In addition to the year-old politics-and-culture weblog fielded by the Arkansas Times at www.arktimes.com, the Internet has pretty much exploded in the last year with Arkansas-themed blogs.
For those who don’t know your modem from a hole in the ground, a blog (short for weblog) is something like an online diary — a series of weekly, daily or even hourly postings of information. As careless or as obsessive as the people who create them — space for a blog is free to anyone who wants to sign up at one of the big hosting sites like blogspot.com — the information posted on a blog can be pretty much anything: personal reflection, links to other sites, or grumbling about politics. Even a casual search on the web turns up more than a dozen Arkansas-themed blogs. The comprehensive Arkansas blog Index, available at www.arkansasblogs.blogspot.com, lists more than 80.
As in other parts of the country, our cadre of blogs has become a kind of cyber militia, with citizens mustering out to criticize and comment whenever there’s an event of local importance. We’re not alone in our love of the forum. The “State of the Blogosphere” report by the Internet-tracking website technocrati.com found that the number of Internet blog sites is doubling roughly every five and a half months — from 7.8 million blogs in March 2005 to 14.2 million in July 2005. That’s 80,000 new blogs a day, folks, with 55 percent of bloggers still making regular postings three months later.
Among these is the weblog of former KARK anchor and current Equity Broadcasting news director Doug Krile, at http://wb42.blogspot.com. On the web for over nine months now, Krile’s blog is officially keyed to news in his “5:30 Report” on Equity’s WB42, though he swipes at local media and politics as the opportunity arises.
“In reading various blogs,” Krile said, “I realized that they truly take on the personality of the blogger, much more so than a website would.”
Krile said the only disadvantage he sees to running a blog is the commitment it takes, which includes finding time to create the often-detailed postings. “Just like anything else, if it’s not fresh, people won’t come back,” he said. “That’s why I try to put up some fresh material most evenings and over the weekend.”
A blog that takes an often-scathing look at the local media is the ARMedia blog at arkansasmedia.blogspot.com. Run by local writer Joy Ritchey, the site doesn't hesitate to skewer local critics and newsmakers.
In an e-mail to the Media column, Ritchey wrote that blogging has helped her rediscover writing again and allowed her to The form is much more fluid than print, she said, allowing her to go back and revise her earlier posts at will as her mind changes about a given topic. “I go back and edit my own posts. I delete them if I find a reason to do so,” she said. “I can change my mind and reverse course. Other people chime in. It’s free in all the ways that print is restrictive.”
That’s not to say it’s all been hunky-dory, however. Comments about Democrat-Gazette editorial page editor Paul Greenberg and Fayetteville’s Laurie Taylor (the mother who is trying to restrict access to certain books in Fayetteville school libraries) drew angry feedback from critics earlier this year, when Ritchey was still attempting to protect her identity behind her ‘blogging pseudonym “Girl Arkansas.” At one point, she posted a brief item saying that she was closing the ARMedia blog, and that she feared her critics might find out where she worked and get her fired — a fate that has befallen several high-profile bloggers as the form has become mainstream enough to attract the attention of employers.
“[It’s] not a huge deal, not that much of a reaction,” she said. “But enough to make me a little nervous and make it crystal clear that I’m making real enemies … I wasn’t threatened, just insulted.”
After being contacted by readers asking her to stick it out — including me, I must admit — Ritchey decided to soldier on.
These days, largely comfortable in her blogger’s hide (though you still won’t find her full name on her site) Ritchey sees ARMedia as a watchdog; a role especially necessary in a world where the standards that once governed media and the press have largely collapsed. She says her comments — as bitchy as they can get sometimes — are all about making the local media better.
“The truth is that if I didn’t care deeply about the quality of local news and media, if I didn’t earnestly want it to be top notch, I wouldn’t be doing this,” she said. “Someone on the site asked me to name a newspaper in a similar market that is better. I don’t give a damn about other markets. I want this one to be the best.”