So who exactly is this Rogers character and what gives him the right to weigh in like that in a national publication? Does he have a political science degree? Nope; he's actually a former English composition teacher at L.E. Fletcher Technical Community College in Houma. Has he been covering politics as a journalist for decades, publishing related titles along the way? Not exactly; he only formed his Web site less than two years ago.
But the Denham Springs resident can point to a single credential that substantiates his inclusion in the article: More than 8,000 visitors browse news and commentary on his Web site each day, according to Rogers' count. The figure is representative of a trend that has been growing since the late '90s, and Dead Pelican seems to be firmly planted on the cresting wave. Sites dedicated to Louisiana politics have been sprouting up regularly, and based on forum comments and media coverage, there is a hungry audience. In many ways, it's the second coming of Project Gutenberg, as far as access to information. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found there are more than 75 million U.S. citizens regularly accessing or creating political information on the Internet.
"The Internet is the ultimate concept of freedom," Rogers says. "It is very American. You don't have to be a journalist to put out news and opinion. If you put it out there and people like it, you'll be successful. Your only limitation is the audience you can build. The Internet has created a thirst for information at lightning-fast speed, and this fills a void."
Mainstream media has been embracing some of the same guerilla tactics that have made the political sites popular, says C.B. Forgotston Jr., a Hammond attorney who posts blistering political commentary on Forgotston.com. Many newspapers are creating their own blogs or adding outside bloggers to their newspapers' Web sites. "The papers themselves are becoming bloggers and they are posting online," Forgotston says. "Whether we were all part of starting that, I don't know. But we are not moving to print. We are staying electronic, and print is moving toward us."
All the Louisiana political sites offer something different. For instance, Forgotston, whose subscribers number in the thousands, is well-known for compiling legislative voting records on gambling and taxes. Also, as former chief counsel for the House Appropriations Committee, Forgotston is an expert on most state fiscal matters. Dead Pelican, a knock-off of DrudgeReport.com, offers a simple format and thrives on breaking original news, although Rogers can play fast and loose with reports at times ' just last week, he wrote that Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation but didn't name his sources for the story. Other sites rely heavily on forums, where users can communicate directly or on e-mail lists to disburse information.
Every purveyor of this alternative news source seems to have a love-hate relationship with the mainstream media. Nearly all of them depend on mainstream news for content; major stories are highlighted and commented on; inconsistencies are pointed out and partisan shots are fired.
The media, on the other hand, isn't shy about tapping these "kooks" ' a label coined by former Gov. Mike Foster and embraced by the alternative media ' for input. And when it happens, the news travels quickly within this tight-knit community of bloggers.
Forgotston has been interviewed on several occasions by The New York Times and was recently quoted in an editorial by WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge. Moon Griffon, who hosts a syndicated statewide radio show, was also interviewed on cable news giant MSNBC a few weeks ago. When asked about President Bush's visit to New Orleans on the anniversary of Katrina, conservative Griffon flipped the question and schooled the national media on the "real problems" being created by state and local governments back home ' also known as the "good ol' boy network," he told MSNBC.
It's no wonder why some in the mainstream media love these alternative sources. A study conducted during the 2004 presidential election by Intelliseek, a technology solutions company based in Ohio, found that bloggers often kept major news items alive on their Web sites until the mainstream media caught up with them. The Internet's influence on political discussions and that election is evident, says company CMO Pete Blackshaw.
"The web-enabled public is relying on a variety of sources, including blogs, traditional media and other Web sites, to inform themselves, find unfiltered opinions, and to guide their votes," Blackshaw says. "And bloggers, in some instances, are pushing the envelope in defining the political agenda and news coverage."
In Louisiana, the now-defunct DeductBox.com is credited with starting it all in the late '90s, but the tradition is being carried on by Web sites like LaPoliticalNews.Blogspot.com, BayouBuzz.com and PoliticsLa.com. Even independent journalist John Maginnis, known nationally for his political reporting, has moved some of his writings online, as has former Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown. Emily Metzgar, a columnist for The Shreveport Times, also maintains a personal blog that is frequently linked to by other bloggers. And New Orleans bloggers have been relentless post-Katrina, excoriating all levels of government and posting deeply personal accounts of their experiences in the arduous recovery effort. They even organized a conference last month, dubbed "Rising Tide," that attracted roughly 40 bloggers and landed Wall Street Journal reporters and keynote speakers Christopher Cooper and Robert Block, authors of Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security.
Rogers, who recently started making regular appearances on Baton Rouge television and running paid advertising on Dead Pelican, says there is only one goal: "The impact we're trying to make is to help people think a little more about what is going on in Louisiana, instead of just taking things at face value."
The approach might be raw and in-your-face, but it gets the job done, says Forgotston. The voting records he publishes on his Web site have helped challengers defeat incumbents, but now the challengers are upset because their own voting records are being disseminated. Forgotston wants to make a positive impact, and as long as someone in elected office is expressing anger over the alternative media, he's accomplishing that goal.
"I don't know if they respect us as much as fear us," he says, "but I consider that a badge of honor."
Contact Jeremy Alford at
Chad Rogers' thedeadpelican.com Web site generates 8,000 visitors a day and recently landed him an interview with the Washington Times.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Dogs get back-to-school blues; mother pleads for release of journalist; ice bucket challenge and more national and international news for Thursday, August 28, 2014.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her lead GOP challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy are running close when it comes to money. Landrieu has $5.5 million to Cassidy’s $5.6 million in the bank.
With expectations mounting that Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon announce his campaign for president, attention is turning to not only who he will bring along with him but also what will transpire politically back home during the transition.
Seven of the 11 U.S. cities in a new ranking of “most dangerous diets” are in the Bayou and Lone Star states, but the ranking is more about poverty than fried oysters.
Lafayette police are investigating a fatal shooting involving an alleged burglar and homeowner.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham got the message from the NFL. He's not dunking footballs over goal posts any more.
With qualifying over, the start of campaign season is official, and for the Lafayette Parish School Board, the race toward Nov. 4 will pit 20 candidates in battles for all 9 of the district’s available seats.
An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election Friday the same as any other candidate, filling out paperwork and handing over cash to pay his qualifying fee. But he finished it quite differently, doused with ice.
The recent release of Victor White III’s autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“Candidates for Congress and members of Congress spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back into power.”
Over the last four days of the trial against attorney Daniel Stanford, there’s been one notable absence from Judge Elizabeth Foote’s courtroom: attorney Bill Goode.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Nick Toon are not on the same page yet, and time is running short for Toon to get it right.