Bloggers Train Sites on State Governments

Some of the best sources for information on the California recall election are not newspapers, not television stations and not radio shows.

They are blogs.

Short for weblogs, these iconoclastic Web sites are a new kind of media, both newsy and personal. Some blogs feature the life of the writer, others technology and the arts. Many are devoted to current events.

The recall blogs are led by California Insider, which is penned by the Sacramento Bee's Daniel Weintraub. Another great source for recall information is Kausfiles, written by Mickey Kaus and appearing on Slate. These blogs have become go-to sources for recall news and opinion.

Weintraub regularly updates California Insider with his own commentary as well as tidbits of information he picks-up from sources. He also writes three columns a week for the newspaper's print edition.

On Wednesday, Weintraub used his blog to pick apart Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget plans, which were unveiled during a press conference.

"I asked him which programs he would cut, which I think people do care about, and he brushed off the question, saying that perhaps as the campaign moves on he will offer some details," Weintraub wrote.

Weintraub found this reply wanting.

"In the end, it was clear to me that Californians, if they want Arnold to be their governor, are going to have to take a leap of faith, to buy into his leadership abilities, his charisma, his communication skills, all of which are considerable, and accept his vision that the budget can be balanced without new taxes or cuts in education even as he repeals the recent increase in the car tax. That's not a reasonable proposition," he wrote.

Weintraub isn't the only state government reporter who writes a blog.

The Austin American-Statesman's Bill Bishop recently started one called Lasso. Earlier this week, Bishop commented on the fact that Texas does not record legislators' votes:

"Lasso watched a good portion of the Legislature earlier this year on television and never knew who voted for what. Most votes aren't recorded. We know who died at the Alamo, but not who voted for what in the Legislature."

Bishop started Lasso a few weeks ago after convincing his editors blogging is a good way to improve the newspaper's Web site without taking on new costs.

"Management at the Statesman is convinced that the Web is the future of the paper, so they were more than receptive," Bishop wrote in an email to Stateline.org. "I do think what we're really doing is going BACK to earlier forms of journalism, more personal, looser, more explanatory, less concerned with convention. ...I love it."

In addition to featuring a more-conversational writing style, many blogs also allow for links to other Web pages for provide background or more detailed information.

Richard Roesler, a statehouse reporter with The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.), produces a blog called Eye on Olympia. He told Stateline.org that the blog allows readers to get an insider's view of how life works in the state capitol.

"Spokane's 300 miles away from Olympia, and it can be hard from so far away to keep track of the insider gamesmanship, favors and deals that determine the fate of so many bills. A blog helps convey that environment to interested readers...," he said.

As old as the Internet itself, blogging picked-up steam after 9/11, as tens thousands of individuals streamed to the Web for community, self-expression and solace, according to Dave Winer, a blogging expert at Harvard University.

Winer estimates the Internet is home to between 200,000 and 300,000 regularly updated blogs, with more added every day. The attraction, he said, is the chance to publish articles, thoughts, poems, etc., for little more than the cost of a computer and an Internet connection.

"Blogging is a fundamental use of the Internet, like email, like instant messenging. But blogging is more like publishing. ...In the 1980's and 1990's publishing became very inexpensive. Now it's virtually free," he told Stateline.org.