The Blogging World
BY MIKE McILVAIN
Blog isn't a misspelling of something else - it's a correct word and cyberspace's numerous blogs are a growing force in media and politics.
Blogs are a new generation of Web sites, which individuals upgrade on a whim, or instant of inspiration. All it takes is something to say and a cooperative computer to add it to your blog, or you can add something through comments on someone else's blog.
That doesn't always mean information on blogs is accúrate. Sometimes it's way off, but the many individual bloggers are recognized by vote-seeking politicians as a power they must address.
June's YearlyKos 2006 Convention in Las Vegas brought out ambitious Democratic politicians with eyes on the White House.
New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney summed up the relationship in a June 10 story from the convention.
“And right behind them was a parade of prospective Democratic presidencial candidates and party leaders, their presence a tribute to just how much and often rowdy voices of the Web have been absorbed into the very political process they frequently disdain,” he wrote.
Nagourney's story added that the bloggers are well on their way to becoming part of the American political establishment, noting that Democrats appear much more blog-aware than Republicans.
Blog awareness stems from its ability to press certain buttons in the public's mind more effectively than other media.
What bloggers say
Austin-based Laredoan Sean Claes,33, has covered the capital city's entertainment scene for 10 years and stays busy as managing editor of Insite Magazine there and serves as music editor of San Antonio's Iungo Arts Magazine, but still finds time to be logging online from his beats and freelance contacts.
“A personal blog, like the one I have, is a way for someone to share one's passion for writing, be it in a diary or journal or to publish ideas and thoughts. Since I'm a freelance writer and photographer, I usually take advantage of my blog to share press release information I think is interesting, stories I've written and photos I've taken. There are blogs dedicated to just about anything from origami swan-making to fans of metal band Slayer,” Claes says in e-mail from Austin. “A blog can also be a really strong public relations element. I think people are just starting to understand the power of blogging. Magazines are blogging to get timely information out in between printed issues.
“Newspapers now have a way of sharing information on an up-to-second format. Record companies can "leak" some new music and cause a stir. Online communities like MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster all have a great blog aspect to them.
The world and all of it's intelligent, helpful, arrogant, and ignorant people are now there in plain text at the push of a button.”
Solana Larsen, in New York City, agrees, seeing those specialized sites make the biggest difference in blogging's growth.
“Many of the most popular blogs cater for a niche audience:
technology, cooking, music, house rebuilding, local content, or confessional sites where the prostitute or soldier tells the world what they're up to,” writes Larsen.
Larsen is a blogger and editor with OpenDemocracy.com, a London-based online forum and information bank focusing on democracy and its related issues.
Serious blogging is loaded with and all about points of contention, emotion and society's problems.
Without coming from a recognized mainstream news face, or media name, or slanted through any media corporation politics.
“Blogs are a great new media that allows the average Joe the ability to feel as if he's on equal authority and equal footing as the traditional media,” writes Waxahachie Daily Light reporter and blogger Jonathan Blundell. “One problem I've seen though is more people rant and rave about issues without ever fully investigating them themselves. I've done it too.
“Real journalists call to verify information, bloggers typically don't.
The great thing is that you can get an opinion on anything and everything from around the world with blogs. You might find a soldier in Afghanistan writing about his time there, or a
peace corps volunteer from Uganda.”
Some have, some lack
A little farther north in Dallas, D Magazine's Tim Rogers believes he sees why some newspapers allow their journalists to have blogs attached to the paper's Web site and why some don't.
“My guess: newspapers are big, old, and slow. They have a hard time adapting. Too, I think some papers fear giving their writers unfiltered access to their readers. Then there are folks like business columnist Mitch Schnurmann at the Star-Telegram, who used to run a fine blog. But he up and quit because it was taking too much time,” Rogers said by e-mail. “Those folks have news holes to fill. Filling holes takes time. Blogging can interfere with that.”
Rogers understands, also, why insecure management at some newspapers are reluctant to embrace this new journalism.
Bloggers need newspapers even less than they did before -- if they ever did.
“I think they're changing the way journalism gets done. No question. Mostly because now any smart person with a computer can essentially start up his own news organization,” Rogers said. “Some of the most influential blogs in the country are run by people who don't have traditional newspaper/journalism
Your news might not be mine
Like many bloggers, however, non-journalist Nathan Nance, of McGregor, isn't simply all about the news. This one is personal.
Nance can blame, or credit a girlfriend for helping to get his blogging career underway.
“”I just started blogging because a girl I was seeing at the time had her own conservative blog. I had to one up her somehow, so I started doing my own. I would have come to it eventually anyway, though. I really saw it as a way to publish my own thoughts and opinions, something I had been trying to do unsuccessfully by submitting columns to the local paper and being rejected,” Nance writes.
Like many bigtime bloggers, Nance's hobby has become much more than that, providing a more serious stimulation than any boring day-to-day job provides. Blogging takes up much of his thought.
“I spend almost every waking minute thinking about the blog and what I can do with it. It used to be about me, now it is more about my readers. I go see movies and write reviews for the blog. I used to be content to wait a few weeks before I saw a new release, but now I'll go to opening night just so I can get my reviews up earlier. I'm also reading Ann Coulter's latest book, not because I want to, but because a few readers expressed that they wanted to read my review of it,” he said. “My life is now centered around blogging and I'm convinced the secret to success is to take it to that all or nothing stage.”
Readers, or fans, are a prime spark in Nance's day, but he hasn't left himself behind. Nance draws inner strength from his blog.
“In almost the same way an exhibitionist seeks attention, I write about my own life,” he says by e-mail. “Imagine things you would write in a diary or a journal, now imagine writing them on a blog for anyone with an Internet connection to read. I've gotten into more than a little trouble with my close friends because I write about what we do and how I feel without thinking. I endeavor to literally have no secrets from my readers. I think I'm at my best blogging when I take my thinking cap off and put on my feeling cap. When I write passionately from the heart, my readers feel connected to me and I feel connected to them, even though I'll never meet or know most of them.”
Nance and his blogging was featured in a related article in Texas Monthly last year.
The Uncooperative Blogger, Brian Bonner, writes largely about immigration issues from his home in Basin, Montana.
Bonner notes that blogging's personal side is important and he is far from being alone.
“Personal satisfaction? Hmm. Well, the ability to participate in the political process in a somewhat meaningful way. To be able to help form peoples' opinions and the way they look at the issues,” Bonner says. “My wife got me into it, because she was sick of me ranting at her. She thought it would give me an outlet. She had no idea what she started! LOL!”
LOL is short for laughing out loud, a universal online short for the term. A little humor is a good thing to have in all that serious blogging, too.
Note: Anyone interested in starting a blog can do so by online to www.blogspot.com, or blogger.com, http://www.sixapart.com/typepad/start or http://www.writingup.com/. Some blog services charge, but most are free and some people make money through advertisements on their blogs.
Ad salesman Michael Robinson, of Temple, has three blogs and isn't out to set the world on fire, but finds plenty of personal comfort in blogging.
“I like to write, but I also like to have some structure when I write. There are many blogs out where people write about anything and everything. For me, I like the framework of subject specific blogs,” Robinson wrote. “I didn't start out with three blogs. I started out with my religion/faith blog which I have had for several years now. I have used it to record my thoughts and experiences along my Christian faith journey. It has also been a way for me to share my faith with others.
“My second blog is more of a commentary blog about current events, human behavior and ethics in society. When I wrote a column for a local community newspaper, I used it as a way of posting my columns on-line. When I changed jobs, I stopped writing for the newspaper, but I have kept the blog as a venue for my thoughts and commentary.”
Robinson's third blog is for photos.
“I like photography and keep a camera in the car all the time,” he said. “If I see something interesting or travel to a different part of Central Texas, I take a picture and upload it to my blog. I also write a short commentary about each photos I take.”
http://www.glimpsingmoments.blogspot.com - my photo blog
http://www.decloaked.blogspot.com - my spiritual/religious blog
http://www.soaringwitheagles.blogspot.com -my commentary blog
Note: This story stems from, and strongly resembles, the story which is published in the June edition of LareDOS in Laredo, Texas. A monthly publication under the guidance of Meg Guerra -- a very fine journalist if there ever was one.