The Netroots, All Grown Up: Dispatches from Netroots Nation


Editor’s Note: If you’re in Pittsburgh, join RH Reality Check at our Netroots Nation panel, Advocating for Reproductive Rights in the Age of Obama, featuring Amanda, Jodi Jacobson, Guttmacher’s Joerg Dreweke, Advocates for Youth’s James Wagoner and PEP’s Aimee Thorne-Thomsen on Saturday at 1:30pm!

Unlike last year, when Netroots
Nation was in my hometown of Austin, TX, I won’t be able to spend
all of the first day there, because Thursday is dedicated to travel
time.  But still, I’m getting in on time to see the keynote by
former President Bill Clinton, a keynote address that shows how far
Netroots Nation–and by extension, the netroots themselves–has come
in the past few years.  By the second year of the conference, prominent
Democratic politicians were coming around, trying to win over the favors
of the netroots, as evidenced by the Democratic presidential debate
that was held during the Chicago convention in 2007.  But even
then, the netroots still felt daring, renegade even.  Mainstream
media reports of the convention were sniffy, and the presidential candidates
clearly saw this as just another stop on a seemingly endless campaign
trail.  

But last year, we had non-campaigning
politicians such as Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Al Gore come
around.  The mainstream media stopped treating the netroots like
a bunch of screaming children, but as real players whose blogs and websites
have to be reckoned with, whether they like it or not. Journalists attending
seemed more happy to glad hand and less likely to flinch, and in turn,
bloggers and fans were less likely to pounce and accuse mainstream journalists
of all sorts of wrongs.  

This year, we’re moving more
in that direction.  We don’t just have a former VP, but a former
President.  Many websites, this one included, aren’t just influencing
the media but have become the expert sources of certain kinds of coverage,
held in just as much esteem as traditional media sources.  Sometimes
we have more esteem.  (I know I trust RH Reality Check on sexual
health issues more than any mainstream publication.)  We aren’t
just media critics anymore.  We are the media.  We’re even
looking to have snazzy cocktail parties at the Warhol Museum. 
(I hope the dress code is still jeans and a T-shirt, though.)   

But what does this all mean? 
Some fear that the mainstreaming of bloggers means selling out our integrity,
that once we have alliances to lose, we won’t be so quick to call
for what’s right.  Personally, I’m not too worried.  Most
of us are still far outside the financial and social circles of the
mainstream media, and we didn’t work our way up by sleazily pretending
there’s two sides to every story.  Experiences tells me we can
gladhand a politician this week and criticize him the next week. 
By the end of this weekend, I hope to feel more assured in this belief.

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