Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Color Line Online

Here is a great report on black bloggers which has been in the back of my mind for quite some time.  Below is an excerpt:

by Amy Alexander, The Nation, July 16, 2008 
This article appeared in the August 4, 2008 edition of The Nation

"The blogosphere is like the real world in many ways," says Chris Rabb, founder of, a blog focusing on African-American news, information and activism. "Some of the same obstacles, challenges and inequalities that exist in the real world exist in the blogosphere, too." In 2004, for example, Rabb was the only blogger with a predominantly African-American readership to receive credentials for the Democratic National Convention. This raised concerns among black bloggers that a cyber-hierarchy was emerging, and the nascent "A-list" blogs --The Huffington Post, DailyKos and Talking Points Memo -- all seemed to reflect a white middle-class orientation. And that the DNC, by failing to credential more than one African-American blogger, validated that "A-list."

Of course, there aren't supposed to be any "bosses" in cyberspace. And yes, the landscape has changed with the launch of several high-profile blogs and websites by and for people of color. I am an occasional contributor to some of them, including, which is backed in part by the Washington Post Newsweek Interactive and was co-founded by Harvard black studies professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. The independent has also provided a forum for lively commentary by people of color. Moreover, this year's mid-July meeting of the YearlyKos Convention--now called Netroots Nation--boasts a lineup of panelists and speakers that includes dozens of black, Latino, Asian, gay and working-class bloggers and activists. Markos Moulitsas, founder of DailyKos, said in an e-mail interview that anyone who criticizes his site, or the blogosphere in general, on grounds of racial exclusion simply does not understand the nature of the beast. "It's an open medium. Anyone can participate, and in fact, 95 percent of the time we have no idea if a participant [at DailyKos] is white, black, brown, female, male, gay, straight, left-handed, right-handed, or ambidextrous," Moulitsas wrote, adding that DailyKos is separate from the Netroots Nation annual gathering.

The DNC has also stepped up its outreach efforts to blogs and websites run by people of color. It issued more than a dozen credentials to ethnic bloggers for this year's convention, according to spokesman Damon Jones--although those credentials were granted after some black bloggers, including Wayne Hicks of and Pam Spaulding of, wrote highly critical posts about having been excluded from the first round.

In economic terms, the entrepreneurial, run-it-from-your-garage nature of the blogosphere limits the likelihood that many people of color can devote themselves full time to building a site or blog. The business model of blogs--
small staffs, modest digs, no- or low-pay contributors--shuts out those who don't have the financial resources to allow them to survive by blogging alone. "How many of us can afford to sleep on someone's couch and survive on Cheetos for five years while you're working on your blog, building it up?" asks Rabb of Afro-Netizen. Compounding that cold-hard-cash reality, at least for journalists of color who've made careers in traditional media, is sometimes an unfamiliarity, or even discomfort, with the pungent advocacy that characterizes much of the blogosphere. The professional identities of black journalists like myself developed under the strictures of "objective" journalism, though we also learned from experience how to cover news that mattered to historically underrepresented communities. The NABJ, the largest professional trade group for journalists of color, was founded in 1975, in large part because of the desire to protect black journalists within the industry--by providing technical training and guidance on surviving the politics of predominantly white news organizations. Yet the NABJ and the two other leading ethnic professional groups, for Latino and Asian journalists, have so far been powerless to protect their members from the rampant downsizing taking place in the news business--or to help them crack the emerging hierarchy of blogs.

Nonetheless, bloggers of color--many of whom are not journalists--are getting busy building their sites, often beneath the radar. Historians will mark 2008 as the year a presidential candidate, Barack Obama, capitalized on the vast reach of the Internet to build a powerful fundraising and information network into his campaign. Yet progressives who have been enthralled with Obama's Internet presence should know that it is rooted not just in the algorithms, e-mail lists or social networking framework of Facebook, DailyKos or TPM; it grows also from a community of independent black, women and Latino bloggers who have quietly built a parallel activist universe.

Gina McCauley, a 32-year-old Austin lawyer who organized the Blogging While Brown conference, cites some of the same motivations that led to the founding of the NABJ: a need to protect and secure its members within the larger industry. She conceived the conference last year, "after a lot of black bloggers I know complained that they weren't included in some other big blog conventions." How could that be, I asked, if the freewheeling, open-source nature of the Internet is supposed to be inherently inclusive? "Well, some folks that I know said that they felt shut out of the YearlyKos conference, and even the BlogHer meeting," McCauley said, referring to the previous incarnation of Netroots Nation and to a smaller blog community built around women, which held its first conference three years ago. "So I thought, Well, the solution to that is simple: we need to hold our own conference," she said. >>Read More

Blogging While Brown News and Notes
by Pam Spaulding, Pam's House Blend, July 26, 2008

I just want to share some of my notes and impressions of Blogging While Brown sessions to give folks an idea of the range of topics and initiatives we're discussing. Most of the liveblogging will be below the fold.

9:45 AM: I'm sitting in the World Congress Center with Wayne Hicks of Electronic Village and Carmen Dixon of All About Race and we're discussing how the presidential race shouldn't even be close -- McCain is such a weak, tired candidate, truly worthy of the moniker McSame, with a hair-trigger temper to boot.

9:50 AM: The importance of Net Neutrality is being discussed by Jordan of FreePress, touting support for the bipartisan HR5353. >>Read More

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