cyberculture politics tech true life 2009

feminism 2.0: bloggers and activists: an intimate and frank conversation

Feminism2.0 breakout session: “bloggers and activists: an intimate and frank conversation”

Moderator: Gloria Pan, VP Internet Communications, Turner Strategies

Kim Gandy, President, National Organization for Women
Liza Sabater, Blogger, Culturekitchen
Tedra Osell, Blogger, Bitch Ph.D.

The online world is loud and chaotic, with many and different voices rising at different times to add insights, disagree, argue or just piss people off. Effective activism requires cooperation and organization to create momentum for change. In this session, two of the loudest voices in the women’s blogosphere and the leader of a major women’s advocacy organization will learn about each other’s worlds — what makes them different… and what they have in common.

Kim Gandy: Active with NOW since 1973. Spurred to action when she discovered she needed her husband’s permission to sign up for 401k at her own place of employment. Got active, stayed active. Has 2 teenage daughters, serve as constant reminder that feminist work is ongoing (impact of pop culture)

Liza Sabatar: Blogdive on twitter. Culture Kitchen and Daily Gotham publisher. Blogger since 2001. Homeschooler. Child of civil rights workers. September 11th catalyst for adding her voice to the political and social blogosphere. Got really politically involved locally (NYC).

Tedra Osell: perviously a moderator on HipMama. Got PhD. Left academia, now housewife. Exploring sphere of housewives/soccer moms/non-traditionals as feminists.

Gloria: throws out idea that bloggers start out more introverted; those in public advocacy start from place of extraversion.

Kim: agrees – advocacy has pressures to get audience to agree and empathize; bloggers get to say what they want.

Liza: paucity of women at media/tech conferences & new media events. Her life partner created Barbie parody-site, he got sued by Mattel. First IP lawsuit over Internet art, hard to find lawyer. Liza became incensed by prospect that Mattel was about to destroy their lives – found she could engage worldwide network of activists and artists to spread the word.

Tedra: Problem organizations have is that they want to use the Internet, they just don’t understand how or why. They don’t understand that the thing that keeps people clicking late into the night are the shitstorms and the flamewars. Organizations hire bloggers with controversial posts in their past and they come back to haunt them. (see also: Edwards campaign).

Liza: Organizations have to decide how to get fresh faces out front really speaking to the issues.

Circulation of Ms. Magazine is rising, not falling. Counter to trends in MSM.

Gloria: have organizations adjusted the language that they use in response to expectations of new media focused readers?

Kim: Language choices? No, haven’t changed. Length and depth of reporting has changed though. Regrets that stories aren’t as long and juicy (3000 word stories w loads of background) but web doesn’t lend itself to that form.

Tedra: Thinks long-form journalism isn’t DOA, we’re learning how to make it attractive even on the web. However, long-form journalism is expensive to produce and support and indie websites can’t do that.

Liza: Surprised how often advocacy groups still send pitches and press releases and ask that she publish them for them as a story. Online world doesn’t function based on full-narratives, web-based existence fractured and based on keywords and developing thoughts and fragments. Eventually it coalesces into a whole.

Suzanne Turner (turner strategies) broke in to pose question to panel about the role of advocacy groups as mainstream media loses strength. Who fills the void left by extinction of in-depth nightly news stories a la Edward R Murrow.

Discussion of long-form versus shallow content as false dichotomy.

Kim: Example: Controversy over family planning funding being pulled from stimulus bill became rallying cry for activists and advocates. BUT: Talking points over-simplified the issue and told misleading story. Lots of behind the scenes back and forth about how to distill a complicated issue and guide the story. Medicade/birth control legislation was pre-existing and not a new piece of stimulus, but that part of the story got lost.

Liza suggests that better strategy would have been to go straight to most prominent feminist bloggers and work with them to really move the message.

Audience member: with new administration, how do we challenge status quo

Panel: Tedra: maybe we don’t. Maybe answer is to work to shape conversation through participation rather than just rail against established members of Congress, etc. Liza: Organizations need to empower bloggers to be the bad cops and speak out and be assertive.

Audience question: flip side – how do organizations minimize vulnerabilities and liabilities of blogger’s opinions being held against organizations.

Liza: Working in cooperation (not as employee) with organizations and being really vocal and outfront about issues builds good relationships and provides validation for your blog. Validation is social capitol for bloggers.

Audience question: is there an actual positive measurable impact for organizations to have bloggers actually blogging through their websites? Where does convergence take us (as opposed to co-promoting and developing independently)?

(I suspect that discussants are talking apples and oranges – some advocating orgs create an alternative to blogspot versus organizations letting bloggers blog in an official capacity but conversation is ranging away from the topic so I haven’t interjected a clarification question yet)

Panel discussing value of diversity of voices. Organizations giving bloggers a place to voice their opinions and feel a sense of ownership and inclusion in the organization. Audience and focus of Bitch Mag versus Bust versus Ms.

Gloria: wrap-up question – how do bloggers handle situation of advocacy organizations not communicating with them?

(Kim notes she’s here and interacting with the membership)

Liza: Feels like organizations feel like they have something to lose from relationship with bloggers due to blogger rep for jumping gun on stories, etc. We’ve got to keep having conversations and looking for ways to work together to build trust.