logo-rising-tide.gifMUNICIPAL YACHT HARBOR, NEW ORLEANS – I used to tease a friend and colleague of mine, who shall remain nameless, for his miniature war gaming hobby. When his ancient Chinese army placed third in a New England invitational tournament, I sent a firm-wide e-mail congratulating him and exposing his secret foible.

I can’t tease him anymore. I eagerly attended this weekend’s Rising Tide blogger conference.

With the approach of the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and possibly of Tropical Storm Ernesto, bloggers, technologists, academics, and advocates gathered for fellowship, discussion, and “a ‘real life’ demonstration of internet activism.”

The not-quite renovated home of the New Orleans Yacht Club, overlooking a marina filled with half-sunken sailboats, was the perfect venue for any discussion of post-Katrina New Orleans. Especially when the rain started to pour.

The key note speakers were Christopher Cooper and Robert Block of the Wall Street Journal, co-authors of Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security, which is evidently a searing indictment of the federal response to the hurricane. (A book review will be forthcoming soon.) In his address, Cooper, who once covered politics for the Times Picayune, made the surprising revelation that he and other national journalists religiously read blogs for “local truth.” While the professional writers could not care less what local bloggers like Oyster and Loki have to say about the war in Iraq, they consider their observations on local issues, like the rebuilding of New Orleans, critically important in helping them write the story for a national audience.

dscf0300.JPGThe panel discussions that followed had a touch of self-aggrandizement, with the question of “Why hasn’t the mainstream media gotten the story right?” sounding a familiar theme. And the roundtable on local politics had some awkward moments, like when Shane Landry made the case for secession if Louisiana fails to receive its fair share of offshore oil royalties. Panelist Peggy Wilson, she of 773 votes, was innocuous for most of the discussion, but unfortunately had a Pavlovian response to a comment about Mitch Landrieu and went into one of her trademark rants. The tirade culminated in Dangerblond’s impassioned defense of the lieutenant governor and ultimately storming out of the room. Since Dangerblond helped organize the event, it’s pretty safe to say Wilson won’t be invited back next year.

Overall, the discussions were captivating, especially the conversation on the symbiotic relationship between old and new media.

The New Orleans blogging community, with its shared experience of one of the most tragic stories in American history, has reason to be proud of its contributions before, during, and after the storm. I’m certainly looking forward to next year’s Rising Tide, assuming this struggling city is still around to host it. Until then, I’ll work on telling the “local truth.”