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Blogger + NokiaN95 + Qik = New, Critical Journalism? Or, More of the Same?

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, August 26 2008

Will bloggers armed with cheap, high-tech tools change the news, or will the age-old rule that the closer you get to the powerful, the harder it is for you to criticize them, hold?

That question is on my mind as I watch, from afar, as Denver plays host not just to 15,000 credentialed traditional journalists, but also several hundred bloggers (many with credentials, some without). In many ways, the political blogosphere arose as many people reacted angrily and critically to a traditional press that they saw as too close to their subjects, or too intimidated by the powerful to report on them critically. Now that many bloggers are getting access too (and status), will they fall to the same dynamic?

I've been thinking about this particularly as I watch a new cohort fan out equipped not only with their laptops, cell phones and video cameras, but also with a potent new combo: a Nokia N95 phone (or its equivalent) plus direct pipeline to the live video web thru a service like Qik or Kyte.

At least 16 videobloggers are posting Qiks as they cover the Democratic National Convention, and you can follow their work here. They include a team from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo; the Uptake; the Sunlight Foundation; the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, bloggers Liza Sabater, Baratunde Thurston and Erin Vest Kotecki; and our own Nancy Scola. TPM has gotten a lot of brand-name interviews, but so far in terms of views, a birds-eye view of the Michelle Obama speech and their chat with comedian Harry Shearer is head-and-shoulders above the rest. Baratunde also impressed me with his ability to drive and videoblog at the same time! But so far, they haven't really broken the mold by sticking their mikes and cameras in the face of someone who normally isn't asked many hard questions, and asking some of their own.

Now I know how hard it is to do live journalism in a setting like one of the political conventions--when I ran into Ralph Reed at a party thrown by Grover Norquist in NYC in 2004, I found myself somewhat tongue-tied and only managed a semi-tough question about his lobbying business. (That challenge suggests an interesting iPhone app for roving muckrakers that would serve up a list of tough questions for public figures via text message--contact me offline if you're a developer and want to help build it). So, it's way too early to judge the efforts of these political videobloggers (and for all I know I'm missing some of their better work as is). But the question remains: are they breaking the news model, or joining it?