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Blog Banter

By PA

Fort Wayne Reader

2007-07-23


Blog aggregator BlogNetNews Indiana (www.blognetnews.com/Indiana) regularly compiles a list of what it deems to be the state’s most influential political blogs. BNN Indiana doesn’t go so far as to suggest that these blogs have great influence on politicians or voters, but they are deemed the “most powerfully influencing the direction of the Indiana political blogosphere” - whatever that means exactly. However, you might still be scratching your head wondering, “What on Earth is a blog aggregator?” It’s like a headline news service that collects and posts the hottest stories/commentaries from some of the state’s most-read blogs.

What’s interesting is how high Fort Wayne bloggers typically rank on the influential list. In fact, four out of the top five blogs in a recent list were Fort Wayne-based.

“Fort Wayne Libertarian Mike Sylvester” was listed at number five. The link takes you to the Libertarians of Allen County blog, where Sylvester is a frequent contributor. That link is allencountylp.blogspot.com

“Left of Centrist,” a politically left-leaning blog listed at number four can be found at leftofcentrist.blogspot.com

The number one and two spots were particularly interesting. Both are right-leaning blogs but their approaches couldn’t be more different.

“Fort Wayne Observed,” one of the first local blogs to gain wide readership ranked number two statewide. Published by politician Mitch Harper, this blog is perhaps one of the most engaging, attractive and informative blogs around (fortwayneobserved.com). Perhaps more than most others, it aspires to be taken as serious journalism. And with its exclusive photos, video and interviews, it gets close. The problem is a perceived lack of balance. Harper, who is running for Fort Wayne City Council, is a conservative whose opinions are obvious when it comes to issues like Harrison Square (which he opposes). A recent post featured an interview with Councilman Tim Pape!, a Harrison Square supporter, drew overwhelmingly negative responses, leading one visitor to question Harper’s motives. “Is this an opinion piece or a news story? You can’t have it both ways,” the post chided.

“Though some in mainstream media have pretensions that there is a clear delineation between opinion and news, every news source has a combination of opinion and news,” Harper countered. “Secondly, Fort Wayne Observed has always described itself as
providing news, opinion, and a sense of place. Those three things are not mutually exclusive.” For many in the mainstream media (or “old media” as Harper ‘s blog dubs them), the translation is that Harper does indeed want it both ways. Even so, fortwayneobserved.com remains one of the area’s most-readable and most-read blogs.

At number one is one of the area’s most provocative blogs - angrywhiteboy.com

The name alone tells you that you’re in for a hard-edged barrage of opinion and commentary. Run by web entrepreneur/businessman Dan Turkette, “AngryWhiteBoy” applies a take-no-prisoners approach to political banter. He’s anti-Harrison Square. Anti-Graham Richard. Anti-Smoking Ban. Anti-John Crawford. Anti-Yellow Petition (FWCS’ attempt to fund school repairs). Anti-local Democratic Party. He’s even been anti-local Republican Party. On the other hand, he is very pro-Matt Kelty. Maybe that’s because Kelty is the supposedly anti-establishment candidate.

AngryWhiteBoy is not for the faint of heart. Anonymous posts are not allowed. The language gets fairly coarse. And in addition to the vitriol that greets the few liberals (“leftards” AWB calls them) who dare to post comments, using his advanced web prowess, AWB sometimes posts detailed web data about visitors or even the authors of rival blogs - information derived from IP addresses or other methods. It can be creepy and intimidating.

Still, AWB’s obvious web skills also manifest in entertaining graphics, laugh-out-loud humor and biting insight. The blog receives high traffic even from political types who would never admit it.

How does AWB or any of the other local blogs consistently rank so high on the statewide list of politically influential blogs? We don’t know. We can only take BNN Indiana’s word since it won’t reveal its methodology. BNN Indiana argues that if it reveals how it calculates the rankings, bloggers might try to skew the ranking.

And outside of shaping the tenor of the blogosphere, do any of these commentators really political influence the real world?

The answer is probably yes. The real question is to what degree. Is it the monumental impact that some bloggers like to believe? Or is it the drip-drip-drip of the proverbial Chinese water torture?

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