Blogger nation: Can Netroots and tree roots come to terms?

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When he appeared before them Thursday night, former President Bill Clinton gave Netroots Nation, the progressive bloggers and activists who've been holding their annual conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this week, the kind of praise most media platforms would die for.

"You hold the seeds of a genuine revolution in public life, and you do it by mobilizing and getting people to think," he said.

"People trust you. They believe that you believe what you put down [in blogs], they don't believe you fudge the facts. They believe you're being straight with them, and if you make a mistake, it's of the head, not of the heart."

Ouch! As the older information delivery system of the two -- mainstream print media is more "tree roots" than Netroots -- we at the Post-Gazette are feeling slightly wistful as bloggers come into their own just as a handful of newspapers are closing around the country. There was a time when newspapers occupied the center of the media universe.

The condescension that many print journalists once felt toward bloggers is long gone, replaced by a determination to wed Internet-based technologies to the centuries-old discipline of daily news-gathering. It is a survival mechanism, as well as an acknowledgment, that what we do as a newspaper must evolve if it is to remain relevant.

At the conference's "Democracy Without Newspapers" session, Post-Gazette staff writer Michael A. Fuoco was a panelist who had a constructive dialogue with bloggers about the values we share in common. Despite a certain amount of sibling rivalry, no one appreciates what newspapers do more than bloggers. Many will admit that they rely on mainstream media for initial reporting of the facts, though that is changing as more reporters join the ranks of bloggers.

Print may not be as "sexy" as blogs as far as Mr. Clinton is concerned, but it is still the enterprise that gathers the bulk of today's news. Through one platform or another, the Post-Gazette and other deeply rooted news organizations plan to be around and serving democracy for a long time.


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