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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, March 12, 2014:
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.