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DC Bloggers Summit: What, No Shrimp?

To be fair, I actually heard no complaints whatsoever from the assembled 100 or so Washington area bloggers who attended the region's first bloggers' summit at The Washington Post this week. No, it's only folks in the old dead tree journalism community who judge a get-together according to the availability of free crustaceans.

The bloggers who came to talk about their relationship with the Post and to hear a lawyer's cautions about life out there on the info interstate were really quite pleased with the spread, which included chicken satay, crudites and some nice strawberries dipped in chocolate.

"We Are in the Big Leagues Now!" was how the folks at Metroblogging DC headlined their attendance at the conference.

This was a chance for all sorts of local bloggers to hear from Post news executives about how the paper is not equipped to cover the micro-local events and issues that bloggers specialize in, and to explore ways in which the paper, its website and bloggers can collaborate, at least by referring readers to one another's work. The exchanges were more gracious and accepting than some on either side of the room might have expected. Some bloggers welcomed a initiative that would put local ads on blogs and send some moola to bloggers, and others seemed eager to win credit from the Post for their news scoops. The Post's Jonathan Krim unveiled early plans for a local blog directory that readers could use to search for blogs in their neighborhoods or their favorite topic areas.

While the terminally grouchy Wonkette was apparently miffed that it didn't land on to the invite list--the summit was intended for blogs that cover things Washington rather than things national--bloggers from a startling array of interests and areas did attend, including, just as a taste of who was there, folks from newsy blogs such as DCist; neighborhood blogs from Anacostia, Shaw and Petworth; specialized blogs such as and a blog fighting for Loudoun County wineries' right to distribute their own products; social guides such as DC Concierge; personal blogs such as And I'm Not Lying For Real; and arts blogs such as the Smithsonian's Eye Level and CreativeDC. A few political bloggers showed up too, though not as many as I'd thought would, perhaps because those bloggers have a more complicated, somewhat competitive relationship with the big daily paper in the region.

The bloggers heard a series of cautions from lawyer Jonathan Hart of the Online News Association, who warned the assembled to get themselves some libel insurance so as not to lose their houses should someone slap a thick wad of paper on them someday. My favorite question came from the proprietor of Yeah...I Said It, who wondered whether photoshopping Dick Cheney doing a drive-by shooting would raise any legal questions. Short answer: It all depends on how transparent your humor is. "If you're taking PhotoShop and changing somebody's body, don't do a terrific job of it," Hart advised.

Another choice legal query: Are you ok if you publish something that's factually iffy but a lot of other people are saying the same thing out there in webland? Hart: "Having a lot of other people saying the same thing may get you co-defendants."

Bloggers and big corporations that do journalism will always have different functions and often have different attitudes, but the summit produced at least a momentary sense of cooperation. If there had been shrimp, I might have choked on it when I heard Wayan from Metroblogging DC offer this lovely bit of peacemaking: "One thing we all value, every single person in this room, is the human filtering you guys at the Post do." We're all awash in the same sea of information, and increasingly, we're all realizing that despite the 90s rhetoric about each of us finding our own way, we all do need credible and useful filters.

And then we can start sniping at each other.

By Marc Fisher |  January 11, 2007; 7:55 AM ET
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chicken sate? Is that like chicken satay?

Posted by: wiredog | January 11, 2007 8:41 AM

Did you all invite the Maryland suburban bloggers? There are some really nice blogs covering county level issues.

Posted by: Terry in Maryland | January 11, 2007 8:55 AM

And don't forget sports bloggers are bloggers too!

Posted by: misschatter | January 11, 2007 9:45 AM

Thanks for the spelling cx, Wiredog.

Posted by: Fisher | January 11, 2007 9:53 AM

Thanks for the mention! I enjoyed the summit, and took away a lot from attending.

Also, here is the link to that Dick Cheney image referred to, just in case you were wondering why I asked the question that I did

Posted by: ListenToLeon | January 11, 2007 10:38 AM

First of all, thanks for the link, Marc ...

The discussion was as civil as I would have expected. Bloggers are shickenchits when you can see our faces - it's when we're posting in our underpants at 3 am that we get nasty.

I'll be back frequently, and thanks again for caring about our input!

Posted by: Jeff Simmermon | January 11, 2007 12:01 PM

I guess I wasn't politically correct to be invited.

mocoprogressive dot blogspot dot com

Posted by: MoCo | January 11, 2007 12:43 PM

I got the invite but was too snowed under at the last minute to make it. Sounds like it was productive.

I'm curious about the Post's plans for ads on other blog sites. My current ads (Google and Amazon) do not generate much money and I wonder how your plan will be different.


Posted by: TC the Terrible | January 11, 2007 1:13 PM

Oy - they may be grouchy, but Wonkette covers some local news as well as national stories. Especially if it involves Barry and his green Camaro, Wonkette will post it. Don't be so crabby, Marc.

Posted by: ML | January 11, 2007 2:19 PM

Shrimp? No, make it an open bar with at least call liquor and then it would've been all-love-in all-the-time. But short of that, we all do respect the Washington Post.

Thanks again for trying to work with us. We can be an unruly bunch, just as eager to snipe each other as the WaPo. You should've seen the After Party!

Posted by: Wayan | January 11, 2007 5:02 PM

It was about what I expected it would be. Those who attended the smaller summit earlier in the year already knew how civil this was going to be.

Posted by: Robbie | January 11, 2007 7:40 PM

MoCo, there were few invites sent -- I believe most people just read the announcement on a blog (it was posted to DCist, among others) and emailed an RSVP.

Posted by: Rob Goodspeed | January 18, 2007 9:01 AM

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