Missing: The Field's DNC Convention Credential
By Al Giordano
Two weeks ago, The Field - reporting on the US presidential election - moved to a new location:
It's been quite the ride. The former host, on June 11, censored us, then disappeared six months of archives from public view, then re-routed the site to the wrong forwarding address. Miraculously, tens of thousands of regular readers alerted each other, found our new home on your own initiative, and are now reading and commenting at the new site as vibrantly as ever.
More than $5,000 that readers had sent to RuralVotes to "Send Al to Denver" to report from the Democratic National Convention will reportedly not be allocated to the purpose for which they were solicited. Again, the readers solved the problem, contributing more than $6,000 in the past ten,oh!, five days, to The Fund for Authentic Journalism to that end, and we're on our way.
So far, so great... but there's something still missing: It's the blogger credential awarded to The Field by the Democratic National Committee, based - according to the DNC's own criteria - on the heavy reader traffic the Field demonstrably generated that followed us to the new domain.
Can we still do a fine job of reporting the convention with or without that all-access credential? The answer is definitively "yes, we can." Our Denver Posse will be working out of The Big Tent, co-sponsored by the Daily Kos, near the convention center.
But can we do an even better job of reporting with that credential in our hands? Of course, we can. That's the purpose for which the credential was intended.
There is a matter of principle at stake here that is part of the larger struggle to change the Democratic Party and the country. The Field's credential has been kidnapped and, at that, by an organization, RuralVotes.com, headed by a member of the Democratic National Committee (the group's co-director, Debra Kozikowski). In sum, a DNC member (who, as a superdelegate, already has her own credential) is today making a mockery of the DNC's own criteria for blogger credentials even though - as we will demonstrate convincingly here - her remnant of a website no longer draws sufficient readers to qualify for that credential.
You can draw your own conclusions as to why that is. My only issue is that the credential belongs in the hands of those of us - The Field and its Field Hands - that earned it.
Many hundreds of blogs applied to the DNC for a limited number of 124 convention credentials (one blog from each state and territory, plus 70 or so of us national ones). You can review the credentialed blogs at the DNC page that lists them:
And here is the DNC page explaining the process by which the blogs were awarded credentials.
It's clear from that page that the number of readers and the Technorati.com rating of each blog was central in the decision of which bloggers would receive credentials:
"Bloggers must submit their daily audience and list their authority based on Technorati stats. Bloggers may also provide examples of posts that make their blog stand out as an effective online organizing tool and/or agent of change."
The Field - launched in December, 2007 at a website that previously had, on average, only 300 visits a day, and which by February had clocked more than 90,000 visitors on Tsunami Tuesday, and remained in five figures (a couple of times, breaking 100,000), every day since then (until very quickly after two weeks ago when we crossed the sea into the promised land) - clearly met those standards and more, which was recognized by the DNC with the award of the credential. The Field clearly also meets the DNC's requirement of being "an effective online organizing tool and agent of change."
Beginning in February, Debra Kozikowski (the aforementioned DNC member) of RuralVotes (the ex-host of the ex-Field) began asking me repeatedly to take actions to bring The Field's Technorati rating number into the top 10,000 blogs. Here are verbatim quotations from her emails to me, in chronological order, urging me to do that and cheering me on as I accomplished that mission:
February 25: "BTW, that technorati ranking went up by 1,000 places overnight -- i won't be happy until we're in the top 10,000 at least."
March 3: "we're in the 23,800 range -- up nearly 1,000 spots over the weekend. i'm dying to break into the top 20,000. keep up the great work!"
March 11: "ok so we're at 22, 230-ish in our technorati rankings -- call 'em anything you want (eek, i can't believe i said that) but don't break any legal thresholds on me and get us in the top 20,000 blogs on technorati. LOL"
March 11: "Authority: 245 Rank: 21,736 ...we're almost at the 20,000 mark -- find a hook to make me smile."
March 12: "LOL i can see that technorati rating rising now..."
May 8: "another rise in technorati rating wouldn't hurt either -- i want us to hit the 10,000 rankings vicinity."
May 18: "climbing daily -- just 2852 spots to make the top ten thousand blogs in the universe ... a huge goal and in a slowed down readership (as there is not much exciting at the moment) amazing you keep us climbing. high five anyone?"
May 19: "Hey their link brought us another 100 rankings up the technorati ladder. LOL"
May 23: "your rumor mongering put us 1,092 spots from being ranked in the top 10,000 at technorati. i do not want to encourage another of your vesuvias leaning ego-blasts but ... this sure is interesting. and man - taylor marsh is pissed at you for 'peddling' said rumor."
May 25: "777 spots away from the top 10,000 on technorati"
May 27: "The Field now has a technorati rank of 9,620 with an authority rating of 523 -- that's why I'm happy."
Two days later, Ms. Kozikowski forwarded me the email from Aaron Myers of the Democratic National Committee, awarding us the credential:
From: "Myers, Aaron" <MyersA@demconvention.com>
To: "Myers, Aaron" <MyersA@demconvention.com>
Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 18:15:24 -0600
Subject: Your blog's DemConvention credentials
Congratulations. The Democratic Convention staff has completed its review of blog credential applications and I'm writing to let you know that your blog will be credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver...
For a few days after that, the ex-host continued to wax ecstatic about the achievement. Here are two more interesting quotations from her subsequent emails:
June 1: "that technorati rating was great! Thank you for exciting that world."
June 5: "we are now 1,402 spots away from the top 5,000 in technorati ranking -- you keep this up and I'll have to temper my tantrums ... that will kill me."
Unfortunately, within a week, the ecstasy had morphed in a most bizarre fashion back into what she categorized as her own "tantrums." I won't rehash the story of the censorship and exodus of The Field and its readers here (those just tuning in now to the story can read about it here and here and here.) But it seemed to me that somebody thought that the award of the credential, and the more than $5,000 readers had contributed to "Send Al to Denver," gave her a petty tyrant's power over my journalistic practice - and me as a human being. (An illusion that has, obviously, since been shattered most splendidly.)
Long story short: The Field moved, and the ex-host lost the overwhelming majority of its readers, a statement we will now demonstrably prove. Even counting the few that return now and then to the ex-host site to view the carnage of the train wreck or out of curiosity over whether they've yet informed all the donors of the right to a refund (move on, nothing to see there: they haven't and here's betting they won't), you can see from the ex-host's own statistics page exactly how much of its readership it has lost in only 18 days since The Field pulled up stakes:
Likewise, on that stats page file, one can also see the top referral blogs to the former host site:
Those top referral sites, the Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic, fivethirtyeight.com, John Cole's balloon-juice.com, jedreport.com, James Wolcott of Vanity Fair, etcetera, have since changed their blog rolls and/or links to reflect the new address of The Field at narconews.com. (And I thank them very much for that.) The larger community - the blogosphere and its netroots - widely recognizes The Field's new location as its one and only legitimate home.
Just two weeks old, the new and improved The Field now has, according to Technorati, 84 incoming links from other blogs (added to the 2,424 incoming already into Narco News, and another 892 incoming to The Narcosphere section of the same newspaper, that totals 3,400 and it's quite the alliance). The Field at its former location had 2,129 incoming links - 93 percent of all the 2,285 incoming links to the former host site. In other words, we brought them ten times (on good days, more than 300 times) the traffic they had and will probably ever have again. Another blog at the ex-site of the ex-Field, to which all traffic has been rerouted without explanation, and has been in existence various months, enjoys only 66 incoming links by comparison. How many bloggers applied for convention credentials with better Technorati stats than that but were left empty handed?
I say this not to put down another site because of its low readership - there are many excellent sites across the Internet that do not have a lot of readers but are still of high quality, I read them and link to them frequently - but to make a different point: that, clearly, the DNC awarded its blogger credential to a blog (The Field) in a large part because it had a measurably large readership. It would never have awarded a credential to a site as scarcely read as the one that is trying to maintain an undeserved grip upon the credential that it does not merit.
More importantly than what does or doesn't happen at other sites is that The Field has been reborn with more vitality and readership than before, and in a very short time span since June 14. One can click The Field at its new location - http://www.narconews.com/thefield - at any hour of day or night and see the same ample activity and intelligent comments discussions that existed when it was located at its previous home, whereas the blog on the former host site is a virtual ghost town, with an average of one or two, if any, comments per entry. "I think I saw," one reader commented, "a tumbleweed blowing through there."
Clearly, nobody - other than those trying to benefit from the confusion - is happy with the way that the former hosts kept the $5,000+ our readers donated with the explicit solicitation to "Send Al to Denver." (The ex-hosts have returned some of those funds to some of the small donors that have demanded refunds, while others continue to report problems getting their refund, but the ex-hosts have so far refused to proactively alert the rest of those donors that their donations won't be spent for the purpose solicited and given. Thankfully, our readers have generously, mostly, solved that problem already):
Some readers - quite independently on their own initiative - set up an online petition to the DNC to restore my credentials, which in no time at all, without any major push, has garnered 350 signatures (and this is the first time I've linked to it in a diary post). Here's the link:
The petition states:
We the undersigned readers and supporters of Al Giordano and the blog "The Field" request that Mr. Giordano be awarded credentials for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Our request is based on these facts:
1) Al Giordano was awarded credentials through his previous blog host, but the credentials have not been given to him since he was forced to move;
2) Mr. Giordano has thousands of readers and supporters who immediately followed him to his new site, thereby proving that Mr. Giordano was the "draw" to the old site, not the owner of that site;
3) Mr. Giordano will bring a progressive voice to the media coverage of the Democratic National Convention similar to that of his years of journalist experience and printed work; and
4) Mr. Giordano's expenses for the Denver Convention will be almost totally funded through independent small donors who are his readers and supporters.
I wrote to Aaron Myers of the DNC last week, asking him to please update the URL on the credentialed blogs page and to direct future correspondence regarding our credential to our new address. Strangely, he hasn't responded, not to say "yes," not to say "no," not to explain or disclose anything. And the DNC site still links to an ex-Field that no longer exists and is instead rerouted to the different, but virtually empty, blog.
Such non-response so far probably just indicates that the DNC has no idea what to do about this situation. But without addressing it, the uncertainty may grow to create the impression that the DNC wasn't or isn't really serious about awarding blogger credentials based on size of readership. If a single DNC member can successfully sequester a credential for a little-read stump of a website while so many more deserving bloggers will have to do our work without that important tool, what would that say about how the Democratic National Committee has changed, or not, in recent years?
And so I turn to you, kind readers (some of whom are also DNC members that may not agree with how one of their own has kidnapped a credential): Other than telling your own blog readers about the petition drive that The Field's readers have started (I think that's great), what can be done about this unfortunate turn of events?
Should the DNC allow this situation to continue without redress? Should it transfer the credential to The Field, its rightful holder? Should it create a new credential based on the unforeseen circumstances? Or should it let a DNC member hang onto a blogger credential that, if not for the high readership and Technorati rating that my work and its readers, alone, generated, would have never gotten into her hands in the first place?
Oh, that poor, kidnapped credential, tied and bound to a chair where nothing but tumbleweeds blow by, wasting away where it will never be able to be put to truly effective use!
The easy way to resolve this would be for someone in authority at the DNC to contact me immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can work this out in a problem-solving spirit without further ado.
It's already been settled by our readers that - with or without a credential - we'll be reporting from the convention. But everybody would live more happily ever after if somebody upstairs of wisdom, intelligence and common sense at the DNC (there must be a doctor in the house) would take the few minutes it would require to step in and correct a wrong being perpetrated by one of its own.
Update: Field Hand Christi has posted a diary at Daily Kos about this situation. It's her first ever. I will now rec it. If you agree with what she says (I do), please do the same.
Update II: DemConWatch is on the story:
If you haven't followed the story of Al Giordano of The Field and how he's unjustly lost his bloggers' credential, go over to the new location of The Field, and read the latest update. Al has been doing some great blogging this spring, and he deserves to be in Denver.
To quickly summarize, he was awarded a credential for blogging at his first blog, the owners of that blog started to censor him, so he moved to his current blog. But the original blog owners still have the credential, even though the original blog wouldn't come close to qualifying for a credential without the traffic Al brought it.
All the DNCC has to do to fix this is give Al a credential. (They don't even have to take away the old one). This should be an easy one for the DNCC to take care of.