For political junkies, must-see TV once meant sitting through hours of "Crossfire," "Hannity & Colmes" and "Meet the Press," hoping for the occasional gem. Nowadays, to catch Robert Novak turning the air blue on "Inside Politics" or work yourself into an apoplectic lather over our politicians' latest truth-challenged utterances, you can point your browser to www.crooksandliars.com, the brainchild of 47-year-old West L.A. musician and liberal-Democrat John Amato. Since last fall, he has been serving up political dish from a decidedly blue-state perspective with daily posts of video and audio streams. Amato, who turned to blogging after an injury scotched his saxophone career during a hiatus from a reunion tour with Duran Duran, currently is receiving between 100,000 and 200,000 hits on the site per day and has even done a few original interviews. We pried him away from his computer for questions from the mainstream media.
How did you start blogging?
I was in pain. I was home for months, and I started to go to the computer once in a while. I had a friend come over and set up a blog. This was August 2004. I was watching a lot of TV and noticed that people would write about things people said, but if you saw it, it would be much more powerful. My idea was, if I can incorporate multimedia into blogging, it could really help. I was able to take little snippets of shows. Or I would get audio off the radio and [from] people sending clips. I had an eye for what was interesting or controversial. If it was an important speech, I got it.
What clips have been memorable or have really raised traffic on your site?
There was Jeff Gannon, a fake journalist [who had once advertised himself as a $200-an-hour gay escort]. He used a phony name and inexplicably was in the White House press pool. I got the clips when he was asking questions to White House press secretary Scott McClellan, and all of a sudden people linked to that. There was another one when British politician George Galloway testified before the Senate [during the oil-for-food probe, calling Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman a "pro-war, neocon hawk and the lickspittle of George W. Bush"]. That was a huge clip. Or not too long ago, Congressman Duncan Hunter did a press conference about Guantanamo Bay. He was like a waiter, trying to tell everybody how great the cuisine was at Guantanamo Bay. That caught my eye.
Do you try to ensure that clips aren't out of context?
Yes. I don't edit anything out of sequence to make a guy look foolish. I will play the question and the response. I won't stoop to dirty tricks. I try to keep it in context. A little clip could be 30 seconds, but if it's more involved than that, I'll make it a minute, two minutes.
Where do you stand on "objectivity" in media?
I'm partisan. My goal is to be a media watchdog and also expose what I believe is a bad administration. I think it's perfectly fine to be partisan as long as you're honest and have integrity.
What is the blogging community like? Do you guys socialize?
There are a lot of bloggers in Los Angeles, even a few big conservative blogs. Another blogger said, "Let's have a blogger barbecue," and there were like 50 people there. [Most of the guests] were liberal; I gather some were Republicans. We're making some great friendships. There are a lot of characters.
Are you part of the crowd that sees blogs replacing the mainstream media?
We couldn't survive without the news. I think [bloggers] are trying to wake up [the mainstream media] so they'll do their jobs again. It's kind of like when you're around movie stars all the time. Whatever administration is in power, journalists do something so they can keep getting the interviews and the information. And we [bloggers] are trying to make them do their jobs. So I guess we're an add-on.
If Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich types make it to the White House and Congress, will you keep a lookout for liberal crooks and liars?
I've thought about this often, and I would say yes. Power has to be questioned.