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Blogs changing the face of traditional media

Anna Boarini | Thursday, September 15, 2011

For 2009 Notre Dame graduate Bob Kessler, blogging about the oddities of Notre Dame students started on the Internet, but eventually made its way into print.

Kessler, a former Observer Viewpoint columnist, was able to take his blog “Things Notre Dame Students Like” and snag a book deal.

“I sort of thought it might be possible to turn this into a book, so I did an Amazon search of books about Notre Dame and started to contact authors,” he said. “That’s how I found my publisher.”

Blogging is taking the media world by storm, American Studies professor Robert Schmuhl said, and Notre Dame is not an exception.

Kessler started his blog during his senior year at Notre Dame after reading the book “Stuff White People Like,” which also started as a blog, with friends after a night out.

“We were just reading the book and we started to think about all the unique things there are about Notre Dame students,” Kessler said.

Kessler used The Observer to help launch his blog, using two of his first 10 posts as one of his Friday Viewpoint columns. He directed the readers of his column to read more at his blog if they liked what they read.

“I knew to have a successful blog, I had to have a continuous stream of posts,” he said. “When I launched the blog, I had already written the first 15 entries.”

Schmuhl said blogging is one of the many ways the media world is changing. Instead of just newspapers and news outlets delivering news, blogs are also a way for people to receive information.

“Most newspapers and network news programs have declining audiences,” he said. “Blogs attract some of these people.”

However, traditional media sources are not dead yet, and blogs are helping them cater to a changing audience, Schmuhl said.

“Increasingly, traditional newspapers, magazines and broadcast networks offer staff members opportunities to blog, and you see a combination of delivery systems — the old and the new,” he said.

Schmul said what makes blogs unique is the way they cater to a person’s interests, but this also creates the danger of receiving limited information.

Junior Eileen Lynch writes and edits for the blog “Lefty’s Last Cry,” a political blog that refers to itself as the Notre Dame progressive headquarters.

“We write about a broad array of subjects — campaigns, debates, social issues,” Lynch said. “We aren’t all serious, we sometimes post funny videos or cartoons, or write about campaign gaffes.”

She said the purpose of the blog was to start dialogue between conservatives and liberals and to inform and become informed as writers.

Henry Vasques, a 2010 graduate, began “Lefty’s Last Cry” as a personal blog in 2008 and it has expanded since then.

Lynch became a writer and editor after its inception and said “Lefty’s Last Cry” is a very dynamic political community.

The blog eventually morphed into highly professional blog, with over 40 contributors and 100,000 hits, she said.

Senior Caitlin Kinser also runs a blog.

Unlike “Lefty’s Last Cry,” Kinser’s blog “The Fifth Quarter” is

written about whatever inspires her, which is usually sports.

“I decided to start putting what I was writing on a blog because it doesn’t necessarily have a common theme,” she said. “The things I’ve written about are more sports related, but that’s mostly because it inspires me with ideas to write about.”

Kinser said her blog is still fairly new and does not have the following of a more established blog. However, after a link for one of her posts was put on the website for her local newspaper, she said her blog saw more hits.

“I am hoping to get feedback from my blog and it was really cool to see that [the sports writer] thought highly enough of my writing to direct his readers there,” Kinser said.

Kinser hopes to use her blog as a way to show her versatility in journalism and help launch her career after graduation.

“I’ve worked in print media, done a television internship and with this I’m hoping that it shows that I can use the Internet,” she said. “Whatever it turns out to be, I’m definitely open. I’m just being really realistic about this.”

While Internet users tend to be younger, Schmuhl said many bloggers are older and have worked in traditional media outlets. Regardless of age, blogging provides opportunities the traditional news source usually does not.

“Blogging provides immediacy and the possibility of amplification,” Schmuhl said.