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.
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 23, 2014:
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”