I’ve got class

Today I taught a class on blogging to grad students in Comm. 144: Communication & Information Technologies at UNC. Here are my rough notes from the discussion.


what makes a blog? how is it different than other web pages?

  1. first-person voice
    blogs increasingly have more credibility than the MSM because they are more authentic and believeable.
  2. community dialogue
    either through comments on the blog, or discussion between blogs
  3. archive & permalinks
    archives by date and sometimes by category or by author as well. permalinks allow others to refer directly to a specific post, encourages inter-blog dialog.
  4. database back-end
    this may be the least important, but is essential to emerging tools like aggregators that use syndicated content


history of blogging

(blogging 101)

  • personal publishing in mid-90s. Justin Hall’s homepage
  • blog software started in the late 90s
  • mostly personal at first:
    1. personal journaling
    2. geeks geeking out
  • growing in popularity around 00/01. exploring new uses like photos, family/social updates, specialty topics.
  • Dean campaign in 03 -> explosion in popularity especially in politics.
  • now: growing role as media and government watchdogs. MSM losing credibility.


current uses and future potential

  • journalists vs. bloggers (where does “jeff gannon” fit in?)
  • journalists AS bloggers, see Greensboro News & record
  • blogging integrated with other social tools like friendster (which is apparently like the face book, news to me!)
  • moblogs, photo blogs
  • syndicated feeds (RSS and atom)


does it matter?

4 thoughts on “I’ve got class

  1. Isn’t the statement that “blogs increasingly have more credibility than the MSM because they are more authentic and believeable” somewhat circular? (i.e. Credibility = believability?)

    I point this out not to be pedantic or overly critical, but because I’m trying to thrash out for myself exactly where blogs do excel at things the MSM does not. Until I started blogging myself I was totally dismissive of any and all claims that blogs are somehow more “authentic” than the MSM. Now I’m not so sure (i.e. I don’t entirely disagree with you!).

    But I also sometimes think that the hyper-skepticism about MSM in the United States is a reflection less of anything inherent to newspapers or television news, than a reflection of a specifically American situation: crappy-ass cable channels, newspapers increasingly owned by large chains, a news industry so scared of being cast as the “liberal media” that it sometimes bends over backwards to be the opposite. Or, to quote the Guardian’s cartoonist Steve Bell on the New York Times, “it wouldn’t say boo to a goose.”

    In short, I hate MSNBC but love the BBC. Why? Higher journalistic standards, no corporate dominance, and generally a good dose of independence from the British government (i.e. Thatcher thought it was Pravda). The New York Times makes me mental, but I love the Guardian (when it isn’t being self-congratulatory about how left-wing it is) because it *will* say boo to a goose. And I love Wonkette because she’ll tell said goose to go fuck itself. And she also connects dots that others aren’t connecting.

    I’m not sure there’s a simple blog vs. MSM dichotomy. There are crap blogs and crap newspapers, and great examples of both.

  2. It definitely isn’t so simple as blogs = good & credible / MSM = bad & lying.

    My point is more that the first person voice is more believable than the detached faux objectivism of the MSM. The first person is what blogs are good at. Objectivism (or the appearance of it) is what the old media used to be good at. It seems like commercialism and general toadyism have got the old media cowed to point where they don’t even believe themselves most of the time.

  3. Point taken, sort of. In a way, though, I think that’s where the European press comes off a little better: having newspapers explicitly aligned with political positions (or indeed parties) at least makes all of this overt. Liberation is obviously a lefty paper, the Daily Telegraph obviously right-wing (in fact Thatcher used to summon its editor to meet with her on a regular basis). I do think the MSM will always be able to do things bloggers can’t, just by virtue of having, say, a large budget for investigative reporting, lawyers, etc. And the ethic of good reporting as taught in decent journalism schools is a wonderful thing. The trick is to see it manifest itself in practice… And at its worst, the use of the first person in blogs creates writing riddled with emotives. Which doesn’t make for anything inherently more believable than pretend objectivity.

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