GOP Aides Get Briefed on Blogging

House Republican Conference Vice Chairman Jack Kingston of Georgia sponsored an informational blogging seminar today that brought together conservative bloggers and GOP aides on Capitol Hill. Kingston, a blogger himself, not only deserves credit for embracing this new medium, but also for making sure other Hill staffers utilize it.

As one of the panelists, I found the whole event very useful for myself, but I think it was equally valuable for the Republican press secretaries and other staffers who spent two hours listening and asking questions.

There was even a bit of humor. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert dropped by for 10 minutes. Officially, he was there to pitch to press secretaries the idea of having their bosses come on his program. But he spent a good portion of his visit reassuring many of the weary staffers that they’re bosses wouldn’t be embarrassed if they came on the show.

Reporters weren’t invited to the event, but two photographers made an appearance and Kingston’s staff took video of Colbert (when it’s available, I’ll post a link). Marc Ambinder, who was a panelist, has a report at National Journal’s Hotline on Call.

So who were these panelists? Mostly a collection of bloggers who cover Congress. Sitting on a panel with Ambinder was his colleague at National Journal, Danny Glover, who writes for Beltway Blogroll. Ambinder and Glover kicked off things by explaining what blogs are and why they’re important.

Following them was a panel discussion about what us crazy bloggers do, which included yours truly along with four other distinguished (and well-respected) bloggers: Ben Domenech of, Tim Chapman of, Mary Katharine Ham of and, and finally, Flip Pidot of Suitably Flip. (Mary Katharine and Flip already have recaps of the event on their respective blogs.)

After the short break with Colbert, a panel of Republican staffers (who themselves are active bloggers) took center stage to explain some ways to engage. The panelists included:

Danny Glover probably said it best when he opened the day’s seminar by telling those in attendance that—as people at an Intro to Blogs workshop—they had missed the opening wave of the Blogging Revolution, but he noted their presence was significant nonetheless. I couldn’t agree more.

As I’ve written about previously, Republicans have seized the lead on blogging. Thanks to the dedication of Kingston’s staff—in particular Chief of Staff Bill Johnson and Communications Director David All—the message is spreading. Keep it up!


UPDATE — March 6: The incredibly intelligent Danny Glover of National Journal, who blogs at Beltway Blogroll, recaps the House GOP blogging event. Here’s an excerpt:

The questions asked by the press secretaries were the most enlightening part of the conversation. My favorite was this: Is there an expectation of engaging in debate if lawmakers start blogging?

The question is telling both because it shows how disinterested that too many people within Congress, the heart of American democracy, are in the very idea of debate and because it shows how clueless they are about the blogosphere years into its development. The answer is “yes,” folks, and shame on you for not realizing that your bosses should always have an expectation of engaging in debate, whether in the blogosphere, at town halls or within the halls of Congress.

I wasn’t as critical of the Republican press secretaries in my recap, but Glover deserves credit for taking them to task on this point. I found it absolutely alarming that the reason some members of Congress aren’t blogging already is the fear that they’ll put themselves at risk for re-election (although, as Stephen Colbert said, 99% don’t have to worry about that). But the other reason—dislike for engaging in debate—is even more appalling.

Hopefully, through the discussion we had Friday, some of the press secretaries will be able to convince their bosses to change their minds. But it will take more workshops, and role models such as Rep. Jack Kingston to make that happen.

UPDATE II — March 6: The recap of all recaps is available on Rep. Jack Kingston’s blog. Again, a special thanks goes out to Kingston’s staff, including Nathan Imperiale, Chris Crawford and Krista Cole, whom I neglected to mention in my previous post.


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