John Morgan operates The Pennsylvania Progressive website. It is a site that we at CS2 recommend. In part 2 of a two-part interview John explains the ins and outs of blogging.
CS2: Hi John. Since the last time we talked there’s been a lot of water under the bridge. Your blog seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Is it more hectic now? What are the growing pains of the blog?
John: The past week especially has been hectic. On Monday the Philadelphia Inquirer picked up on one of our stories. More people are commenting and leaving feedback, and of course this means more time in answering feedback, responding to comments. It’s good, because what you want to do with a blog is build a community by increasing the number of visitors to the blog, but that all takes time. I can see how major bloggers can become overwhelmed just by the time spent responding to comments.
CS2: Have you ever received comments that you had to remove because they were so profane or libelous that you didn’t want to run them?
John: Yes. But it’s very rare. There have been some isolated instances where that’s happened.
CS2: I’m wondering, are blog commenters like the voters in that they respond in greater numbers to the negative story as opposed to the positive? Do you get less feedback on the positive stories?
John: It depends on the individual story. To give you an example of a story that was in the news this week about the Montgomery County Commissioners’ race, the article itself had no comments. Still a week later no comments. But the article had a huge impact almost from the moment it went up. It got tons of publicity in that race. But there’s not one comment on the article. It’s odd that sometimes some of the stuff that’s most influential has no comments.
CS2: Looking at politics I’m wondering why some stories get tremendous coverage on the blogs and some get virtually no coverage. One of the most overlooked and uncommented upon stories this past summer was the Republican effort in California to make that state, which now has a winner take-all primary, a proportional representation primary.
CS2: That’s like taking a state the size of Ohio and giving it to the Republicans to start out the election. I didn’t see an uproar over it on the blogs or in the news media.
John: I think it’s because most people think that it’s probably DOA-Dead On Arrival. That it would never get through the California legislature. I think a lot of people were just kind of watching to see if that’s going to happen. I commented briefly on it when they first reported the idea. I think it’s serious because it would be a major blow to the Democratic Party if its largest electoral bloc was split up and divided.
CS2: This is on the ballot this November? Is it non-binding?
John: I think it has to be approved by the legislature. I don’t see the California legislature going along with it. From another standpoint, it’s the type of thing you might do one article on, but not a lot of follow-up until something happens. Another thing too, is that there’s stories I just don’t like. I can’t write about everything so I write what I want to express my opinion on. If its just a straight news thing you can get that in the paper. People come to the blogs not so much to get news but to come and get your opinions. So if I don’t have a personal opinion of something there’s no sense really writing about the issue.
CS2: Do you feel that you have a hand in shaping the future of progressivism both in Berks County and the nation? You are the Pennsylvania Progressive blog and one of the few that are progressive in Berks County. I’m wondering, what signs do you look for to see whether Berks County is becoming more progressive?
John: I think there’s been a sea change. Progressives have gotten very active. Three years ago there was no progressive movement. Then the Dean campaign started. It got the Democracy In America group going. The Kutztown Area Democratic Club got going. All these progressives have become energized. They got involved and they stayed involved. Some of them became Committeepeople. At this point the Committee is very divided between the progressives and the others. So the future is going to be real interesting to watch. The older Committee people have been blocking the progressives. There’s a lot of conflict right now. So it will be interesting to see how they work together. To see if they can make progress as a county party.
CS2: I’ve noticed that bloggers are getting more and more respect. At a recent blogger convention presidential candidates who in the past had skipped them were showing up. I’ve noticed that with your blog also. That you are getting more respect, not only from the politicians but from some of the movers and shakers of society in general.
John: Very much so. It constantly amazes me those who tell me they read the blog on a regular basis.
CS2: Do you think many politicians feel threatened by the blogs? Because for the first time we are actually able to talk to their constituents without having to go through a newspaper or TV.
John: It’s taken a while, I think, for a lot of them to come to this realization. That blogs can be their friends or allies. It’s a way to get a message out without going through the mainstream media. The blogs are a way to get our message out to the public and to our supporters. More and more politicians are embracing the blogs. Some of them are still very afraid of us.
CS2: And for good reason. You say things about them that are true. Things that they would rather not have out.
John: (laughs) Some of them don’t like us. Some of them haven’t caught on yet–they’re oblivious to us.
CS2: I think I asked you this the last time we spoke but I want to ask you again. When did you make the actual decision to do this? Because it’s so labor intensive. Did you know what you were getting into when you started?
John: Yes, I did know what I was getting into. I learned about blogging when I was heavily involved in a U.S. Senate campaign. The campaign blogger was sitting next to me and would explain why he did this and why he did that. Basically he taught me the world of blogging. It was a great place to learn how to do it. From there I went out on my own. I knew what I was facing. It’s a full time job. I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it. It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of effort, but I love doing it. I’m really glad I started doing it.
CS2: What amazes me about the blog is that you have to do it on the spot. You don’t have 10 days to look back and see if you are right or wrong, and it’s amazing to me how consistently you call them right. For instance, last night there was a Democratic debate. Give me your instant analysis of that debate.
John: I have to confess I didn’t see that debate.
CS2: Oh my! (laughter)
John: These things happen. You have to come up with an instant analysis. You’ve got to write about it. You have to get something out there. To be honest, a lot of times I don’t know what I’m going to write when I sit down at the computer. It just comes out. Other times, I have to mull something over quickly. Run it through my head to figure out what my take is on it. What kind of approach I’m going to take to it. How I’m going to write. What I’m going to write. Most of the time I just sit at the keyboard and it comes out.
CS2: Last question. When you look over your time blogging so far, what would you call your biggest triumph and what would you call your biggest mistake?
John: My biggest triumph was the article about political corruption at the Republican National Committee. It was picked up by the mainstream media. It’s my biggest success because of the impact it’s had. My biggest mistake? I don’t know, it’s hard to isolate one (laughter). There’s been a few of them. One of them was writing something that I wasn’t sure of. A little more or maybe a little more corroboration. I picked up a story from another blog and ran with it . If I had it to do over I would not have. That was one article I took back.
CS2: Nice chatting John.