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How far we’ve come

Yesterday, the Berkman Center hosted a small party for local political bloggers. John Palfrey had us pause for a moment so the attendees could introduce themselves. A sampling: Betsy Devine has tracked the NH phone bank scandal. A professor from Northeastern blogs as a media watchdog. Rick Burnes of FaneuilMedia is plotting political donations on Google maps. Several folks from BlueMassGroup, a Democratic blog that’s also a community, were there. Matt Margolis, founder of Blogs for Bush, a site that’s kept its flame alive two years after the election, was there; he runs a Massachusetts site to rally the state’s overwhelmed conservatives. Steve Garfield told how he posted fantastic footage he’d shot of Deval Patrick at a rally, while the conventional news media all missed the moment. And many more; I didn’t do a systematic job of writing down names and blogs.

My point isn’t that there was a cloud of luminaries at the Berkman last night, well la-di-da. I don’t think there was an “A-list” blogger among us. And that’s my point. As we went around the room, I got chills realizing how far we’ve come. Capturing remarkable moments, tracking scandals — every issue has her blogger — monitoring the media, rallying supporters, mashing up financial info…we’re doing it all. We take it for granted. But it’s changed how the world works. And we’re only at the beginning.

The Boston Globe’s circulation is down 7% this year, falling from 414,000 to 386,000. Boston’s other daily paper (well, not counting the Metro), fell 12% to 203,000. The Globe’s Sunday circulation fell 10% to 587,000.

The Globe was already in financial trouble. The path it’s currently on predictably leads to scaling back in coverage and running more syndicated articles. If the current decline continues it’s hard to see how the Globe can survive. And that would be a disaster. A newspaper is greater than the sum of the knowledge, talent and experience it aggregates.

Another reminder of how much things have changed: The discontent about the use of electronic voting machines has become an issue almost entirely because of the Web. The people who have made it an issue are not reporters but scientists and researchers who have published directly to readers. That’s how they’ve gotten traction. And that’s new. [Tags: ]

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