Saturday, January 30, 2010

State of the Union, via blog.

I've watched the State of the Union address on television since I was a freshman in high school. Usually it was an assignment, and I've usually had trouble staying awake through it. To be perfectly honest, I've never really understood why it was big news. It's just an assignment for the President too, I've always felt. He states his plans. Which frequently really aren't anything new. The only thing I've ever felt you gained from watching the address was a sense of the president's priorities.

College came, and suddenly, I did not have a television. This year I did not watch the address, but rather, only read three blogs on the subject: Michelle Malkin, a conservative blog, Daily Kos, a liberal blog, and Talking Points Memo, a news blog.

It was the best State of the Union experience I've ever had.

I was able to get the substance of President Obama's speech without getting slowed down by having to wait for the entire audience to clap for five seconds. I wasn't distracted by Joe Biden's silly facial expressions. I wasn't distracted or swayed by Obama's oratorical abilities--I only got the substance of the speech. There was an abundance of information about any specific topic that he spoke on. By the next morning there were links to footage of the speech as well as the exact text. The amount of news resources available for this speech was endless.

I started with Talking Points Memo, the news blog. Its live blog had very little useful substance. A few quick jabs at both liberal and conservative viewpoints, facial expressions, and no sense of what he was talking about. As a news blog, it didn't really cut it on live blogging.

The Daily Kos had a few short live blogs. As soon as the speech ended it had one entry that really didn't have any purpose but to post a poll, but that did make learning about the speech more interactive. However there were several smaller live blogs that provided analysis as the speech progressed, on topics such as jobs or government spending, that were quite useful to interpreting the speech.

Michelle Malkin's live blog was, whether or not you agree with her, undeniably entertaining. From the title alone the reader knows this is going to be an exaggerated completely biased Obama-is-Satan blog. She did make one particularly poignant point: "He blames failures of Washington DC. 'Numbing weight of politics.' Has someone clued him into the fact that HE is Washington DC. HE is the numbing weight." And Malkin continues to do push-ups every time Obama uses the words "I," "Change," and several other fun words like that. Conclusion: I didn't get very much analysis, but I got a decent sense of the speech.

Blogs continued to post until the next morning, providing a complete plethora of information. I did learn some from TPM's posts, but not nearly as much as from Malkin's or The Daily Kos. It's been pointed out so many times that there are problems with blogs, that if you just read one of these you'd get an extremely skewed view of the speech. My reply to that is "Duh." You have to read opposite viewpoints. You can't read just one biased blog. Sometimes reading skewed interpretations is better, because they say things conservative newspapers won't. They'll provide harsher analysis than traditional newspapers. Probably the more you read, the better.

If I could do it all again though, I'd probably watch the address as I read the live blogging. Then I could know when Malkin was exaggerating, as well as get the tone of the speech and its reception. It's true, when I watched the speech alone, I would sometimes get bogged down by who claps at what, or the faces people make, or stuff like that. But atmosphere is something that I missed reading only blogs. I've always seen so much reporting on atmosphere in other media, but in the blogs it was hardly mentioned--except for Alito's comment. But that would have been pretty hard to ignore.

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