Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Blogging Phenomenon

A year ago, I had no idea what a blog was. At the moment, I can't recall exactly when I first read one, although I'm reasonably certain that a Google search for some bit of political information was what first brought me into contact with either Kevin Drum's Calpundit (Drum now blogs on Washington Monthly's web site) or Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. While in Italy last year, I began to add these and other web logs--including Legal Fiction and Warblogging--to my daily diet of news and commentary. (In Italy, the current events reading was always anchored by the print editions of the International Herald Tribune and La Repubblica, along with the online version of the New York Times. Now it's the online versions of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, although I'm trying to throw some foreign papers into the mix on a regular basis.)

A year ago, the bloggers I read were writing a lot about the mainstream media. They still are. Now mainstream journalists are beginning to write a lot about bloggers. Tomorrow's New York Times Magazine includes a feature story on political blogging.

According to the story, two million Americans have a blog. (My own research indicates that most are not as good as mine. On the other hand, that same research suggests that my blog has fewer photos of cats doing stupid things than the average blog.) It also says that James Rubin, John Kerry's right-hand man on foreign policy, claims to read blogs daily. Rubin didn't say which ones, so I don't guess we can tell whether he's very well informed or just someone who likes to see photos of cats doing stupid things.

It's probably premature to say that blogging has changed journalism--or politics--but it might not be premature by much. It's probably also premature to say that blogging has changed my classes--or even my approach to teaching--but that, too, might not be premature by much. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the blogging phenomenon.

Finally, for more information on the effect of the Internet on many different aspects of life, including politics, take a look at the studies done by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The polls conducted by the Project tell us most of what we know today about who's doing what online.