A meeting of the minds

I spent almost all day yesterday traveling down to Raleigh and the NC Democratic Headquarters for their Progressive Bloggers Conference. I have to say that I learned a lot.

I’ve not always kept up to breast with a lot of the technical things that go into blogging or all the small, intricate details of the “blogosphere” and how it works. I think, for the most part, that is because I’ve tended to see myself as less of a “blogger” and more of an “activist.” My on-the-ground activism began long before I even had regular access to a computer with internet, much less having enough regular access to adequately and properly run and maintain a blog.

When I did start “blogging” in 2005, I saw the activity not as one within itself, but as an extension of my already extensive and heavily involved activism and work within the community. So, blogging for me isn’t just about the pure pleasure of blogging and having a place to put my words and thoughts out there; it is about more than that for me.

My blog and my website are just one part of my overall community work and activism and it allows me to keep my on-the-ground, person-to-person message going long after I’ve gone to bed for the night or when I’m sick or when I’m somehow stuck at home or away from the community and the public.

But I did learn a lot: About how the mainstream media works and how our “new media” fits into it, about the ins-and-outs of the huge megastructure known as the “blogosphere” and about the changes that the blogging community has made and continues to have the power to make within politics and in the community. Pictured right: Congressman Brad Miller.

The meeting in Raleigh brought together some of the most involved North Carolina bloggers, as well as some national folks with expertise internet communications and blogging. Jerry Meek, the Chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, called the meeting together as a way to reach out to the blogosphere, recognizing that there is power in this “new media” that allows so many people to have a voice in politics and community and world affairs.

Far from the stereotype of dumb, old, fat, white men sitting pantless and shirtless in their mother’s home, these bloggers were smart, articulate, experienced and involved in the community. There were women and men, young and old, gay and straight, black and white, rich (or at least, somewhat financially better off, lol) and poor (or at least, not as financially better off, lol), political strategists and activists, elected officials and party officials and citizens… all sorts of people.

Convening with us was Matt Stoller, of MyDD.com and BlogPAC; Tim Cullen, Director of Internet Communications, Dodd for President; James Protzman, Greg Flynn, Robert Peterson, George Pence, Betty Muse and Leslie Bland of BlueNC.com; my friend and fellow LGBT activist Pam Spaulding of PamsHouseBlend.com; Jerry Williamson of WataugaWatch and the Watauga County Democratic Party; Gordon Smith and Aric vance of SrutinyHooligans; Christian Kendrick, of DailyKos; Stephen Gheen, of The Political Junkies; Kirk Ross, the Exile on Jones Street; Congressman Brad Miller (NC-13); NC Representative Jim Harrell, III (District 90 – Alleghany & Surry), pictured right; and, of course, Jerry Meek and Schorr Johnson, the Communications Director for the NC Democratic Party.

There were also many other visitors… folks who weren’t listed on the Agenda as participants, including two guys about my age now working for State Treasurer Richard Moore, some spouses and partners of participants, other folks (who I wish I would have had a chance to talk to) and, of course, my 13 year old brother, Joshua (who took many of the photos you see here in this post).

For most of the discussion, I kept quiet. I just kind of sat back and took it all in. I enjoyed hearing discussions on what “our common agenda” was as progressives and as progressive bloggers and the state of the 2008 Presidential elections and the role that the internet (blogging, social networking – i.e. MySpace & Facebook) will have on it, as well as how the internet will play a role in reaching out to the younger generations of voters. Pictured left: Pam Spaulding.

Representative Jim Harrell, III, gave us just a preview of the General Assembly’s Legislative Session and what we can expect. It was great to hear the back and forth discussion between the Representative and those in the room who were asking questions, giving their opinions and asking him how they could help.

There really was so much discussed that I really cannot sit here and summarize it all. I wish I could, but I can’t. Maybe you’ll join in the next time we have one of these mini-conferences.

I am excited, however, about the connections that were definitely created at the conference. Meeting, in person, so many of the people I hear from online, is a definite help in getting to know them and build relationships that can be used to further progressive movements and ideals online, but more importantly, in the community. Pictured right: Me, lol, intently listening to the convo.

A portion of the conference was set aside to discuss how we move all this good discussion and activity online into the community. I’ve really always tried to do this myself, through my activism, my community work and, this school year, through my opinions column in The Carolinian. It really is important to move all this activity off-line. Yeah… it’s all cool that we have so many people involved online, but how do we move that to people who may not be as plugged into all the workings of internet, online activism and the “blogosphere”?

I think it is simple. Sitting at your computer and pushing your opinions on to a blog or through email to state or federal legislators or creating communities of discussion online is great… but we have to take the time to get away from our desks and out of our homes. We can speak directly, in person to state and federal legislators. We can have lobby days. We can hold monthly meetings of us like-minded folks (SrutinyHooligans has been doing this with their “Drinking Liberally” socials). We can form community organizations, or better yet, use our already existing network of friends and fellow activists to create coalitions that will have real power in the “real world” and offline.

There are so many possibilities as to where this “new media” is going… a lot of it, I think, is heading as much off-line as it is online. Politics is definitely not the same as it used to be.


I think I should also thank my brother Joshua, for his insistence to walk down just a couple blocks from the NCDP headquarters so that he could see the historic State Capitol. Because of that, I’ve got two new, small photos I think I’ll use when posting stories on state government or politics:

Josh had, like me when I was young, never been to Raleigh (except, he went once to NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum when I took him to see my high school’s state championship basketball game). I’m really glad I got to take Josh along and show him the State Capitol grounds and the Legislative Building and chat with him about some of the history of the state, the North Carolina Democratic Party and more. I hope it leaves a good impression in his mind as to what is possible in life and where, if he works hard enough, he can take his life.

7 Responses to “A meeting of the minds”
  1. Drama Queen says:

    Hi Matt . . . I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to introduce myself personally at the conference . . . but I’ve been following you since you ask for help for your trip to Washington.

    Although at the event, we didn’t talk about the issues of vlogging political campaigns, I have had some amazing experiences last fall blasting Taylor for the Shuler campaign on WNCNN as well as promoting the 5th Congressional district candidate Roger Sharpe at PeopleforRoger.

    I’m hoping to start vlogging on issues this year. If I have any clips that might fit with your areas of interest I plan to zing you links for you to consider. . .

    Keep up your amazing work.

  2. Matt – it was wonderful to see you on Saturday. Your work gets better and better. I love the new site. Congratulations.

  3. Matt says:

    Madame Queen, lol, I really didn’t get the chance to talk to many people. I don’t like many conferences for that reason. Perhaps for next time, we should consider making it a two day thing… start on Friday evening with a social/mingling thing at a local bar/pub/eatery/whatever, so that we all get a better chance to have convos with each other. I’ll also be doing video stuff for myself and the Equality Ride (that is, as soon as my financial aid check comes in and I have some money to go out and by a camera! lol).

    And Madame Dem… It was good to see you as well, although we didn’t get a chance to chat either. Thanks for the kind words… I’ve been trying to enhance my site and make it better, as well as broadening its focus to try and gain a more national audience (which, I think, might be happening). I’m not losing focus on NC stuffs, though!

  4. Drama Queen says:

    If we do it in Asheville next (as rumor has it), you are welcome to come up early and hang out with us westerners. You can stay with me or I’ll find you a place closer. Even if the Party doesn’t sponsor other activities, the Scru Hoo and DL gang will make something happen . . .

  5. Matt says:

    Sounds like a plan to me. 🙂

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