Tuesday, November 08, 2005

BLOGS: Blogs defined -- will they ever become vessels for journalism?


POSTED: Sat Nov 5 2005

Are blogs just web journals or a new form of journalism?


Kevin Federline, Britneys dancing ape of a husband, has once again become a
public laughing stock granting Tara Reid a nice sabbatical from the full-time job. The latest from K-ed: a couple of music tracks recorded by the dancer that,
apparently, not even Brit herself could digest with a straight face. The
album was leaked on the internet and, Stereogum,
a gossipy and savagely humorous music blog, had the skinny: a sample of Yall
aint ready, K-Feds first single.

Stereogum, with its sharp commentary, witty banter and exclusive (and often
illegal) content, is just one of the many
examples illustrating the rapid expansion and emerging influence of blogs.
According to Forbes online edition which,
incidentally, selected Stereogum as one of the best music blogs there are
currently over 14 million blogs online, and the
growth rate is that of about 1,200 per day.

Started as personal online journals think livejournal, xanga, myspace, xuqa,
etc. blogs (short for weblogs) have become
an influential medium, seeping into every aspect of society. There are blogs
dedicated to sophisticated albeit partisan
political discussions (www.tpmcafe.com). There are blogs dedicated
exclusively to puppetry (puppetvision.blogspot.com).
There are blogs for the literary-inclined (www.mediabistro.com/galleycat),
and there are blogs for those who just really
like kites (steadywinds.com). In fact, the blogospheres presence is such,
that the word blog officially made it to the
Oxford English Dictionary in 2003.

Though its defined as a frequently updated website or online journal
typically run by a single person, this is becoming
less and less the case as more blogs continue to cement their presence and
begin to rival other established forms of
media. While countless online blogs are essentially rubbish, a select number
have cultivated large followings and are
accomplishing the unexpected: generating revenue through advertising. Many
of these sites, like magazines and newspapers,
are currently run by a staff and even attract special contributors such as
Senator and former vice-presidential candidate
John Edwards. The latest example of the growing economic clout of the
blogosphere? America Online Inc.s recent purchase
of 85 blogging sites owned by Weblogs Inc. The deal, meant to boost AOLs
blog presence on the internet, is estimated at
$25 million.

Realizing the power of expression blogs offer to the public, large
newspapers and magazines across the country have and
continue to develop sections on their websites dedicated exclusively to this
feature. The Stranger, Seattles alternative
newspaper, has a specific forum, the SLOG, on which its staff members and
columnists post entries on a regular basis. The
Washington Post does something similar: though the papers website does not
have a blog section of its own, almost every
article is accompanied by links to numerous outside blogs discussing similar
or related topics.
The Stranger and The Posts move for integration reflects the growing
concern most traditional forms of media are
experiencing as blogs begin to compete for market share.

A blogs immediate nature, alongside the possibility of interactivity, make
it an attractive medium for those interested
in finding reactions to happenings of the day. Additionally, a blogs forum
style far less restrictive than most print
journals and newspapers can also play a significant role in attracting

Yet, while the lack of stylistic restrictions might make blogs attractive to
some people, their general lack of any sort
of regulation or set of guidelines brings up an important issue:
credibility. Unlike magazines, newspapers and other
sorts of media, blogs can present (in this case, post) any kind of
information, regardless of its veracity. With no ones
reputation on the line, bogus stories can easily emerge.

Distinguishing between the real and the concocted in blogs becomes almost
impossible, as Paul Ford, an editor for Harpers
Magazine, recently demonstrated. In an article in The New York Times, Ford
revealed himself to be the creator of Gary
Benchley, a fictitious character whose blog about a passionate desire to
join an indie rock band had attracted a large
number of readers. Many of these readers, including a Times editor who had
invited Benchley to consider writing for the
paper, had no idea Benchley was a fabrication of Ford.

In addition to issues of accuracy, blogs can and have easily become forums
for flagrant personal attacks and political

For better or worse, blogging functions in democratic fashion, allowing
everyone to voice their opinion and placing power
and authority once exclusive to the press into the hands of the general
public. Still in its infancy, it remains to be
seen whether blogging will develop into a new, more engaging form of
journalism with an immediate and (hopefully)
accurate feedback loop, or if it will just end up as another vehicle for
people to (justifiably) mock poor, dumb K-Fed.

Copyright © 2005-2006, The Flat Hat

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