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News from the Blogosphere

12 September, 2007
By Allison Orr

There have been several interesting news items recently on what has become known as the "blogosphere".

An article in the Washington Post has raised the issue of limited diversity in the blogging community.  While the blogosphere is hailed as an alternative to the mainstream and a means of letting "little people" bypass the gatekeepers of big media, according to this article, the YearlyKos bloggers convention was "a sea of middle-aged white males."

As mentioned in the article, the blogging community is informal, friendly,without any leaders and generally regards itself as inclusive and participatory.  "I think it's important to note this really is democracy in action," said Markos Moulitsas, founder of DailyKos.  However, diversity in terms of gender, socioeconomics, education and ethnicity is apparently lacking.  Indeed many of the women who were present at the convention admitted that they had suffered harassment online when discussing certain issues.

An article in the International Herald Tribune took up this issue of cyberbullying, noting that some blog sites have even stopped accepting anonymous comments because of the abusive nature of some of the content.  In South Korea a new law that took effect in July requires bloggers who participate in online forums hosted by large web portals to enter their resident registration number.  This came after several Korean celebrities who had been attacked in online forums committed suicide.  These actions are seen by many bloggers as a limit on free speech, with anonymity being vital for candid commentary, especially in countries where the media is tightly controlled.

Tim O‚ÄôReilly has suggested a draft Blogging Code of Conduct, which he hopes would limit anonymous and defamatory comments.

In evidence of just how far the phenomenon of blogging has come, there have been several articles in Australia recently discussing the links between blogging and the mainstream media and their increasingly symbiotic relationship.

Margaret Simons, in Creative Economy, describes how a mainstream newspaper went head-to-head with the blogging community in Australia, and "seemed to have confirmed and increased the impact of political blogging, even in the act of dismissing it as the work of self-appointed amateurs."  She points out that the blogosphere in Australia does not have the clout of its US counterpart, but believes it is changing and that "This year's federal election will be the first in which mainstream newspapers have lost their near monopoly on analysis and comment."   She also quotes from Denis Muller from Crikey who says that "Though small in number, (the bloggers) exert new accountability on the media and pollsters alike, providing a concrete example of how the Net is democratising the media, if in a small and limited way."

According to Canadian blogger Cory Doctorow, newspapers should embrace bloggers as their "best friends" and welcome the vast amount of opinion now available on the Internet.  As reported in The Australian, Doctorow believes that newspapers who rely more heavily on citizen journalists will have a greater chance of surviving the 21st century.

In the US media environment, the role of political bloggers as part of the media has been confirmed by the US Federal Election Commission (FEC).  A complaint was filed in August by conservative a blogger, who argued that the DailyKos blog amounted to free advertising and media services for progressive candidates.  The FEC rejected allegations that the site should be regulated as a political committee and determined that the website should be regarded as media.

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