[Paleopsych] Newsweek: Blogging Beyond the Men's Club

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Fri Apr 8 19:12:00 UTC 2005

Blogging Beyond the Men's Club 

    Since anyone can write a Weblog, why is the blogosphere dominated by
    white males?
    By Steven Levy
    Senior Editor

    March 21 issue - At a recent Harvard conference on bloggers and the
    media, the most pungent statement came from cyberspace. Rebecca
    MacKinnon, writing about the conference as it happened, got a response
    on the "comments" space of her blog from someone concerned that if the
    voices of bloggers overwhelm those of traditional media, "we will
    throw out some of the best ... journalism of the 21st century." The
    comment was from Keith Jenkins, an African-American blogger who is
    also an editor at The Washington Post Magazine [a sister publication
    of NEWSWEEK]. "It has taken 'mainstream media' a very long time to get
    to [the] point of inclusion," Jenkins wrote. "My fear is that the
    overwhelmingly white and male American blogosphere ... will return us
    to a day where the dialogue about issues was a predominantly
    white-only one."

    After the comment was posted, a couple of the women at the
    conference--bloggers MacKinnon and Halley Suitt--looked around and saw
    that there weren't many other women in attendance. Nor were the faces
    yapping about the failings of Big Media representative of the human
    quiltwork one would see in the streets of Cambridge or New York City,
    let alone overseas. They were, however, representative of the top 100
    blogs according to the Web site Technorati--a list dominated by
    bigmouths of the white-male variety.

    Does the blogosphere have a diversity problem?

    Viewed one way, the issue seems a bit absurd. These self-generated
    personal Web sites are supposed to be the ultimate grass-roots
    phenomenon. The perks of alpha bloggers--voluminous traffic, links
    from other bigfeet, conference invitations, White House press
    passes--are, in theory, bequeathed by a market-driven merit system.
    The idea is that the smartest, the wittiest and the most industrious
    in finding good stuff will simply rise to the top, by virtue of a
    self-organizing selection process.

    So why, when millions of blogs are written by all sorts of people,
    does the top rung look so homogeneous? It appears that some clubbiness
    is involved. Suitt puts it more bluntly: "It's white people linking to
    other white people!" (A link from a popular blog is this medium's
    equivalent to a Super Bowl ad.) Suitt attributes her own high status
    in the blogging world to her conscious decision to "promote myself
    among those on the A list."

    Coincidentally, this issue arises just as a related controversy is
    raising eyebrows in mainstream media. Law professor Susan Estrich has
    been hammering Michael Kinsley, the editorial-page editor of the Los
    Angeles Times, for not running a sufficient number of op-ed pieces by
    women and minorities. Though the e-mail exchange between the two
    deteriorated into a spitting match, both agreed that extra care is
    required to make sure public discussion reflects the actual

    The top-down mainstream media have to some degree found the will and
    the means to administer such care. But is there a way to promote
    diversity online, given the built-in decentralization of the blog
    world? Jenkins, whose comment started the discussion, says that any
    approach is fine--except inaction. "You can't wait for it to just
    happen," he says. Appropriately enough, the best ideas rely on
    individual choices. MacKinnon is involved in a project called Global
    Voices, to highlight bloggers from around the world. And at the
    Harvard conference, Suitt challenged people to each find 10 bloggers
    who weren't male, white or English-speaking--and link to them. "Don't
    you think," she says, "that out of 8 million blogs, there could be 50
    new voices worth hearing?" Definitely. Now let's see if the
    blogosphere can self-organize itself to find them.

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