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September 16, 2009

VT Blogger Named One of 50 Most Influential Commentators

Steve Benen, the Vermont-based "blogger in chief" for the Washington Monthly has been named one of the 50 most influential opinion makers by the Atlantic Wire.

Steve_benenBenen comes in at No. 44, just one slot up from CNN's grumpy angry white guy Lou Dobbs. At the top of list is New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Other big names on the list include the likes of Rush Limbaugh (2), Glenn Beck (7), Rachel Maddow (14) and Bill Moyers (32).

The Wire's "Atlantic 50" is a who's who of bloggers, journalists, TV hosts, columnists and former politicians who regularly grace the nation's leading talk shows, newspapers, websites and cable news channels.

Before coming to the Washington Monthly to pen Political Animal, Benen was the longtime author of The Carpetbagger Report. He closed down that blog in August 2008.

Of the major cable news shows, Benen is a regular guest on the popular MSNBC show "The Rachel Maddow Show".

To come up with this group, the Atlantic used a fairly extensive methodology. The editors identified roughly 400 possible candidates and then surveyed 250 Washington insiders to rank the individuals. From there, the editors hired an outside consultant to measure each commentator's "webiness." In other words, how do they rank on key social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Digg and Delicious.

Cathy Resmer, Seven Days' Online Editor and Associate Publisher, profiled Benen back in 2006, when he was a rising star in the political blogosphere.

Here's him in 2006, explaining the secret to his success:

He admits his Washington background has been helpful in interpreting the news, but he downplays its importance. Really, he says, his success comes from a lot of hard work. He reads nine newspapers a day — all online — plus half a dozen magazines and countless blogs.

He synthesizes all that information into an average of 10 posts a day on weekdays — more than 5000 words on September 22 alone. And that's just on "Carpetbagger." Add that to all of his other assignments and you've got a staggering workload; Benen puts in at least 12 hours a day Monday through Friday and another several hours over the weekend.

"This is not a hobby," he explains. "This is not just a fun little thing on the side where I can share my opinions. I feel like this is more of a professional project."

Indeed. Benen himself graced the pages of Seven Days in 2007, penning an installment of "Outside Track" — an occasional column that appeared whenever longtime political columnist Peter Freyne's "Inside Track" was on vacay.

Well, now we can say — we knew him when.

Congrats, Steve.

File photo by Matthew Thorsen.

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