After a late start, MSM blogs are everywhere

The Northwest's mainstream newspapers are reporting political news on the Web first. Part 3 of 3
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The Northwest's mainstream newspapers are reporting political news on the Web first. Part 3 of 3

Last of three parts.

Today, a newspaper without a posse of blogs is so passé. The New York Times currently hosts more than 70 blogs, while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has more than 29 staff-written blogs and dozens of reader blogs. The Tri-City Herald has 12, the Everett Herald has 17, The Seattle Times has 20, and The Oregonian has more than 50 blogs.

Overkill? Never heard of it.

While the print media might have been late to the blogosphere's party, there's a handful of local media-backed blogs making a splash in state politics. Here's our pick of the litter.

Chris Mulick's Olympia Dispatch

It might be the best Washington political blog you've never heard of – that is, if you've had your head buried in a Seattle-based newspaper for the last three years. Run by Tri-City Herald reporter Chris Mulick, the Olympia Dispatch covers the full gamut of political news from the state capitol — and it's a pretty fun read, also.

Mulick, 32, is young compared to some political reporters in the local blogosphere. For instance, Oregonian senior reporter Jeff Mapes has covered politics since Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984. Political reporter David Postman has been with The Seattle Times since 1994, and before that he was with Alaska Public Radio, the Anchorage Daily News, and Tacoma's News Tribune. Mulick, on the other hand, has only covered the Legislature since 2000.

Still, youth is part of the charm of the Dispatch. As seems to be increasingly common with younger blogger/reporters, Mulick combines the "hard news" side of politics with the lighter side, giving readers the legislative scoop with a little humor to boot.

Take the recent release of the 2008 Primary Voter's Guide, for example. Sounds like a snooze, right? Guess again.

First, you might check out Will Baker's candidate statement. He's the Reform Party's candidate for governor. He floats a couple of conspiracies and then asks readers "to please call '60 Minutes' at (212) 975-2006 and please press zero to speak to a live person." Sounds like he's done this before.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christian Pierre Joubert favors "the distribution of 'superfoods' (including but not limited to amazing dopamine-producing raw vegan chocolate mousses)." That sounds like a kitchen table issue. Do House Democrats know about this?

Or take initiative-happy balloteer Tim Eyman. What is there to say about him that hasn't already been said in four or more letters by Horse's Ass blogger David Goldstein? Well, Mulick has your answer:

During a visit to my office, Eyman said he's quite confident the measure will qualify for the November ballot.

"Objectively, it's frickin' tough to qualify for the ballot," Eyman said in a sentence taken entirely out of context.

Talking later about the flood of Initiative 960 e-mails during this year's legislative session warning subscribers a costly bill had been introduced Eyman admitted that "it's frickin' annoying."

And upon saying the word "frickin'" a third time later in the conversation Eyman said "I gotta stop saying that."

UPDATE: Eyman just popped his head back into the office to say he enjoyed this blog post, left, then suddenly reappeared realizing he had misplaced the white board he's been carrying around today.

"What happened to my frickin' board?" he asked.

Mapes on Politics

If you're interested in Oregon's Legislature, there's one reporter who seems to dominate political discussions in the Beaver state's blogosphere.

Meet Jeff Mapes, the Oregonian's senior political reporter and blogger.

According to Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman, Mapes has "deeper and better understanding of Oregon politics than almost anyone."

While Mapes has covered politics since 1984, he's still fairly new to the blogosphere.

"Frankly, the political conversation moves too fast these days for the print edition," Mapes wrote in 2007. "Now I can be part of that conversation in real time. Beyond that, we have some marvelous strengths at [The Oregonian] that we can bring to the political blogging business. We come across way more information than we can get into print and — listen closely here! — we don't have an axe to grind. I intend to be the same honest broker of information I've always been. Except now I can let you in on a lot more of what I've learned."

At Mapes on Politics, readers can expect "sneak previews" of the next day's headlines from the Oregonian, along with blog-esque stories like a hilarious roundup of Portland City Council members participating in a pole dancing competition or a how-to story about transforming the Oregon voter's guide into a piece of art.

"Besides original reporting, I look for lots of links to interesting stuff that I think the politically aware Northwesterner ought to know about," he said. "After all these years in the business, there's no editor telling me what's interesting or what isn't. I just throw it out there and see what people think."

Postman on Politics

What Mapes is to The Oregonian, David Postman is to The Seattle Times — and more.

Since the Times chief political reporter started blogging in 2006, Postman on Politics has become one of the few blogs everyone in Washington state can discuss, diss, or praise. Postman, however, remains modest about his blog's success.

"I have nothing negative to say about blogs done by my newspaper competitors," Postman wrote in an e-mail to Crosscut. "You mention some very good blogs." He regularly reads Mulick, Mapes, and Eye on Olympia, by Rich Roesler of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. "I don't want to say I create a better product than those guys."

Unlike many political reporters blogging for large daily newspapers, however, Postman primarily writes for his blog — not the newspaper — which he says allows him to "focus on the blog in a way most other reporters can't."

"I realize I'm lucky in having the blog as my primary job, while others still have to write for the paper as well," Postman said. "I have the luxury of being able to cover issues and people statewide, and don't have to worry about writing for the paper."

For one thing, Postman said, he can post stories more quickly than others because of his sole focus, while he hopes his years covering politics gives his "reporting a level of analysis and authority that readers notice and value at Postman on Politics."

"I try for a mix of content," he said. "I don't do much of the small, humorous sort of notebook items. Sometimes it is just a very short piece to break a little news. Other times it is an analysis of what's been in the news, maybe something even in my own paper that I feel needs more context. I also do a lot more original reporting now."

While Postman, Mulick, and Mapes might be our picks for the Northwest's top media-backed blogs, there's a hoard of others with valuable content, as well. Crosscut also recommends:

Strange Bedfellows (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), Political Buzz (Tacoma News Tribune), Rich Roesler (Spokesman Review), Brad Shannon (The Olympian), and Adam Wilson (The Olympian).


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