Calgary bloggers talk about rising trend
Blogs may be earning their way into becoming as prominent as other forms of media. Some say the medium, initially an online version of a personal diary, has evolved to become a source of educated opinion as well as informed news. But is it really?
Locally, Calgary bloggers have used this technology to get their views out to the public. Vincent St. Pierre, a political activist, created the blog CalgaryLiberal.com and has become popular with Calgarians.
The number of blogs written by local Calgarians — according to loadedweb.com — is 114. The tags given by the blog writers suggest the percentage per topic.
Illustration: Vini Rocha/Calgary Journal
“I try to give out my viewpoint,” St. Pierre said. “I talk to people and try to get them involved in politics.”
St. Pierre acknowledged that civilian blogs may not be the most polished source of information, compared to newspapers and other professional media, but the fact that it influences people has become a key motivator for many bloggers.
“Sometimes when you have civilians blogging, you lose some quality,” St. Pierre said. “But there’s also lots of opportunities for more in-depth stories since you don’t have to filter or follow guidelines.”
The blogging sensation gained a lot of momentum during the 2010 municipal election in Calgary. Civic engagement was prominent throughout the city — something that was brought to the attention of many news outlets.
Jeremy Zhao, blogger and member of CivicCamp, became an influential figure when he ran for mayor in the 2007 municipal elections. He came in fourth, and a year later started his first blog.
“Prior to this Nenshi phenomenon, there had been very little discussion and talk about local politics beyond your newspaper and TV news at 6 p.m.,” Zhao said. “This blog was a way to break out of the status quo of ignoring local politics.”
Zhao recently shut down his political blog, “PolitiCalgary,” due to the increase of political engagement locally.
“I just felt like that after the 2010 election, this was a good time to close the blog,” Zhao said. “Citizen engagement at the municipal level has increased substantially, and there are a lot more people now doing a lot of new and better things for this city than my blog.”
Percentages of people who post on their blog through a cellphone.
Illustration: Vini Rocha/Calgary Journal
Although blogging has gained prominence with on-line readers, not everyone thinks the medium has potential to become a legitimate source of information.
“To have legitimacy as a blogger you really need infrastructure.”
–– David Taras, Ralph Klein Chair in Media Studies, Mount Royal University
David Taras, currently the Ralph Klein Chair in Media Studies at Mount Royal University as well as a much-cited political pundit, said he believes civilian blogs may be on the decline, due to the struggle of running a one-man team.
“The lifespan of a blog is not long,” Taras said. “A lot of people give up blogging because the effort to sustain a blog is incredible.”
The growth of a blog often transitions into a magazine format. “The Huffington Post” and “Politico” are examples of blogs that have gained popularity and have grown to become well-known sources for daily news.
“To have legitimacy as a blogger you really need infrastructure,” Taras said. “The real test for a blogger is if they’re picked up by the mainstream media.”
“Technorati,” an Internet search engine for blogs, released its annual study about blogging this year and found that 40 per cent of the people participating agreed with bloggers’ points of view and that their trust in professional media had declined.
Zhao agreed and said, “There will be a point where blogging will reach mainstream media status. For now, it won’t. Probably not for another 10 years.
“While it is opinion based and has a bias, blogs have been able to compete with the mainstream media in providing fast and up-to-date information about various issues,” Zhao said. “What’s even better is that it is free.”
The popularity of blogs will depend on what kind of new media comes around in the future. For now, blogs will continue being updated, especially with the help of new technologies such as mobile blogging, making it easier for its proliferation.
“Once you get hooked on blogging,” Zhao said, “you can never really let it go.”