Blogs Hash Out Palin Pick
SCOTT SIMON, host:
The blogosphere is agog over Sarah Palin. She's a mother of five and works and works out. She's a hockey mom, a political pit bull, a beauty pageant runner up with a husband they call "the first dude." She can field dress a moose, but how would she deal with Ahmadinejad. And soon she's going to be a grandmother. Jose Antonio Vargas covers the blogosphere for the Washington Post. He joins us now. Mr. Vargas, thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS (Reporter, Washington Post): Oh, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
SIMON: Give us some idea of the range of opinions and observations out there.
Mr. VARGAS: Well, I think for a lot of people, especially on the Left blogosphere, there's a feeling that she hasn't been properly vetted. And I think what's happening is the Internet, the people on the Internet, are doing the vetting.
SIMON: When you say vetting, though, not always with the benefit of information.
Mr. VARGAS: Exactly.
SIMON: They're just throwing stuff out there.
Mr. VARGAS: I think what has happened is, especially on the liberal-left blogs, there was so little that was known, she was so obscure to a lot of people, that all this information started bubbling up in trying to figure out - I mean, her Wikipidea article was basically - had the most comprehensive set of information, so people flooded that. What's interesting with the pregnancy of her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol - they announced that she was pregnant in direct effect because of the rumors and, kind of, the gossip that's been on blogs like DailyKos.com.
SIMON: Is it true that a college student might be responsible for starting a Palin for vice president boomlet on the Web?
Mr. VARGAS: Yes, I actually found this 21-year-old young Republican from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. I found him on Facebook of all places. And he started a draft Palin for vice president blog February of 2007. Actually, on the day that she was announced as the vice presidential running mate, the governor, and actually the first dude, her husband, called this kid, Adam Brickley, and thanked him for his efforts.
SIMON: As you take a look at the mainstream media coverage of Governor Palin's selection, do you see some of it, in one way or another, shaped by the blogosphere?
Mr. VARGAS: That's an interesting question. I think what's happening here is you have the blogosphere and the media not necessarily chasing each other, but really, kind of, carefully watching each other. I think the major media's watching what the blogosphere's doing, and I think the blogosphere doesn't really much care what the mainstream media is doing. I mean, look, at the end of the day, the blogosphere is an uncontrollable entity. There's no one in charge of it. What happens on Daily Kos and what happens on Townhall, which is the conservative version of Daily Kos, people who don't belong to those communities don't get to say what they do in those communities. The online right, I might say, by the way, have reacted very effusively. I mean, Townhall.com has become basically all Sarah Palin all the time.
SIMON: Do people turn to the blog because they think they're not getting information from mainstream media?
Mr. VARGAS: I think there's a feeling of that. There's a feeling that they are not getting enough, or they're not getting in it context, at least the context that they want to get it. I mean, I think one of the things that the Internet has really affected, in terms of our news culture, is that people want to read what they want to read. If you're a conservative who likes to support Sarah Palin, you tend to visit sites that are supportive of her. If you're critical of her, you tend to visit sites that are critical of her. I mean, of course, that's just one side of it. I mean, I think there are readers online who are honestly and carefully looking at information and weighing things in, but I would also say that in this highly partisan news environment and a partisan electorate that we have, people are drawn to the information that they want to see.
SIMON: Jose Antonio Vargas covers the political blogosphere for the Washington Post. Thanks for joining us.
Mr. VARGAS: Oh, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.