New Media Dilemma for Democratic Convention

New Media Dilemma for Democratic Convention

July 18, 2008 — As the Democrats gear up for a historic convention in Denver this August, some African American commentators in the new media world aren’t too happy. Several black bloggers complain they have been shut out of the upcoming convention.

There is no argument that the Democrats have given press credentials to nearly three times more bloggers this convention than in 2004. To date, more than 124 bloggers have received press credentials for the event. What those in the Afrosphere Action Coalition, a group of Internet users who advocate for social justice issues nationally and internationally, object to is the percentage of black bloggers.

“Of the blogs covering the convention, black blogs will be 7.2% of the blogs present,” says Francis L. Holland of the Afrosphere Action Coalition. According to Holland, many states with a strong black Democratic presence and population are either underrepresented or not represented at all, even though black bloggers from these states did apply. “The state of Tennessee, which often has over 25% blacks among its Democratic primary voters, will not have a single black blogger at the Democratic National Convention, for example. The District of Columbia, which is 60% black, will be left out. Louisiana, which is 32.4% black, will be left out. Illinois, the presidential nominee’s home state, which is 15% black, will be left out.”

The selection process was as diverse as possible, says Damon D. Jones, the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) spokesperson. “We are credentialing a record number of blogs and giving them unprecedented access. They will all have the same access as the press. All bloggers will have access to the convention floor, press briefing areas, caucus meetings, filing centers, and other auxiliary events open to members of the media,” he explains. “We’ve credentialed…more [blogs] than any other political convention that we know of. Blogs were credentialed on individual merits, and many African American-focused blogs have been credentialed.”

According to Jones, bloggers were selected via criteria that included a number of factors. “For example, we looked at Web traffic, the number of other blogs linked to them, the focus of the blog,” Jones says.

However, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, political analyst and author of The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House, contends that the credentialed blogs are not representative of the black voice in the blogosphere. “The DNC is totally out of touch with how black opinion is being shaped to restrict and even deny access to Democratic convention proceedings to some black bloggers,” he says. “They are a potent and influential force for change. They have been the ones who have been in the forefront of the proactive use of cyberspace to fire up black opinion on race and justice issues and to mobilize blacks to take action on issues from the Jena 6 case to the temporary ouster of Don Imus.”

Hutchinson sees the selection of blogs by the DNCC as being shortsighted. “Given the crucial importance of the black vote to Obama’s drive for the White House,