Blogs and Your Thanksgiving Week Assignment

How do you define a blog?

I’ve heard numerous definitions, including these given a few years back by blogger-journalists participating in a national Online News Association conference in Berkeley, Calif.:

• “It’s a template with dynamic content, updated frequently, with links. It doesn’t have to be commentary.”—Denise Polverine, editor in chief of www.Cleveland.com, which started several Weblogs in spring 2003
• “It’s a new form of journalism. It’s irreverent, it’s not in the authoritarian male voice … and transparency is important.” --Sheila Lennon, who writes a blog on www.projo.com
• “Blogging is a conversation…” –Jeff Jarvis, president and creative director of Advance.net

Others have tried to define it in writing:

“Call it participatory journalism or journalism from the edges. Simply put, it refers to individuals playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, sorting, analyzing and disseminating news and information—a task once reserved almost exclusively to the news media”; and “an emerging new media ecosystem—a network of ideas.”-- J.D. Lasica, senior editor of OJR, writing in the fall 2003 Nieman Reports

“It should be obvious that Weblogs aren’t competing with the work of the professional journalism establishment, but rather complementing it.”—Managing Editor Scott Rosenberg writing in Salon in 2002.

Many would agree: blogs are updated often, from the top down; they include reader comments and questions; they include links to documents or stories; they can build a nongeographic community based on interests, or a geographic community based on shared locale; they are sometimes reported, but often simply commentary or roundups based on others' reporting; they are sometimes but not always written with attitude and edge.

Who’s doing it?

Leslie Walker, who until late-summer 2006 wrote a dot.com column for The Washington Post, reported that free blogging tools have been available since 1999, but they didn’t catch on in a big way until the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. She quoted Evan Williams, chief executive of one of the earliest tools — blogger.com — saying that site had more than a million registered users in early 2003.

Technorati, which allows users to search for blogs (www.technoratic.com), was tracking about 113 million sites as of November 2007.

Teens are turning to blogging in a big way: A November 2005 Pew Internet & American Life Project study reported that 4 million youths between the ages of 12 and 17 had made a Web log--or 19 percent of teen Internet users.

But Web logs have also played an important role in emerging democracies.

Jeff Jarvis estimated, for instance, that in 2003 there were about 100,000 Weblogs in Iran. He said: “Countries without free speech are finding free speech in Weblogs.”

Are there negatives to blogging?

Tom Regan, associate editor of csmonitor.com, wrote in the fall 2003 Nieman Reports: “In the eyes of many journalists, blogs are poorly written, self-absorbed, hyper-opinionated, and done by amateurs.”

Some have called the nonjournalists who sometimes write them a threat to the gatekeeper role that news organizations have held.

On the flip side, supporters have argued: “They introduce fresh voices into the national discourse on various topics and help build communities of interest through their collection of links.”—Walter Mossberg writing in the Wall Street Journal in March 2003.

On a personal note: Friends and students have found they are a good way to stay in touch with friends and family, while traveling or studying abroad.

Bloggers’ Influence

And, of course, lots of political stories have been influenced by bloggers. Among them:

• Then-Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott’s comments in 2002 about how the country would have been better off had it elected segregationist presidential candidate Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1948 eventually cost him his leadership post. Initially, the mainstream media ignored the comments, which Lott made at a birthday party for Thurmond. But bloggers kept the story alive, and Lott stepped down as minority leader.
• During the last presidential election, bloggers questioned the credibility of CBS News Anchor Dan Rather’s September 2004 piece, which alleged President Bush had used influence to evade the draft and join the Texas National Guard. Bloggers raised the possibility that the documents Rather and his producers built the story around had been forged; Rather later resigned the anchor job.

In addition, blogs come in handy in times of crisis. Citizen reporters and bloggers helped the Times Picayune in New Orleans to report on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in fall of 2005.

Getting Started

A few commonly used blogging publishing tools:

 www.blogger.com (you're on it!)
 www.wordpress.org
 www.xanga.com
 www.livejournal.com (for blogging and social networking)
 www.MySpace.com (for blogging and social networking)

For your assignment this week:

Read the published readings attached to your syllabus for this week (week 13):

Check out four well-established blogs, for content and interactivity:


Buzz Machine

E-Media Tidbits


Plus one blog of your choosing. (If you don't have one you view regularly, check out technorati.com.)

For each of the five blogs, answer these questions in a Word doc. Give just a couple of paragraphs per blog:

1. Is this a reported blog, an opinion/commentary blog, an author’s journal, a news roundup, or something else entirely?
2. How good is the content?
3. How easy is it to navigate and find archival entries?
4. How well does it encourage reader interaction?
5. How could the blog be improved?

E-mail me your responses by Monday, Nov. 26, 1 p.m.

That's it!

Please read my note (below) on your final paper site selections.

And watch the class blog this week for details on our trip to a Web newsroom Nov. 28.

Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

amber said...

This blog is a news round-up; however it should not be confused with providing any sort of factual information as a news source. It does collect data from various current events but in large part the content is gossip based upon first view of the stories published on the site. Good in relation to this site and blogs in general is a relative term. The content on this site is not initially accurate and it appears slanderous. There is limited validity in the statements and there is reasonable cause for concern about the site from the readings. According to the assigned "Blogging and Ethics" reading the owner of the Wonkette site placed both humor and immediacy over accuracy. In terms of accuracy the blog is not good but in humor and immediacy it may or may not be relatively good.
The site is easy to navigate. It allows the user to click on various hyperlinks and the site is in large part very user friendly as far as general use ability. The blog does encourage reader interaction because it has a sign in and log in area at the top of the page. The location of those features can be very important because they can be the first thing a user sees. Because of the placement users see that they have to option to participator contribute if they choose to. In general for what the blog is it works very well. Perhaps it would be more entertaining if there was n audio feature added to the site but it is basically a gossip site about politics and current eventand for that purpose it works well. The major thing it could do to be better would be to include accurate information in all of its stories.

Buzz Machine
This blog appears to be a commentary/opinion space. It appears
that contributors can add their opinions about several different
issues. The content of the blog is fair but again the page is opinion based
so the information is only as "good" and as clear as the blogger makes
it .
The page seems fairly easy to navigate. There are hyperlinks in
the text which allow the user to gain more information on the topic being written about (if the blogger provides that information). The site also included pictures which helped the stories top be more animated. The site was also very clear about how to find archived entries as well as month and year categories of the posted blogs. In my opinion, this blog does not promote reader interaction as well as it could. I had a bit of difficulty finding a log-in space. The Wonkette site did a better job at promoting interaction in comparison. The site's functionality was very good. The only thing that may improve the site is its entertainment value. Perhaps if the background were a different color, audio capabilities and more graphics may help the site to appear more visually engaging.

E-Media Tidbits
This site appears to be a reporter blog as well as an opinion
blog. While the information presented appears to have some degree of
validity unlike the Wonkette site there is still an obvious amount of
published opinion ( but that is the nature of blogging).
The site in my opinion, is very good. It is very clean and clear
there is a good use of space. The content is placed so that it is not
confusing to me as a viewer and I think that each aspect of the site
is very accessible.
In my opinion this site is extremely easy to navigate. Again the
placement of the stories and content including pictures works very well with the space provided. Also there are categories along the right of the page to help navigate archived information. The site does a good job at promoting viewer feedback. There is a location at the bottom of each story that enables views to add comments, email the story and view previous comments. The ease at which these options are available to the user are also very important in usability of the site. The Poynter E-MediaTidbits site has done an excellent job with the use of its space and its general presentation of the site. My only suggestion would be that the menu along the side of the page could extend farther down the page so users do not have to scroll back to the top for searched information.

This site is a news round up blog. The placement and format of this site is done very well. It is not confusing and the space is utilized well. Much of my criticism of this site is the same as the previous Poynter site. The major difference between the two sites is thecontent. The former is more liberal in the opinions posted. But similarly to the E-Media Tidbits site the site is construct the same way and it is very clean, clear and easy to navigate.
Again this site did a very good job at promoting viewer feedback
because it used the same tactics as the previously noted blog. The
ability to quickly and easy access viewer feedback and comment spaces
is very important in addressing viewer feedback.
My suggestion for this site is the same as in the previous site,
if the menu extended farther down the page it would prevent the user
from having to scroll to the top of the page.

Personal Choice Blog

This blog is opinion site but it is in the form of poetry. It provides access to an individual’s reflection of their personal feelings.
The location of the information is easily visible and accessible. The format of the site is very open and the information is visible and available.
The set-up of the website is open and available. It is also easy to find the information that is archived because there is a bar along the side of the page that lists out when the published information was posted on the site.
The blog does a good job at promoting viewer feedback. There is a space at the bottom of each post which allows viewers to post their comments. The only issue with this site is that there could be more of an active promotion of feedback, however I believe the site is more like an open diary so it may not require much feedback.
I believe the information and layout was done very well. The background compliments the content of the post. The background of the page does not take away from the content but it allows it all to be easily viewed by the user. My only suggestion would be for pictures to be included on the blog because it may help the site to appear more animated