Netroots Nation: When all the Progressive Bloggers Came to My Hometown

4 years ago

Thousands of the most well-known liberal bloggers are gathered in my hometown of San Jose, California this week for Netroots Nation, and I’m floating around the McEnery Convention Center to find out what’s going on. It’s not just the Silicon Valley venue that feels familiar to me, but all the faces in the crowd that I’ve seen before at BlogHer conferences or at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Image Credit: Grace Hwang Lynch

In case you don’t know the backstory, Netroots Nation grew directly out of the blogosphere – namely the Daily Kos online community. Daily Kos founder Marko Moulitsas Zuniga’s wife Elisa Batista works with MomsRising and has also been a big part of conference’s eight year history.

Donna Schwartz Mills and Cynthia Liu of MOMocrats, Image Credit: Grace Hwang Lynch

Like any place where lots of Internet savvy people get together, there are a lot of laptops, smart phones and people scrambling for free wi-fi. However, unlike an election-year national political convention, there’s very little campaigning. Instead, Netroots is more of a venue for training, sharing information, and meeting colleagues that usually only exchange online comments or tweets. Netroots organizers say at least half the panel discussions were organized by women and include topics like “mansplaining”, Twitter for campaigning, and how to monetize political blogs.

Ten-year-old Henry Burner interviews people at Netroots Nation, Image Credit: Grace Hwang Lynch

And while there are certainly big name bloggers and journalists, like Slate’s Dave Weigel or Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel, the media personality who caught my eye (and apparently lots of other people’s attention) is only 10-years-old. Yes, Henry Burner is just a grade schooler attending Netroots with his mother Darcy Burner, a former Congressional candidate from Washington State. Henry is warming everyone’s hearts with fearless video interviews that he posts on his blog.

N'jaila Rhee, Imani Gandy and L. Joy Williams of This Week in Blackness, Image Credit: Grace Hwang Lynch

When I caught up with N’jaila Rhee of Blasian Bytch at the This Week in Blackness podcast booth, we both commented on the diverisity of people here: black, white, Latino, Asian, women and men, LGBTQ or straight, Baby Boomers to Millenials. Almost anyone would be welcome here – except maybe a conservative Republican.

Women are outnumbering men at this year's conference; according to Netroots spokeswoman Mary Rickles, this year's participants are 52% female. As expected at a progressive event, the issue of reproductive rights are a big topic. Sandra Fluke was wandering around in the hallways and spoke at Thursday night's opening reception. However, with the recent news of 40% of women being "breadwinner moms" and Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In movement, there's also a lot of talk of other women's issues -- such as fair pay and immigration rights. One new twist I'm glad to see is that some labor unions are paying more attention to the concerns of women, especially working mothers.

Sara Steffens of Communications Workers of America poses with a sign calling on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to “Lean In” for employees at Wal-Mart, where she is on the board of directors. Image Credit: Grace Hwang Lynch

Netroots Nation continues through Saturday, with speakers including Rep. Nancy Pelosi and discussions involving women running for office, reclaiming family values from the Right, and tips on becoming a female pundit.

Follow #nn13 and @Netroots_Nation on Twitter or watch livestreams on the Netroots Nation website to stay up to date. I’ll be updating this post if there’s any other exciting news, so keep checking back. Until then, tell is in the comments what you think of Netroots Nation. Would you go?

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs about raising an Asian mixed-race family at HapaMama.

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