Ever-changing role of blogs good for journalists and readers alike

25 Jan

Rachel Rowan
rrowan@ufl.edu

When I was about 13, I opened an account on Xanga.com. It was all the rage to “have a Xanga,” as my friends and I called it, because you could “friend” each other on the site and read each other’s posts. We thought it was the coolest of cool things to publish our words on the Internet where anyone — but especially our peers — could read them.

These days, I know that what I was really doing was blogging. Posting to Xanga, for me, was like posting my thoughts to a public journal where anyone could weigh in. This, I realize now, is exactly what it means to have a personal blog: It is an avenue through which people can deliver their thoughts and, in theory, instantaneously share them with an audience of active listeners.

Personal blogs by no means define all blogs, however. It is incredible to me to see how much the game has changed for blogging in only the last couple years. The development of news blogs and blogs connected to well-known publications has given the concept of “web-native” Internet publishing a little street cred in the world of media. Instead of waving off blogs as something people use to rant about anything and everything to the Internet at large, news organizations have realized the power of blogs to fulfill niche-specific news needs. Andrew Phelps of the Nieman Journalism Lab describes how bloggers can cover specific aspects of a community, citing blogs such as The Empire, which covers only New York state politics. Bloggers can also interact with readers within these communities via comment threads, creating a feedback loop that can produce more story ideas in the future and also provide bloggers with sources for stories.

Blogs are constantly evolving to fit the needs of their users. A few years ago, what constituted a proper blog post was not clearly defined. Advice on how much and how often to post seemed to indicate there would eventually be a standard that all blogs would follow, much like the media follows AP style. However, as the concept of blogging has evolved, this has not proven true; I would argue there are as many different styles of blogging as there are bloggers. There doesn’t seem to be a formula for posting in terms of length, content and style that works for every blog across the board. News blogs have had to adapt to this free-for-all medium, and bloggers have learned from earlier efforts what works and what doesn’t.

So, what is a blog? Is it merely a text box with a publish-to-the-world option that allows all kinds of user-generated, unedited content? Is it a tool that is creating a new kind of news-cycle reciprocation for journalists and their readers? I think it’s all of the above, and blogs could prove to be something else entirely in only a few years. The “adapt-or-die” nature of the Internet and its ever-changing tools practically requires that it must.

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One Response to “Ever-changing role of blogs good for journalists and readers alike”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers January 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Well written/edited. And a good example of writing without reference “to assigned readings” – and nice job of aggregation. I want everyone to work more on this aggregating skill – it combines with your writing and editing skills.

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