Although they have existed in several forms for many years, 2004 was a breakthrough year for the blog.
If accepted language is the hallmark of legitimate culture, being named Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Year” in 2004 signified the blog’s stature in the modern world.
Since then, it has become commonplace for corporations and traditional news outlets to have regularly updated content kept up by staff writers, public relations teams or even mercenary bloggers.
Blogging also became a major part of political campaigns in 2004, with the presidential election being the prime event that inspired candidates, pundits and ordinary citizens alike to chronicle their every thought and activity on the campaign trail.
For anyone hoping that the blog is just a passing trend, don’t expect the proliferation of blogs to plateau anytime soon.
“I can’t see it really calming down at all,” said Brad Maule, editor of the Web site Philly Skyline. “This is technology. This is how we live.”
Unfortunately, not all blogs are created equal. Take Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s, for example, which featured live updates of last Wednesday’s Republican debate.
Does the public really need to know that a campaigner was drinking Diet Coke exactly nine minutes before the 8 p.m broadcast? Or that at 7:56 p.m., there were “four minutes to go” until the debate started?
Herein demonstrates one of the downfalls of blogging. Somewhere along the line, this information was deemed relevant and necessary for publication, either from a higher staff member or, more likely, just the writer himself.
The absence of traditional gatekeepers, such as editors and publishers, has resulted in an unfortunate blending of useless information and thoughtful commentary, which, in a perfect world, should be separate.
Much of blog content consists of links to outside news articles and video footage followed by the writer’s spin on the story. Blogs that follow this format are no more useful than overhearing snarky comments from strangers in a movie theater.
This lack of filtering can also be liberating. Blogs that use original reporting for their content have the freedom to explore stories that audiences find interesting but that wouldn’t otherwise be covered by the mainstream media.
“One of the reasons I developed my site was for original content,” said Maule, whose site covers construction projects and neighborhood development throughout Philadelphia.
The absence of filters is a double-edged sword, though. Blogs, like any publishing medium, operate under the assumption that what is published matters and should be read by its intended audience. Finding unique content, however, is difficult.
“The people who know what they’re doing – I don’t think they’ll fade away,” Maule said. “Some of them get it, some of them don’t.”
For the bloggers who don’t quite get it, please think before you post. Some things are meant to be kept quiet. That means you, Mike Huckabee.
Brian Krier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org