Blogging ’bout Blogs

The first step to master the art of blogging is reading blogs. As a class, we selected five widely read blogs to see how this unique niche authors achieved blogosphere domination. The blogs I’ll be following cover a wide range of interests: politics, environmental issues, health and wellness, and technology. Besides Tumblr (my dashboard is mainly of a constant stream of Harry Potter, Dr. Who and cat images), I’ve never consistently read a blog. By examining these five established blog authors, I hope to learn the ins-and-outs of blogging in the real world.

With the DNC and Michelle Obama’s amazingly toned arms on everybody’s radar this week, I’ll start with Howard Fineman on the original aggregate wunderblog, The Huffington Post. Through an elegant and understated black-and-white portrait, Fineman’s thin-rimmed glasses and confident smile have already assured me that he is to be trusted. His most recent blogpost is titled “Where Are the “Over the Transom” Voters?” Seeing as I don’t know what transom means (is this an idiom?), this is as good a place as any to start learning blogo-lingo. He writes in a very straightforward, journalistic-style manner; statistics, expert quotes and direct comparisons to the 2008 election give the reader a sense of reading the news. However, unlike the news, the post’s ultimate goal is not merely to inform but also to mobilize Democratic voters to act with a sense of urgency. Where’s that “spontaneous enthusiasm” that rallied the campaign of 2008? Which reminds me, why haven’t I heard “rock the vote” in four years? As an added bonus, there’s a fun Electoral Predictor that forecasts a Democrat beatdown this November. Still don’t know what a transom is.

As predicted, Andrew Sullivan’s conservative blog on The Daily Beast called “The Dish” takes quite a different take on the DNC. Unfortunately I haven’t been keeping up with the goings-on of the party conventions, so I appreciate his play-by-play breakdown of the event. Sullivan mixes humor into his posts, such as Face of the Day Richard Trumka, which really gives the blog its flavor. In my opinion, he stays pretty balanced throughout his breakdown, generally giving credit where credit is due. For example: “What’s great about Clinton’s speech: he has taken on the opposing argument directly.” As the HuffPo Guide to Blogging recommends, Sullivan uses a chatty tone throughout; my dad calling out the play-by-play of a basketball game from the living room would sound the same way (with some Chinese sprinkled in). He summarizes the night nicely for those who aren’t politically inclined and breaks it up with some music reviews every Friday.

After these politics blogs, it’s time to move on to lighthearted topics, such as the state of emergency that our climate is in, and—what’s this? Nearly every headline on David Roberts’ blog at The Grist involves the election! I suppose this makes sense, given that our best chance for survival relies on vast structural change. Roberts writes with a very accessible tone that exudes his unique voice. Besides the political commentary, I’m particularly struck by a story about a mountaintop mining protest featuring raw, first-hand commentary from the front lines of an important issue. As an environmental activist-in-training, I have a lot to learn from this blog and am eager to read more of this journalism from the sidelines. He combines mountaintop mining research with the stories of the people, the personal with the political, ultimately refreshing an issue that has been completely ignored in the news.

I enjoy reading The New York Times’ wellness blog, Well, more for its content than style of writing. Each story is interesting and offers totally new information to me. Perhaps because of the paper’s rock-solid brand, I’m thinking of the Well stories more as “articles” than “posts”. The latest article compares conventional and organic foods. I’ve tried to become a vegetarian for years, each guilt-induced attempt spurred on by a PETA booklet passed out in the mail or a convicting viewing of Food, Inc.. But every time I’ve fallen prey to a moist, flavorful turkey leg or juicy rack of ribs smothered in barbecue sauce and falling off the bone. I know the basic health and environmental benefits that come with eating vegan, at least vegetarian and at the very least, organic. I’m fascinated by one story in particular, a glimpse into the life of a 25-year-old woman during the one week a month that she receives chemotherapy treatment for leukemia. From what I can tell, she isn’t afraid to include even seemingly unimportant details about these days, and it really pays off in her credibility as the storyteller as well as its intrigue.

Lastly, Gizmodo’s blog focuses on the latest technology from around the world. I’m not big on technology current events, but I still appreciate the blog for its comprehensive scope. Today it highlights the failure of Nokia to fully realize the potential of its iPhone alternative, the Lumia 920. Many of the articles on Gizmodo are tailored to the reader—“the first thing you notice about the Lumia 920…but then you notice the rest of it…” which makes me feel like part of the conversation. Interestingly, rather than the typical comment-by-comment format, Gizmodo arranges comments into two columns, giving it the appearance of a newspaper rather than an online forum.

I look forward to staying tuned to these blogs. I already feel more informed about the election, became suspicious of organic food, and even got the chance to diagnose a patient whose skin was slowly turning blue. I’ll let you know which blog becomes my favorite in the near future. Until then, there’s a lot of Gizmodo to read.

Signing out,


P.S. “Over the transom” refers to the nautical term for the back of a small boat. Something which “came in over the transom” would have suddenly (and presumably, surprisingly) entered through the “back door” of the craft. So there you have it. But now the obvious question remains: just how willing is America to surprise Obama in the back of his nautical craft? We’ll know on November 6.

i'm on a boat

Legal photo ID required to board craft

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