The growing importance of blogs By Terrell Ward Bynum

Three or four years ago, there was no such thing as a “blog;” but today blogs have become very influential components of the Internet, and their importance is growing exponentially. The word “blog” is a shortened form of “web log,” and it stands for a web site that keeps a log (much like a diary) of people’s thoughts, their actions, and their reactions to other people’s thoughts and actions. Today, there are millions of blogs on the Internet.

Some blogs are personal logs which record a single person’s thoughts, activities and reactions. These can be very influential if the persons who create them are interesting personalities with important or provocative things to say. Personal blogs can be effective means for people to promote themselves and their pet interests; and some people find them to be psychologically fulfilling tools for self expression.

Blogs also can be used as tools for creating on-line communities of people interested in the same subjects – or in each other. On such a “blogsite,” any number of people can describe their thoughts, activities and reactions, and thereby share them with others who participate on the blogsite with them. Since blogs are normally publicly available web sites, some people can simply read them without contributing any thoughts or materials of their own. These are called “lurkers,” and they often outnumber the active “bloggers” who contribute to the blogsite.

During the 2004 United States presidential election, Gov. Howard Dean was the first presidential candidate to make very effective political use of a blog devoted to his campaign. Bloggers from all across America flocked to his blogsite, making comments, volunteering to help with his campaign, contributing money to his cause. Dean surprised himself and all his political opponents by raising over 50 million dollars and becoming the Democratic front runner until the primary elections were held.

During the regular presidential campaign, both the Democrats and the Republicans had popular blogsites; and both parties raised many millions of dollars through them. Their blogs also inspired a strong “grass-roots” movement with tens of thousands of volunteers to help with all the campaign jobs.

During the past two years, some blogs have become “news sources,” publishing stories like newspapers, radio stations and TV stations. Some of these blogs are very partisan, publishing highly “slanted” stories as if they were genuine news. People working for these blogs began to call themselves “reporters,” and some were even allowed into the White House Newsroom with nationally known reporters from the major networks.

In March of 2005, national newspapers carried stories about some California bloggers who had “leaked” to the public some of the trade secrets of the Apple Computer Company. Apple took the bloggers to court to force them to reveal who had stolen Apple’s secret business plans, but the bloggers claimed to be reporters protected by the California “shield law” for reporters. The California court system is currently dealing with the explosive question of whether all bloggers should be considered reporters who are protected by the California shield law. If so, thousands of people in California alone could potentially be granted the status of reporters who do not have to reveal their sources. This could have devastating effects upon freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and privacy! “Stay tuned” to this important story by reading your favorite newspapers, watching your favorite TV networks – or signing onto your favorite blogsites!
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