What is this?

The modern news consumer ignores Weblogs and online citizen journalism at his own peril.  But not everyone has the time to keep track of what's going on the Web.  With this blog we hope to track the highlights of what's being discussed online so when news breaks from the Web, we're ready.

Who the heck is Will?

Will Femia is a Weblog enthusiast who, through good fortune and dumb luck, was introduced to the form as his position as chat producer for MSNBC.com careered into obsolescence.  On any given day, Will can be found having already spent an unhealthy amount of time squinting at a computer screen.

Where do you get the links?

My first turn is on the major blog indices like Blogdex, Daypop and BlogsNow.  After that I pass through some of the A-List bloggers whose readership is high enough that even if what they're linking to isn't on a "most-linked" list, chances are good a lot of people are thinking about it. 

The idea that all of the Internet could be read, processed and highlighted here is, of course, ridiculous.  I hope to be able to turn to reader submissions to fill in some of the holes I'll no doubt leave.

One lesson I learned from past blogspotting is that blogs form natural echo chambers.  Bloggers link to the people they like to read.  Friendships form, common interests are explored -all part of what makes Weblogs such a great social and networking tool.  The problem for the blog reader is that it's easy to get stuck in a rut as members of blog cliques refer to each other, leading the reader in the same circles.  Sometimes it's easy to get out of the rut by looking for blogs on a new topic, but since this blog will focus primarily on news hobbyists, we'll also try to keep an eye on the non-A-List bloggers, sometimes with random clicking on lists like Weblogs.com, and again, from reader recommendations.

What’s the story?

At the beginning of 2002, then editor-in-chief of MSNBC.com Merrill Brown sent a characteristically brief note commanding that we take a look at a new trend in personal journalism called Weblogs.  Shortly thereafter we launched a new set of blogs including Alan Boyle’s Cosmic Log and Eric Alterman’s Altercation.  By Autumn it was clear that blogs were not a fad that was going to go away.  To follow the new trend we started Blogspotting, a blog about blogs.  But the novel new publishing format that got its start among techies and hit a growth spurt in the wake of the 9/11 attacks saw such a surge in popularity and readership through the War in Iraq and into the presidential campaign season that a gateway blog about blogs was entirely superfluous.  So after a year of Blogspotting we brought the project to an end.

Now, another year later, the status of blogs and online citizen journalism has continued to grow.  This time blogs aren't the subject of the news, they're making it -and they're spreading it and analyzing it and interpreting it.

Why didn’t you keep the Blogspotting name?

While it’s clear that Weblogs are the driving force behind the elevation of citizen journalism to mainstream attention, it’s not purely blogs that are making news, and it’s not blogs that ARE the news anymore.  Jib-jab is not a blog.  Amateur political commercials are not blogs, even the landmark CBS Bush National Guard document story, the breaking of which is largely credited to blogs, really got its start on a message board

If you were indulged a digression, what would you say?

I remember talking with gay friends in the late 90’s who explained to me that the gay pride parade was old hat because we were now “ post-gay.”  By which they meant that their sexuality was taking a back seat to other parts of their lives.  In short, they were over it. 

Seeing the spate of articles about the role of bloggers in this past election, getting phone calls from a Nightly News producer for advice on booking bloggers to talk to Brokaw –but to talk about something other than “what is a blog?”- it occurred to me that we are now “post-blog.”

You are so biased!  I've never seen such a left wing elitist tool of the right wing corporate machine!

Give me a break man, it's just what I clicked.  I will say this though, I'm not going to knock myself out counting how many links each side gets like the beleaguered parent of spoiled twins trying to cut even pieces of cake for dessert.  This business of splitting every issue between partisans so they can spin all the fact out and leave the nation more divided and less informed is nothing less than a plague.  Complain all you want, I'm not playing that game.  This blog is just what I clicked.

Dear Will,
Why is it that none of your links are about the main news stories we see on MSNBC?

Dear Me,
A common, though not often, or well expressed, view of the role of the Weblog (or even the blogosphere as a whole) is as a supplement to corporate media coverage.  So in some cases, if the TV has a story covered, piling on with blog links just feels unnecessary.  Other times, the role of the blog is as an alternative to traditional media.  If I'm sick of hearing about Arafat's death and that's all that's on TV, I might go online to see what else is out there.  Though I'm using some editorial judgment in deciding what to click and what to post here ultimately this blog is not meant to be about news judgments, it's just what I clicked.

Dear Will,
So far you've called it corporate media, traditional media, big media and legacy media.  What's the difference?

Dear Me,
I don't have a good word yet for what we call the old media so I'm trying out all different ones.  Even though the Web has come to refer to the MSM (mainstream media), that's the term I like the least.  When blogs are getting more traffic than the newspapers of major cities, guess what guys, you're mainstream media now.  Until I see a clear winner in the naming of the established media, I'm going to continue to try on new terms.

Dear Will,
Why do you link to stories you think are reckless and wrong-headed?

Dear Me,
Here's why I think it's important to pay attention to these things even though they're ridiculous:  People believe them.  And even if they don't, it stays in the back of their mind and forms part of the subconscious processes by which people understand things.  One of the amazing opportunties in the blogosphere and the Web at large is that we can see the interpersonal gossip and gab that people use to form their opinions.  The rumors that spread on assembly lines and between office cubicles, the cartoons that are posted on break room bulletin boards, these items are open to the world office now, and it is in our interest to pay attention to them, not only for the sake of human understanding but to prepare ourselves for the potential shock of a loss in a close election every four years.

What is the Commuter Click?

The Commuter Click idea dates to pre-season blogging when I was still getting my footing.  From that entry:

Here's something we may make a regular feature:  The commuter click.  Every day before I go home I print up something that's longer than I want to read off the screen but well suited to my commute home to New York City from MSNBC HQ in New Jersey.

I can't say I recommend them because I haven't read them yet, but if I clicked them, it means someone out there recommended them.


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