Bloggers and the Net investigate: Who ate the AT&T weenies?

Comment and Confession: I’ve been sleep-walking through the coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week. I thought I’d enjoy and benefit by watching from afar, like TechPresident’s Micah Sifry. The truth is, I haven’t watched much from anywhere.

I should have been paying more attention – and thankfully, someone else has been. Conventions may be staged, shallow and preposterous. The coverage by big media is repetitious. It’s also unconscionably expensive ($850 for an Internet hookup) – one reason Slate media critic Jack Schafer proposed a press boycott.

While your average political reporter doesn’t think the conventions are a waste of time and resources, he’s likely to agree that nothing very newsworthy actually happens at them…If the political press corps were honest, they’d start every convention story with the finding that nothing important happened that day and that your attention is not needed.

Update: Here’s more on the waste-of-time-and-money theme from Guardian Blogs editor Kevin Anderson and the Columbia Journalism Review.

I thought Shafer was right.

But he wasn’t. The conventions are something. They are massive learning moments staged for a culture primed and empowered to learn.

One gutsy professional journalist and a team of gutsy bloggers (yes, the distinction is vague) reminded me of this, and of Journalism 101: Follow the money.

This week in Denver, they followed the weenies.

I’m talking about tiny sausages, of course.

Firedoglake founder Jane Hamsher and some blogger pals in Denver wanted to find out who was paying for the booze and snacks handed out at a party thrown by telecom giant AT&T for fiscally conservative Democrats who call themselves Blue Dogs. AT&T was one of the big beneficiaries of a law passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by President Bush in July that gave retroactive immunity to phone companies that had conducted secret, warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. phone lines to aid in the government’s war on terror.

A month later, AT&T hosted a big private party in Denver.

Journalist Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! tried to get in but was stopped at the door, so she resorted to reporting from outside the velvet rope.

Hamsher and the bloggers, including Salon writer Glenn Greenwald, got a little further before they were booted out. Hamsher wrote:

It was remarkable. I’ve never seen anything like it, really. Glenn would announce that he was from, ask them if they would be interviewed about the party, and nobody wanted to say who they were or even acknowledge that they knew what the party was about.

Almost every single person we talked with had the good sense to be ashamed of being there, but that didn’t stop them from going in.

Now the story moves online. Hamsher hopes YouTube viewers can help identify the people in the video shot at the party.

Like the sausages, this is a small story, a clouded, grainy glimpse through a tiny peephole into a world of power and influence. It was something other than nothing, a learning moment made possible by technology and the people who used it.

(Thanks to Alternet for the link). Here are two versions of the party story:

You may also like