WASHINGTON - Are bloggers going mainstream? Web log founders who built followings with anti-establishment postings are now lobbying the establishment to try to fend off government regulation. Some are even working with a political action committee, lawyers and public-relations consultants to do it.
There's a certain responsibility I have to help protect the medium. I have the platform, the voice to be able to do so," said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the Web log www.DailyKos.com.
Moulitsas testified Tuesday at a hearing on a Federal Election Commission proposal that would extend some campaign finance rules to the Internet, including bloggers. He urged the FEC to take a hands-off approach.
"We have a democratic medium that allows anyone to have true freedom of the press. We have average citizens publishing their thoughts through research, through journalism, their activism and encouraging others to do the same," Moulitsas told commissioners.
I seldom agree with Moulitsas and have never linked to him before, but this time he's right. Attempts, and there have been many such recently, to limit or regulate political speech are fundamentally inconsistent with democracy. The only justification for previous regulation was the threat that a few sources could monopolize the flow of information. That patently is absurd in today's multicentered media universe.
There are really only two questions of interest here.
1) should politicians be forced to disclose contributions to blogs? I think they should.
2) should bloggers who take strong political positions qualify for the "journalistic exemption" on the content of their sites. Again, I think they should, although this raises an interesting subsidiary question, to wit: If bloggers are given the same exemption as mainstream journalists does that make them journalists?
Parenthetically, I think that the influence of blogs is vastly overblown by both their critics and their advocates.
And while we're on the subject of bloggery....
Judith Miller, the NYT reporter who is about to go to jail for refusing to reveal her sources in the Valerie Plame [remember her?] investigation, has started her own weblog. You can see it here.