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.

  • I appreciate the link back to my blog on the issue of members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery receiving government contracts. For those who do not wish to follow that link, let me a highlight a key finding: Government bureaucrats were able to find just eight individuals who received money for work from a federal government organization while they were members of the PPG.
    “This leaves 8 people who won contracts, mainly for giving a speech or taking part in a panel. 8 out of 370 members of the Press Gallery, or 2.1%,” said Yves Malo, past president of the PPG.

  • Hi David,

    I hope that everyone will follow the link and read your full post. It is worth reading.

    Re the section you have quoted, I don’t see the relevance of whether it is a low percentage or a high percentage. The fact is that the Parliamentary Press Gallery tolerates members who moonlight, including paying assignments from the Government that they cover. And there does not seem to be any requirement for them to publicly declare these assignments or to step back from covering departments from whom they have received a benefit.

  • What is not on my blog is the results of the investigations that the Gallery conducted. The Gallery executive did not determine that the likes of Jeff Simpson or Lawrence Martin were violating anyone’s sense of ethics for accepting a fee to write and deliver a speech at a government conference.
    There were, however, two members of the Gallery that the executive had concerns about. The Gallery interviewed both members. One — a freelancer — had done some contract writing for a government department and after disclosing that, promised that he would not take any more contract writing assignments while he was a member of the Gallery. The other had done some translation work for a government department and could not provide the gallery executive sufficient examples of his work as a journalist. The gallery executive has asked him to provide this before making any further decisions.
    So really = we have one, maybe two journalists — out of 370 involved here.
    And, to put an even finer point on it — there have been no suggestions that any gallery member took funds for work done for a political or partisan purpose.
    So for all the work that MP Scott Reid forced government bureaucrats to do, what was he left with at the end of the day? Again — we tried to ask him but he refuses to talk about it. The gallery is showing its accountability and transparency but I’m not sure Reid is 🙂

  • Hi David,

    I’m not sure how far the Liberals got with their defence in the sponsorship scandal that it was “only one or two” people who were involved. No, I am sure. The voters expressed their opinion of this defence at the polls.

    By the way, wasn’t there a former full time gallery member who, after being laid off by his newspaper kept his status with the Gallery and wrote part-time for a weekly Hill newspaper while also working as an associate of a Lobbying and PR company? Did the Gallery look at this situation and give it a clean bill of health?

  • On that last example — if there is, I’m not aware of it. But I’ve only been a member of the PPG since January 2005. If this individual is still a PPG member, I’m happy to bring it to the attention of our gallery executive ..

    And — equating the activities of journalists with the criminal activities of some political operatives is more than a little unfair, don’t you think?
    And even if you don’t agree it’s terrible hyperbole: voters did not pass their judgement, it seems to me, on all politicians, only Liberal ones. Similarly, if there is to be an outcry about the activities of some journalists, the censure ought to attach itself only to those organizations that employed that journalist — not to all organizations that employ journalists.

  • Hi David,

    I am not suggesting that we attach censure to all journalists. I merely pointed to your own post that indicated that questions had been raised about the outside activities of members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

    And whether it’s one person or 100, I think it’s the principal that is important.

  • Trina Costantini-Powell

    Just curious how one becomes involved in the 3rd Monday group. Working as I do as the editor of Quorum, the Library of Parliament’s daily news compendium for use by Parliamentarians, I find myself more and more paying attention to the blogs and have made the point that they will become very relevant in future elections as they battle with the mainstream media. I have attended a seminar of Ian Ketcheson’s on blogs and found it to be very interesting.

    Just curious as to what 3rd Mondays are all about-whether there is a registration fee involved etc.

    REgards,

    Trina

  • Hi Trina,

    We’d love to have you join and participate in Third Monday. You can do this by signing up for the group at the Third Monday meetup site – http://publicrelations.meetup.com/84/.

    Third Monday is free. It’s been set up by four bloggers – Colin McKay, Ian Ketcheson, Brendan Hodgson and me – to provide a meeting place in our community where we can all learn more about social media. We believe that social media will radically transform the relationship of organizations to their membership and community. And we want the people in the community in which we live to be in the forefront of this movement.

    So, by all means, please join the group and come out to the events. When you do, please grab me or any of the organizers and introduce yourself. We’ll do our best to make you feel at home.

  • Social media has become invaluable in the political scene. Facebook specifically has taken off in unimaginable ways, with last month being the highpoint of usage among political junkies.

    See this clip on CBC News on the subject (and yes, that is me with Michael Ignatieff):