an underdog!)

    By Blogger Declan, at 12:33 AM  

  • Universal health care can be great towards a better health care system.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:13 AM  

  • Spam does a lot of things, but it's rare that it helps me prove my point, so I figured I'd leave the preceeding comment rather than deleting it, like I normally would.

    By Blogger Declan, at 4:58 PM  

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