Stephen Taylor – Political blogging in Canada

Stephen Taylor the co-founder of Canada’s Blogging Tories, gave the Third Monday group an insider’s perspective on political blogging.

Taylor began blogging in January 2004 when the Conservative leadership contest was just getting underway. “I’ve always had my opinions and I needed a better forum. … I thought that blogging might be a good way for a kid to get his views out there.”

In December 2004, he registered the Blogging Tories domain name. He found a few other like-minded Conservative bloggers and they all agreed to aggregate their feeds on bloggingtories.

The other parties – the Liberals and New Democrats – have followed blogging Tories. But Taylor and his friends try to stay ahead. At this point, Taylor believes that the Blogging Tories have a six month lead on the other parties in the way that they use social media.

Have the blogging Tories had a tangible impact on the debate? Taylor offered that “many people see us as all sharing a small c conservative libertarian point of view.” You can be accused of being in an echo chamber if you fall behind the party line all the time. “However, there is both the development of new ideas and debate.”

What’s next? We’re thinking of starting a policy Wiki. However, it would have to be limited to only approved people. It couldn’t be open to hijacking.

Taylor recently clashed with the Parliamentary Press Gallery about his right to conduct an interview in the Rotunda of Parliament. After this episode, Taylor went to the Parliamentary Press Gallery to obtain an application for Gallery membership. He found that the application requires that a member of the Gallery not have any outside partisan or other interests. He notes that several members of the Gallery have taken contracts with other organizations – including the government they are supposed to be covering. He believes that there is a debate that needs to be had about membership in the Gallery. Taylor added that the Liberal Party had offered him full credentials as a blogger to cover the Liberal Leadership convention last December.

Stephen also spoke of his calling out of the CBC’s Christina Lawand’s coverage of a press conference by the Prime Minister. Taylor pointed out that editing of the CBC’s report was misleading and biased against the Prime Minister. After much heated debate, the CBC was forced to “express regret” for the coverage. He believes that this is a positive example of the power of articulate and clear-minded political bloggers to exercise some oversight over the Mainstream Media.

How about anonymous comments in response to blog posts? “Anonymity plus audience may creat the most horrible coniditions for a discussion.” Some political bloggers have shut down comments. Taylor has turned on moderation on his comments. “How do you regulate free speech? It is private property after all? I’ve turned on moderation and tried to find balance. If I see a comment that you’d be uncomfortable seeing the person about whom a comment has been written, I filter it out.” Taylor estimates that he needs to refuse about one in fifty comments on this grounds.

This was a great session with a very smart and genuinely nice person. If Stephen’s objective in doing this event was to put a more moderate and reasonable face on conservatism … Mission Accomplished.

UPDATE: Stephen Taylor has posted his thoughts on the Third Monday discussion about blogging and journalism.