Ask the expert
Alan Bedenko:
The Buffalo Pundit on blogging, politics, and Twittering

By Christopher Schobert; photo by kc kratt

While Alan Bedenko often appears in print as a contributor for Spree, it is his blog—
—that truly makes waves. Featuring everything from trenchant political commentary to funny YouTube links, Buffalo Pundit is a daily must-read for anyone seeking a clear, honest voice in a one-newspaper town. Here, Bedenko, who ran for an Erie County Legislature seat in 2007, discusses the local blog scene, the blogosphere at large, and the web’s impact on politics.

You’ve had a front row view for the changing blog scene locally. How has it evolved in recent years, and in your opinion, where is it going?
I started doing this in 2003. In ’04 and ’05, the local blog scene was a tight-knit little community. The thing about blogs is that lots of people start them, but the vast majority of them flame out after a while. Back in 2005 and 2006, I’d be adding blogs to the sidebar on a regular basis. I haven’t added more than ten blogs to my blogroll in the last twelve months, probably. ... I think the novelty of blogs and blogging has worn off for most people, so now there’s nothing earth-shattering about the idea of someone mouthing off online on a regular basis. But I think blogging will continue to evolve as it goes more mainstream. There aren’t a lot of mainstream conservative/Republican blogs out there. That’s going to change. ... I think that blogs in the future will adopt and incorporate some of the social networking features already present on sites such as Facebook, so that people aren’t just readers or commenters, but coming to a blog to virtually interact with each other.

What do you think of local news coverage on the web? Is there enough? And is the best coverage coming outside of the traditional media outlets?
Blogs can fill in some gaps, offering a different opinion perspective than the Buffalo News editorial page. Blogs can offer a person-on-the-street perspective of major news events. They can also promote events, people, and places that traditional media can’t devote nearly as much time or ink to. ... When a story is blogged about, a lively debate can ensue that becomes compelling in its own way. Note that the traditional media outlets have tried in recent years to adopt the community/commentary aspect of blogs for their own sites, with varying degrees of success. Between Artvoice and Buffalo Rising, I can get a good daily dose of what’s going on locally. The Buffalo News blogs may be great, but I don’t visit them very often. The reason is that the News has chosen to run short excerpts from recent posts on the side of, and it’s frankly unreadable, and doesn’t compel me to click over there. Simplicity is key.

What impact has the blogosphere had on local elections? What politicians have most taken advantage of this shift?
A recent study revealed that only two percent of Buffalonians are reading blogs, and therefore they have a minimal impact on local elections. There are politically connected people who read certain sites on a daily basis to get a dose of rumor and snark, but they’re not the average Joe on the street who pays regular attention to politics. They’re news junkies. Reaching that regular person through a blog remains a very difficult task.

Is blogging a nice sideline to your day job? In other words, how fun is it for you, and is that what keeps you posting so frequently?
It’s a fun hobby for me. I’m a political junkie—the kind who yells at the TV or radio, and wants to write a letter to the editor on everything and anything. The blog started out as my daily letter to the editor, and that’s what it continues to be today. Luckily, between local and national politics, there is seldom a day that goes by without something for me to write about. I try to write well and accurately. I try to make the writing fun, irreverent, and compelling to the reader. Language is fun. Writing is fun. As I mentioned before, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t get a kick out of it. The fact that others enjoy reading it is icing on the cake.

Lastly, what is your favorite local blog? And what blogs do you find yourself checking in with every day?
My favorite local blog is Kelly Sedinger’s Byzantium Shores. He writes about his life, he delves into politics, and he’s a creative and thoughtful writer. Most of my daily reads are compacted into several RSS feeds along the top of my browser. [Those] include the Albany Project, Buffalo Buffet, Capitol Confidential, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan, Jen’s 14221 Thoughts, All Things Jennifer, Autoblog, and Buffalo Blood Donor. Also, I’m a user of the Twitter micro-blogging platform, which is sort of in its infancy but has become as vibrant a local community as the blogosphere.

Christopher Schobert is a daily Buffalo Pundit reader.


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