The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Duncan the Dinosaur swallowed by Blogosphere

Duncan McMonagle teaches journalism at Red River College.

Now that had to be the scariest sentence in Sunday's Winnipeg Free Press.

It's like reading: Train conductor teaches pilots at Air Canada.

You see, McMonagle had just finished reviewing a new book for the newspaper's book page. And in it, he revealed why his understanding of journalism is as dated as K-Tel's Greatest Hits on 8-Trak.

The review was titled Blogger forerunner flaunted biases in mainstream press.

The Free Press has belatedly discovered blogging. Just last winter, during the federal election, nobody at the paper knew what a blog was.

They assigned columnist Lindor Reynolds to write about political blogs and she couldn't find any (Hey, Lindor, over here, sweetie).

Suddenly, they're born-again on the blogosphere. There's staff blogs (okay, so the starting line-up was pathetic, Gordon Sinclair was sent to the showers, and some new players sent in, but they had the idea). They're writing about blogs in the business pages. And now, book reviews about authors wanting to cash in on the revolution -- by claiming their subject was the proto-blogger.

McMonagle's review was about a book about somebody who wrote about Castro, waaaay back when. It's called The Man Who Invented Fidel.

The author, Anthony Palma, says that "journalistic bias is in style these days," wrote McMonagle. And that makes Castro-guy a forerunner of the bloggers---"because he flaunted his biases while covering wars and revolutions."

McMonagle, however, fails to understand that blogging, political blogging to be exact, is much more than expressing a bias.

The blogging revolution in journalism is about breaking down the walls around the news media. People on the payroll of a newspaper, radio or television station are no longer the only ones who get to call themselves journalists. We're all citizen journalists now.

"Everybody knows something" is the cry. The old days when "professional journalists" got to decide what was "news" are over. You don't get to filter out what you have decided is "not news" anymore. Anyone can publish what they think is news, or comment on the news, or comment on the reporting of the news, and it's just as valid as anything produced by "professional journalists."

McMonagle exposes his contempt for bloggers.

"As DePalma demonstrates, Matthews was actually quite a good reporter. Unlike the bloggers in their parents' basements, he insisted on seeing things for himself. "

For a journalism teacher in the seventh year of the 21st Century to be so unaware of the revolution that blogging has brought to journalism is insulting to his students.

This week alone we see the new influence of blogging on political campaigns.

In the Toronto Star:

Liberal contest starts turning into blog party
Would-be leaders find new sphere of influence
Unpredictable online journals gaining credibility
Jul. 8, 2006. 01:00 AM

OTTAWA The Liberal leadership race, like no other political contest before it, is being waged in the "blogosphere", the rollicking, unpredictable world of online diarists and self-made political pundits.Would-be Liberal leaders are seeking interviews with bloggers; there are blog endorsements, campaign blogs and bloggers who are doing double duty as leadership organizers.

The development signals several important political shifts: the rising credibility of the online dialogues, the parties' increasing use of the Internet, as well as the need for this Liberal race to be waged in creative new ways because of limited money and a large field of candidates.

The bloggers haven't replaced the mainstream media or "MSM" as it's called on the blogs but they are gaining a currency in the political market that they haven't had to date.

And it's not just a Canadian phenomenon. Last month, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton has hired a prominent liberal blogger, Peter Daou, author of the Daou Report on, to help build bridges to the online community in her campaign to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

For the past several weeks, as the July 4 deadline loomed for recruiting new members, the 11 would-be Liberal leaders started turning up with remarkable frequency in the blogosphere.

Some of the biggest traffic was at Calgary Grit ( ). This blog, one of the more prominent and respected in Liberal cyberspace, was among the first to get a bona fide interview with leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff.

Bart Ramson, the man who runs Calgary Grit, acknowledged on his blog that he was surprised when Ignatieff sought him out and offered an interview. He didn't even own a tape recorder for that first interview, though he does now, since he's conducted several more and has plans for more in the summer.

And in the Globe and Mail:

Contenders for Liberal leadership go to the blogs
Campaigns trying to harness influence of burgeoning Internet community
CAMPBELL CLARK July 10, 2006

OTTAWA -- Should dissident Liberals start a new party if Joe Volpe wins the leadership? Should Ottawa impose a carbon tax? Are Scott Brison and Homer Simpson's neighbour, Ned Flanders, twins separated at birth? These are some of the questions floating through the Liberal blogosphere.

But many of the 11 Liberal leadership campaigns have their own question about the legion of Internet blogs dealing with party matters: Can they win delegates there?

The exploding phenomenon of individuals creating weblogs, more commonly called blogs, has echoed in Liberal Party politics. There are more than 150 blogs devoted in whole or part to things Liberal, about 50 of them updated regularly.

Their collective audience may be a small subcommunity -- nobody has a firm grip on its size and estimates range from 500 to 5,000 -- but it is packed with hardcore, active Liberals. Most leadership campaigns are trying to reach them.

"There might be only 800 people in the Liberal blogosphere, but a majority of them are trying to go the convention," said Brad Davis, the director of policy for Michael Ignatieff's campaign.

Five months from the Dec. 2 vote at the leadership convention, it's an audience many campaigns find too tempting to ignore. The elected delegates will not be chosen until Oct. 1, but those delegates will probably choose the winner on the convention floor. Campaigning through blogs might allow them a head start on campaigning to the delegates.

"The jury's still out on how much influence they do have," said Leslie Swartman, Mr. Brison's campaign manager. "But people do go to the blogs after debates, for example, to see what people are saying, so we do pay attention to them, certainly."

Mr. Brison has done three interviews with bloggers, and the campaign sends them information and press releases. When the Brison campaign organized a "web-a-thon" fundraiser, they told bloggers, and got some mentions. The web-a-thon raised about $15,000 from 82 donors.

Love 'em or hate 'em, bloggers are the go-to people in politics today.

McMonagle is a former Executive Editor of the Winnipeg Free Press. His claim to fame on Mountain Ave. is as creator of the rarely used Free Press style guide, and having set the bar for editor so low that he was ably replaced by Nicholas Hirst. Before that, he was a reporter and then an editor with The Globe and Mail.

There was a time these credentials carried weight.

Today, somebody who doesn't understand the power of the Internet is a dinosaur, just the guy to review a book about a guy who wrote something important 50 years ago, that nobody remembers anymore.

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