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The Ramble: The power of the blog (sometimes a little too powerful)

One thing I’ve learned about blogging in recent years is how quickly a story can travel around, sometimes not allowing those that have learned about it to know about all of the changes taking place and leading to some rather pointed comments to be made. Then again, maybe it’s because as some folks tell me “I’m not mean enough to be doing this.” It’s definitely one of the scariest things about attempting to do this for a living.

The best example of this recently is the coverage by the blogosphere of Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford‘s decision to not issue a proclamation to the annual Central Alabama Pride parade on the city’s Southside. If you really don’t want to read the back story to understand this piece, click here to get to the point…

This morning’s Birmingham News ran a story with the online headline:

Birmingham mayor denies gay parade permit, The Birmingham News, 5.24.2008

The story stated that the mayor had decided to not only not issue the proclamation requested by event organizers, as first shared by Sweet Homo Alabama and Birmingham Blues on Friday (complete with the text from the email sent from Langford’s office), but also said that he would not issue them the permit needed to hold the parade (scheduled for June 7).

The text of the email included in Kathy’s post (about half way into it) did not contain any language that would lead one to believe that he would deny the permit, but did say that he would deny the hanging of banners in the area announcing the events and signing a proclamation.

Kathy was able to secure confirmation of a conversation earlier today between State Representative Patricia Todd and Langford, with Todd reporting that Langford said he had not made the statement RE: the denial of the permit (he says it is to go through the regular permitting process). The News reported the apparent changes by mid-afternoon, but the tidal wave had already started, and since most of the readership is not as addicted as I am to the Internet, few of their hard copy followers were aware of the new details. Needless to say the event planners and their supporters were thrilled about the announced developments.

Langford was still being ripped for his alleged decision all over the blogosphere, including the Daily Kos (though it does list the update – with no links to the new stories – about two paragraphs into the original text for the post). It also led to interesting comments in forums (though some quite justifiable considering what was out there earlier and currently).

Now, for those that don’t know me, or think they do from some of my posts on The Terminal, I’ll be clear here – I am definitely not a cheerleader of most of our current mayor’s initiatives. However after reading the original story in the paper, the follow ups filed and the posts that are out there on the web, I’m not seeing any reason to compare Langford to Bull Connor (as has been done). I’m seeing someone who is acting closed-minded considering his position and the positions taken by his predecessors about the parade and the events as a whole.

I’m also seeing just how powerful a medium these blogs and social media tools are. I learned early on that while I still check out the big guys, because people follow who they want, when they want and how they want, the initial story will be what is heard days later (even if changes have come). A “small” blog sometimes can be incredibly accurate and intelligent; but because it does not carry the traffic that we all hold so dear, it can be drowned in the noise of the larger sites covering a story.

Those of us attempting to blaze a trail to a world where people accept and embrace these new social media tools need to find a way to be evangelists, showing exactly how blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like can be used properly to engage a population and inform them effectively and efficiently. The News did it’s job – it reported changes, though as it will undoubtedly be discussed in churches and at lunch throughout the city tomorrow morning, it will be without the updates from this afternoon. We do still live away from these machines, though we may not feel that way at times.

It is the biggest issue facing this continuing revolution (or evolution) of the way we get information – sometimes that speed that we’ve become accustomed to can lead to some hurtful words and leaps to conclusions that a slower period in history would have avoided…

How we choose to deal with it in the future will say a lot about the success of this virtual talk radio world.


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