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Adventures in the Blogosphere: as Internet journals come into their own, African American voices are rising above the noise.

In the same year that the National Endowment for the Arts issued a report detailing a reading crisis--a national decline in literary reading (novels, short stories, poetry and plays)--the same study has found that the number of people engaging in creative writing has increased over the past 20 years to nearly 15 million people. This phenomenon has shown up online in blogs (short for Web logs), the Internet-based journals of writings, ruminations and ramblings created by writers both well known and, well, obscure.

In the broadest sense, blogs can range from someone's navel-gazing musings about intimate personal details to literary, political and social commentary on a variety of events and subjects. You may remember back in the days of the Clinton Administration that blogger Matt Drudge put his Drudge Report on the media map with his online revelations about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In 2004, bloggers were welcomed among traditional journalists covering the Democratic National and Republican National Conventions, and emboldened bloggers brayed about a forged document that purported to reveal George Bush's avoidance of National Guard service and that nearly brought down Dan Rather and CBS News. But bloggers were also blamed for passing along the inaccurate early exit poll data that misled many to believe Kerry was leading in key swing states on November 2.

With ever-improving software to lift your words into cyberspace (a.k.a. the blogosphere; check out www.MovableType.org, www.Typepad.com, www.Livejournal.com), anyone can write and post their comments or create a Web ring (a link to someone else's blog comments) at any time and on any day for all the world--or none of it--to see. The only limitations are your imagination and time constraints--the most successful blogs must be regularly updated to keep readers coming back.

Professional authors and journalists sometimes fret that the often raw, unedited works of these digital writers would be so compelling that newspapers would crumble and books sales would tumble. That remains to be seen.

Best Black Blogs

However, the best blogs by African Americans have become must-reads, such as the well-edited literary site Seeingblack.com, created by Esther Iverem, formerly a reporter for The New York Times, as well as a culture writer for Newsday (see BIBR, SPOTliGHT, July-August 2003). Or check out Richard Prince's media notes column on Maynard Institute's Web site, (www.maynardije.org/columns/dickprince) or cultural and political commentator Farai Chideya's Popandpolitics.com (see BIBR, THE WRITING LIFE, September-October 2003).

Some writers and authors like Veronica Chambers (Mama's Girl and Having It All) have used their own personal blogs (www.veronicachambers.com) to feed their fan base. Some authors even use their blogs to promote their latest books by posting parts of chapters and eventful moments during their book-writing phase to keep readers coming back and to help give a big boost to their book promotion tours. But long-term blogging is difficult to maintain for most. And writing coherently and without an editor's net can be exhilarating, but it also can be dangerous.

And a few more:

Haitianvoices.com, a community site for people of Haitian descent.

Visioncircle.org, a blog by Michael Bowen and Dr. Lester Spence

Jelanicobb.com, by writer and commentator William Jelani Cobb

Negrophile.com, edited by Contra Costa Times editor George Kelly in between posts to his Web log, AllAboutGeorge.com. afronetizen.blogs.com/, articles and commentary by a variety of black writers and reporters

Retrosoul.com/blackblogz, Web ring for black bloggers

Coloredgirls.com, a site for women of color who are passionate about books and writing.

professorkim.blogspot.com, "Reporting and commentary on race, class, religion, gender and sexuality in the news" by College of New Jersey Professor Kim Pearson

Ingrid Sturgis is the editor-in-chief of Essence.com.
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Title Annotation:Book bytes
Author:Sturgis, Ingrid
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:627
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