It’s a problem that’s been building for a while. First, I’ll quote Greg’s piece, then give you my thoughts below. From Greg Sargent:
Some of the leading liberal bloggers are privately furious with the major progressive groups — and in some cases, the Democratic Party committees — for failing to advertise on their sites, even as these groups constantly ask the bloggers for free assistance in driving their message.
It’s a development that’s creating tensions on the left and raises questions about the future role of the blogosphere at a time when a Dem is in the White House and liberalism could be headed for a period of sustained ascendancy…
“They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it’s not a two way street,” Jane Hamsher, of FiredogLake, said in an interview. “They won’t do anything in return. They’re not advertising with us. They’re not offering fellowships. They’re not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful.”
Hamsher singled out Americans United for Change, which raises and spends big money on TV ad campaigns driving Obama’s agenda, as well as the constellation of groups associated with it, and the American Association of Retired Persons, also a big TV advertiser.
At some point, Democrats – progressives – need to start investing in the future. And by “the future,” I don’t mean large organizations that have been around for years but haven’t accomplished anything in the past two decades. I mean investing in progressives who can kick ass, and have a proven ability to do so.
There is the perception on the right that all of the top liberal blogs are funded by George Soros. I wish. We, for example, are funded by advertising and by your individual donations. Both are dropping in a terrible economy. No one subsidizes my blog. I wish they did. But they don’t.
For our blog to survive – for the liberal blogosphere to survive – we need support. Unlike many of the top bloggers on the right, many of the top liberal bloggers blog for a living (many of the folks on the right have “real” jobs, a lot of them work as lawyers, and blog on the side). This is our job. It’s our career. It’s our passion, to be sure. But it’s also how we pay the mortgage, invest in our retirement, and put food on the table. It makes no sense that Democrats have not found a way to invest in the blogosphere, and help us not just survive, but grow and become even more powerful. It’s almost as if we don’t want to win.
The immediate concern, that led to Greg’s article above, is the plethora of liberal organizations who ask us for help – wanting us to promote their pet cause, or simply their executive director’s latest uttering – but who never think of asking us if there’s any way they can help us in return. These groups would never, in a million years, ask another liberal organization to post one of their press releases on the other group’s Web site. In fact, they’d pay another organization, and do, for access to its members. But these same groups come to the blogs, time and again, and beg for our help, for free, and never give it a thought.
And the thing is, we help them anyway.
It’s a bit like being a doctor. Sure, you expect your family, and even your close friends, to ask you for free medical advice. And you give it, because it’s what good people do for their family and close friends. And in return, those family and friends offer you their services as well – maybe one is an accountant, another a lawyer – but the expectation on all sides is that we’re family, and we will all find ways to help each other.
What you don’t expect is to have a complete stranger knock on your door and ask you, ever day, to help cure their latest ill, for free, and never ever offer to lift a finger to help you in return. It gets old. It’s also incredibly presumptuous and rude.
Far too many of the large progressive organizations, and the Democratic party itself, want the benefits of friendships without actually being our friends. (And don’t even get me started on the PR firms – little do their clients know that the best way to get an email deleted by a blogger is to have a PR firm send it.) They clearly recognize the blogs as a powerhouse that can help the party and help the progressive movement – otherwise they wouldn’t ask for our help. But they don’t think enough of us to actually support our work, and help us survive and prosper.
Perhaps it’s time they stopped getting the milk for free. Because this cow has had about enough.
UPDATE: I had mentioned something to Greg Sargent, when he was interviewing me for the article, but it didn’t make it into the piece. Namely, that there are a few groups – a very few – who have been supportive of the blogs, and get how to work effectively with the Netroots. SEIU and the ACLU. Ever since Rachel Perrone left the ACLU, they kind of disappeared in terms of blogger relations. But before that, they were a model for how to work with bloggers, harness our talents to work together on issues of common interest (and yes, they also bought ads). The other group, SEIU, has been ga ga in terms of its support of the blogosphere, both inside and outside of the organization. SEIU gets the Internet. They also get the notion of progressives being a movement, and a family. About the need, the obligation, to help each other. Unfortunately, off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other group that fits the bill.