Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why the Establishment Hoosier Blogs Kind of Suck

I've noticed something ever since I started reading the local and regional blogs back in the summer of 2009. The establishment blogs, those that officially or all-but-officially represent the viewpoints of the Marion County or Indiana state Republican or Democratic parties, respectively, often fail at establishing themselves in various ways. Often, they're little more than a place to publish press releases for the party leaders and/or elected officials or to get talking points out in the open.

Let's look at Capitol & Washington, the spiritual successor of the Frugal Hoosiers blog. Every single post on the front page has comments published by spammers, and apparently that's not been noticed. And that's on a blog with several contributors. And at times, there have been several day gaps in posting. While blogs don't have to have content every single day, it helps to establish a pattern and provide some predictability to readers. Otherwise, habits can be dropped.

But these are relatively minor.But that led me to think about all the establishment partisan blogs in Indiana, and how their content stacks up against blogs run by individuals

And one of the areas C&W lacks is original content outside of opinions. While the perception of bloggers is that we're just assholes who copy and paste news articles and give our opinions about current events, the fact is we often are among the media that cover local and regional news. Often, bloggers report on the same events as mainstream media. Sometimes, bloggers have sources that allow us to publish additional information not published in mainstream media accounts. And on a more rare occasion, bloggers can completely break a story. It's rare, especially for those of us who write a blog in our free time without pay, but it does happen.

Of the three establishment Republican blogs that I read (Hoosier Access, C&W, and an anonymous blog which I'll address later), sometimes they're completely silent on what mainstream local media and other blogs report on. If you only read these blogs for news, you'd never know that Lincoln Plowman, a former Republican City-County Council member and former officer within the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, was tried and convicted in federal court on charges of accepting a bribe and extortion. While I wouldn't expect the blogs to try to defend Plowman, some type of effort to publicly distance themselves from Plowman would have been interesting to read. Maybe they could point to an elected public official and talk about their high ethical standards to demonstrate that Plowman's low ethics aren't part of the mainstream GOP.

Not saying I'd believe that post, but hey, it'd be interesting to read.

Another establishment Republican blog, written anonymously, hasn't had a new post since August 23. Several comments that consist purely of spam advertisers have been left starting on August 28 and haven't been removed. When a website, not just blogs, but any website, goes several weeks without updates to at least remove spam comments, it's an indication that the site is "dead" and not worth visiting. In the case of this specific establishment Republican blog, it doesn't surprise me. This anonymous blog could only be the Marion County GOP attack dog for so long. And their "breaks" from blogging have been much longer than C&W. After a while, readers are just going to stop checking in for updates.

And in writing this post, I tried to make this a bi-partisan trashing. But uh....I really can't think of an establishment statewide Democrat blog that could counter Hoosier Access or Capital & Washington. At one point, Blue Indiana was the place to go. But it went down for several months in 2011 and after a relaunch, it's been pretty quiet.

There is one establishment blog that, while not updated often nowadays, does break the mold in terms of content. Terry Burns, who is heavily involved in both Marion County and state politics with the Democratic party, runs the Indianapolis Times blog. On several occasions, he has posted exclusive news and has talked about what goes in the back room caucus meetings of Republican elected officials. When major pieces of legislation are being debated on the Indianapolis City-County Council, he's posted about who is thinking of being a "no" or "yes" vote, and he's often accurate in his predictions. Outside of Abdul Hakim-Shabazz's Indiana Barrister blog (whose blog I don't consider "establishment" because he often does have original journalism even though some of his personal views fall into the GOP establishment), the Times has one of the most lively comments section as well. So kudos to Mr. Burns.

So state Democrats and Marion County Republicans, you might want to step up your efforts, huh? Competition is good for business, and I'd love to have some.

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