Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Quality of Local Political Blogs: Compare and Contrast

I've been writing various articles for Bloomingpedia in the last month or so, in an effort not so much to improve that site as to understand better the town in which I live. One of the keys to understanding a city, I think, is to gather a lot of different perspectives from a lot of different individuals with a stake in the matter. Take Indianapolis, for example: there are a lot of places you can go to get an impression of how the city is doing. Ruth Holladay; Matt Tully. Taking Down Words; Indy Undercover. You have to gather them all together before you can make a critical analysis of what's really going on; but they're there, that's the important thing.

Or you could read the Indianapolis Star. But I don't have much trust in the Main Stream Media. Their goal never seems to be so much the truth as it is finding someone who disagrees, no matter how foolish or inane that person may be, and unless you already know the subject matter pretty well, you can't tell from the way the article is written which is the inane perspective and which is sensible. So that leads you back to blogs.

Here are four local politicians who have been on my mind lately: Marty Hawk, Dave Rollo, Scott Tibbs, Sophia Travis. How easy is it to get their perspectives on local issues?

Far and away the best online writer in this group is Sophia Travis. If you just looked at the MSM, you wouldn't think much of her except that she's a little flaky (an accordion player with political aspirations? Weird!) But when you read her blog, not only is she talking about the tough political issues, but she's following up on comments people leave; leaving comments on other local blogs; sending in questions to local online chats; really being a part of the conversation about what Monroe County is, and what it should be. It would be great if every politician had an online presence like Sophia's.

Second best is Scott Tibbs. I actually started this post thinking about what I don't like about Scott's blog: there's no real comment area on it, just a link to a bulletin board, which I assume is also run by him, and which you have to register on before you can comment. He says that's to avoid spammers, but obviously a lot of bloggers manage to allow real comments without going to that extreme. But the point is, he writes, and discusses, and allows discussion of his views in some form. So I can't take too much umbrage, especially compared to:

Dave Rollo. He's got a web page; it's a start. The page is very static; the main page has a "last updated" date on it, but there's nothing to find what was there before. There's only a few paragraphs discussing his views, and there's no way to leave public comments, and if he's ever left a comment online I haven't seen it. Start a blog, Dave. He did participate in an online chat recently, and having a web page puts him ahead of:

Marty Hawk. Not much to say here, because I really couldn't find out anything. She gets quoted in the local paper from time to time, and you can go read the minutes of the Monroe Council meetings and find some things she said. But right now, the number 2 hit on Google when you search for her name is the article I wrote on her last week. So we really don't know too much about her at all. It leaves me defining her, rather than having her defining herself. If that's what she wants, then that's fine.

So that's where we are in online local politics in Bloomington. It's a start. But I wish there were a lot more politicians in the conversation.