Tuesday, May 21

A Place in the Sun for 'Blogs

Today's New York Sun devotes nearly an entire page (page 11 for those in the city) to two stories about 'blogs (or, in my preferred term, narcissites) and 'blogging.

The first, by Mathew Honan and entitled "The World According to Blogs, How to Create a Site of One's Own," begins by relating the story of Andrew Sullivan--who, after his martyrdom at the hands of the NYT Magazine, is surely now the patron saint of 'bloggers--and his turbulent attempt to straddle the worlds of professional journalism and 'blogging. The Mickey Kaus leap from amateur to professional, the success of Glenn Reynolds, and an obscure 'blog devoted to cat poetry are all also noted before the story shifts to a discussion about the degree to which 'blogging programs have made participation in the 'blogosphere accessible to even the most computer illiterate among us (yes, I mean me). Blogger is highly recommended for neophytes, as are Diarlyland.com, Pitas.com, and Userland.com. There is also a brief discussion of advanced 'blogging, including references to Greymatter and Movable Type. For those Sun readers who are also following Prof. Reynolds' leap from Blogger to MT, the experience is reminiscent of listening to airplane safety instructions while watching the stewardesses act them out for you.

The second article, "With a Blog Comes Great Responsibility" (which should have been called "With a Popular Blog Comes Great Responsibility"--withness the foolishness elsewhere on this page) by David Propson, is less of a "how to" piece, focusing rather on the power of what it calls "amateur journalists" (i.e. 'bloggers) to influence Google's search engine and the impact that the blogosphere can have on the dissemination of stories or opinions that are underreported in the mainstream press. The article uses the example of John Hiler and his transformation from "just another bespectacled, slightly balding 27-year-old geek" to nationally cited and sought author (cited by the Weekly Standard and solicited by Slate for a story) to demonstrate the power of a well-written 'blog to catapult a quotidian poster to the lofty (well, higher) status of a minor public figure. There is nothing in the story that would be earth-shattering news to anyone who has spent a month or so in this incestuous, virtual world, but the reactions that Mr. Hiler says that he has received from professional reporters are amusing. He reports, for example, getting "a series of semi-hysterical e-mails from journalists who want Weblogs to be regulated or monitored" (and you still say that there isn't leftist bias in the media?). This anecdote leads into a discussion of voluntary self-regulation in the blogosphere, with references to Mr. Hiler's own "blogger's code of ethics" and the ethical guidelines contained in Rebecca Blood's forthcoming "Bloggers Handbook." Again, nothing new to current 'bloggers but, if the mainstream press keeps up this level of reporting, we can expect a flood of company in the months ahead.