What Fresh Hell Is This?

July 25, 2005

My Interview with Jon Delano

Next in a series of interviews with members of the Pittsburgh political scene.

At Starbucks, the decaf will run you about a buck and a half. At the Pittsburgh Hilton, it goes for a whopping $3.75. At the Starbucks when I interviewed him, John McIntire dressed as we used to say back east “cazh” (it’s short for “casual”). At the Hilton, Jon Delano arrived in a smart suit and tie, briefcase in hand, his hair neatly (though not obessively) combed. McIntire and Delano certainly project quite differently. Heck, they don’t even spell their first names the same way.

One more thing - it was sunny when I interviewed McIntire and cloudy when I interviewed Delano.

Recently Jon Delano and I sat in a corner table at the restaurant at the Pittsburgh Hilton discussing the blogosphere, politics, and political journalism. I had a barely toasted bagel and the aforementioned way-too-expensive decaf. Delano had an English muffin.

Delano’s bio’s quite impressive. Work in DC for more than a dozen years, political analysis first at WTAE and then at KDKA where he covered both parties’ political conventions going back to ’96. He writes a column for the Pittsburgh Business Times and an on-line newsletter called “PSF” (for his “Politically Savvy Friends”) You can probably guess the rest - Phi Beta Kappa, a law degree, active in the community, blah-blah-blah. The man’s quite a success. In spite of all that, I still enjoyed talking to him.

Given his far more traditional political career (certainly far more than mine) and given that the blogosphere is a strange strange creature, I asked Delano what he thought of it. He’s been working in politics longer than most of you have been alive, so he had to have some sort of opinion on it.

This was the word he used: developing. The blogosphere is still developing, he said. It’s not got a lot of influence on how the news is collected or presented – and not much yet at the local level (We’re working on it, Jon. Give us some time.) Though he added the blogosphere does have a great deal of influence in the echo chamber that is talk radio and the world of political punditry (We’re working on that, too.)

The main problem inherent in the system is due to the fact that bloggers are free to write whatever they want – that there’s no test for truth. In mainstream journalism, however, assertions need to be checked and double checked for accuracy. A journalist, he said, would say, “I want to know it to be true.”

It’s much easier for a false rumor to spread through the blogosphere than in non-pundit areas of discourse in the mainstream news media. He tends to picture bloggers as people sharing/exchanging information.

He describes himself as a political moderate. When I pointed out how rare a species that is nowadays, he with slight chuckle and broad smile agreed. With all the pressure to be extreme (or to run to the extreme), moderation while probably far more representative of the greater chunk of the American public is an increasingly difficult political position to maintain. Delano asserted that there really is a middle ground and that “public policy is better as a compromise.”

He added that most people aren’t interested in politics, unfortunately. The non-political drains on their time (family, work, for two examples) leave little room for most people to debate the issues of the day. Add to that a general sense that most people feel that they can’t make much of a difference – they feel that the process is controlled by so few that an individual can’t have much of an impact and you’ve got a citizenry that’s far removed from the day-to-day political machinery of its society.

Although he did point out some recent growths in the grass roots – in the Christian Evangelical movement on the right and the emergence of the supporters of Howard Dean on the left.

We turned to some recent news.

John Roberts is probably about to undergo the most extreme scrutiny of any Supreme Court nominee, he said. It’s way too early to make any sort of assessment on how it would go or what the court will look like once the whole process is over. Although the spin from the White House has already begun: Roberts is the wisest of judges next to Moses – so much so that he should be subject to no criticism of any kind in the appointment process. Everyone is digging into this guy - the media, the interest groups and, of course, the bloggers.

“Bush has gotten himself into a jam,” Delano pointed out. “There’s no doubt that Rove talked to reporters. The question is how much he was doing on his own and how much he was doing with Bush as an accomplice.” He added that the public perception is clear that Bush did change his stance on his firing criteria.

Inspite of the Pittsburgh grey weather and the overpriced coffee, it was a good conversation.

My previous interviews:

John McIntire
Tony Norman

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