Bloggers at Democratic convention plant their stake

Five hundred strong, Netroots workers in the Big Tent near Denver's Pepsi Center gain camaraderie – and affirmation.

By , Staff writer

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    Molly Jackson (center) blogged Monday for blogforchoice.com inside the Big Tent, a temporary structure set up in downtown Denver for bloggers covering the Democratic convention.
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Denver – The "Big Tent" for bloggers at 1536 Wynkoop St. in Denver marks a fault line between new and old media covering the Democratic National Convention.

"The traditional media do a lot of things wrong. We want them to do things correctly. We want them to do their job," says Markos Moulitsas, founder of the blog Daily Kos, which claims some 1.5 million unique hits a month.

The 8,000-square-foot "tent" is two stories of reinforced canvas packed with tables, chairs, plugs, screens, wiring, bad lighting, and a critical mass of overstuffed, worn-through comfy couches and pillows. Just beyond the white curtain, you can pick up a smoothie or a 10-minute massage at no charge, courtesy of Google, a Big Tent sponsor. Others sponsors include Digg, EcoDrivingUSA, InterfaceFLOR, Meru Networks, Floorz, Moveon.Org, DemWire, Daily Kos, Progress Now, Alliance for a Sustainable Future, Service Employees International Union, Human Rights Campaign, PickensPlan.com, the Sunlight Foundation, and Alliance for a Sustainable Colorado, to name a few. The restaurant chain Chipotle, another sponsor, is helping to provide 600 free lunches and dinners.

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Of the 3,000 bloggers who requested credentials for the Big Tent, 500 were granted. Most are liberal or progressive blogs, but Big Tent organizers said they tried for diversity: The conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington was offered two credentials for bloggers, for instance, but took only one.

There's just one glitch: Most bloggers still can't get into the Pepsi Center, site of this year's Democratic National Convention, which is a long 0.4 miles away. (Some blogs say the Big Tent is "a few steps away" from the Pepsi Center." They'd have to be mighty big steps.)

But there will be some in the Netroots community who will have access to the action on the convention floor. The DNC this year expanded the number of invitees in the online community, including national, political, niche, and video bloggers. This year, 120 got floor credentials, out of some 400 applicants, according to the DNC press office – a sharp increase over those admitted to the 2004 convention. That compares with 15,000 credentialed media overall covering the Denver convention.

The officially credentialed bloggers aren't installed plunk in the middle of the convention floor, as is CNN, or in sky boxes with the TV crews, but they do have cordoned-off areas off the floor with desks, chairs, and plugs (no fluffy couches). But wherever bloggers sit, they are a presence at this convention as never before.

"We're seeing how incredibly powerful it is to assemble the networks and the globosphere. It literally has its own gravitational pull, there are so many millions of readers," says Dan Mahoney, who blogs on YourHub.com in Denver. Big Tent organizers say they are also getting calls from politicians and others eager to gain Netroots exposure.

"In the last weeks, it's been a complete madhouse with people trying to get in," he adds.

Daily Kos's Mr. Moulitsas says it doesn't matter in the end whether bloggers sit on the convention floor or away from it.

For bloggers "to get together, it's affirming," he says. "We [usually] work in isolation – it's not like a newsroom where you're working with your colleagues. We're in isolation and every once in awhile we get to come together and share in a big experience, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. It feels part of a broader movement and we need that affirmation."

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