Once upon a time, before the Internet revolutionized public discourse, there was only one sure way for a person to become a pundit: get a job as a journalist and hold forth from the pages of a newspaper, magazine or a broadcast organization. But now, with the explosion of personal online journals known as Weblogs, anyone with something to say and access to the right software can be a publisher, a pundit and observer of events great and small.
Weblogs are personal online journals, saturated with attitude and rich with links to Internet resources. These interactive diaries promise to transform and democratize the media landscape. What had once quietly flourished in the grassroots of cyberspace has now burst into the mainstream, changing the way Internet news and communities are perceived.
That’s why MSNBC is launching Weblog Central, your gateway to the world of personal news.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
This page will serve as a perch from which you can observe and participate in the brave new world of personal news. We hope you’ll make it a daily destination. Here’s what you’ll find:
MSNBC Weblogs: This page is a launching pad for MSNBC.com’s own Weblogs: Altercation, Eric Alterman’s commentary on politics, media and culture; Cosmic Log, Science Editor Alan Boyle’s musings on science, quantum physics and space exploration; Hardball, Chris Matthews’ guide to the art of politics; The Juice, entertainment news with attitude from Jan Herman and Practical Futurist, a roadmap to technological change from Newsweek’s Michael Rogers.
BLOGSPOTTING: Will Femia’s daily Blogspotting Weblog shines a light on life in the blogosphere. And a good deal of that light will come from you. We’ll count on bloggers and those who know and appreciate online journals to help us spot trends, share tips and make connections.
ACCESS TO RESOURCES: Weblog Central offers no blogging software of its own at this point. But those who want to establish personal journals of their own can find a changing array of links here to sites that offer a variety of proprietary and open-source software and other resources you need to start and maintain your own Weblog. We’ll also provide links to a continually updated list of Weblog indexes like the blogging ecosystem to connect with like-minded individuals and find the information you need.
NEW FORMATS FOR NEWS
Weblogs come and go, depending on the interests and commitments of their authors. But with subject matter ranging from the banal to the brilliant, the 500,000-Weblog universe is expanding, with a new personal journal launched every 40 seconds.
As with any new territory, much is yet to be discovered about the dynamics and culture of the blogosphere, but mainstream media are quickly tuning in. For a comprehensive look at the manners and mores of personal publishing, see Steven Levy’s recent report in Newsweek. Levy’s spoof of the emerging blog narrative form is a hoot — but it’s also a smart look at the potential that exists for Weblogs as unmediated personal and public expression.
NEW TOOL FOR JOURNALISTS
While Weblogs serve as soapboxes for the self-absorbed and platforms for previously unknown commentators and critics, they also offer interesting new tools for traditional news organizations. MSNBC.com is not alone in experimenting with this new narrative form. Kausfiles, by Slate’s Mickey Kaus, and ABC News.com’s daily political briefing, The Note, have become a must-read for political junkies. And dispatches from Time.com Mideast correspondent Tony Karon demonstrate the value of the Weblog format as a vehicle for breaking news.
As surely as Weblogs have democratized newsgathering and commentary by giving non-journalists access to publishing tools and platforms, they also represent the next generation of online communities, making human encounters in cyberspace more coherent and more civil. The focused, information-rich environment of Weblogs invites writers and readers to engage in the daily act of thinking aloud, in harmony with and/or counterpoint to one another.
That’s an exciting development for an online news organization that has been a leader in creating internet communities. We think you’ll agree that Weblog Central is a smart and significant addition to Letters to the Editor,MSNBC Chat,Newsweek Live Talks and MSN User-created Groups.
WRITE TO US
So take a look at the links and resources arrayed in the boxes on this page. Add Weblog Central to your list of favorites and make it a regular stop on your ventures in cyberspace. As we all learn more about this emerging universe, and share what we’re learning with our readers, let us know how we’re doing.
Joan Connell is executive producer of Opinions and Communities at MSNBC.com.