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ISSUE 118 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/8/2005

Personal media multiplies

By Stephanie Soucheray
Variety Editor


Friday, April 8, 2005

From the mundane to the newsworthy, Weblogs, or “blogs,” are powerful communication tools of the 21st century. Used by Washington insiders and college students alike, blogs are now a consuming media that have risen to popularity in less than a decade.

The “blogging revolution” allows anyone to create a personalized editorial space on the information superhighway. Starting a blog is free, easy and convenient, and many websites including xanga.com, livejournal.com and blogger.com help novices set up their own blogs. Thus, the beauty and curse of these online journals is that anyone can write whatever they want and post it for millions to see.

Many students use blogs to create a personal space for posting their thoughts, photos and daily insights. “Although I used to blog more, I blog because it’s a way of letting my friends at other schools know what is going on in my life in a convenient manner,” Cate Redman ‘07 said. A blogger since coming to St. Olaf last year, Redman uses her blog as a communication tool.

In a Chicago Tribune article published on April 2, author Kate Shatzkin said, “Teen blogs offer insight into feelings about life.” This sentiment echoes some of Redman’s reasons for blogging. As a communication tool, blogs are handy and appropriate for the “wired” generation. But often, blogs can become dramatically personal. Recently, Shatzkin pointed out, Red Lake shooter Jeff Weise wrote about his violent feelings in an eerie way on various blogs.

Blogs are not simply vehicles for the technology-savvy college student or the over-emotive teen. Some blogs have enjoyed real fame and credibility by breaking news stories at lightning speed. The details of Operation Iraqi Freedom and inside scoops from this summer’s Democratic and Republican national conventions were all leaked to the public and traditional media spaces (newspapers, radio, television) from the almost yellow journalism of professional bloggers

Technorati, an Internet search engine, estimates that a new blog is created every 7.4 seconds. Some of these blogs have become weapons of mass destruction for political parties, who have capitalized on this growing trend of “personalized” journalism.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean reportedly hired two bloggers, neither of whom was a public relations professional or a weathered journalist, when he wanted to jump -start his 2004 presidential campaign.

Professional political bloggers like to consider themselves the “untainted voice of media truth.” However, their scope may not be as far-reaching as many would like to think. The Pew Internet and American Life Project estimates that 62 percent of Americans don’t know what blogs are. Also, those who read political blogs should know that they need to take any information with a grain of salt.

As computer-literate generations long for more ways to stay in touch with friends and family, and the world also craves constant current news, blogs will be a formidable presence in Internet geography for years to come.





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