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Kerri Breen
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Local bloggers have plenty to say and unique ways of sharing it online

There’s rarely any money to be made, and the recognition factor is often minimal, but local bloggers say they keep the web postings coming for the sheer love of it.

Craig Welsh’s blog site.

Hundreds of people in this province have regularly updated, widely viewed blogs.

The topics are as diverse as the personalities behind the keyboards — they tackle subjects from politics to pregnancy, art to archeology. There’s even a blog about Newfoundland and Labrador blogs (nlblogroll.blogspot.com).

Dale Kirby created his blog, Adventures in Canadian Post-Secondary Education, (post-secondary.blogspot.com) about three years ago.

“I started it and you know it was like a house on fire, really. Immediately I started to get a lot of attention from a specialized area of interest.”

Kirby is an education professor at Memorial University. The blog is about issues relating to universities in Newfoundland, Canada and the world.

Kirby said it’s led to personal and professional opportunities. He also uses his blog in his courses.

He said blogging is good practice for someone looking to keep their research and writing skills sharp.

He also blogs because it allows him to explore and comment on his field outside the confines of the ivory towers of academia.

“It provides a larger venue for discussion,” he said.

He’s one of many professors at MUN who blog about education, including dean Noreen Golfman and her team at the School of Graduate Studies (www.mun.ca/sgs/blog).

That blog, like many,  isn’t strictly focused on university education, however.  That’s the kind of editorial freedom bloggers embrace — and arguably is one of the reasons why the free and easy form of online publishing has taken off internationally.

 

Yes, they have standards

But as Geoff Meeker explains, it’s a freedom that comes with a lot of responsibility. 

“I take pains to be very fair in how I do it,” Meeker said. “I don’t believe in drive-by smears, if you know what I mean.”

He’s been writing about media for the last 10 years, first for the now-defunct Express and now online. His blog, Meeker on Media, has appeared on The Telegram’s website in 2007.

“I think it’s very important to be accurate if you’re going to express an opinion, and I think that it’s a problem with some bloggers because they’re political first, and accurate second. They want something that can match their point of view.”

Blogs have been discredited by mainstream media because their content generally doesn’t go through as rigorous an editing or fact-checking process as you’d see at an official news organization.  Theoretically, you can say anything, regardless of veracity, provided it isn’t legally problematic.

But generally, blogs whose authors have a reputation for being trustworthy and credible earn a loyal readership.

For Meeker, the object of the blog is to tell the stories behind the headlines, question the government and the media, and stimulate debate.

“I think I’m touching on themes that otherwise are not getting talked about and sometimes it’s like lancing a boil — all the fury comes out, you know, and it’s fun to watch,” he said.

The blog is read by those in the news and communications industries, but is also popular in political circles and with the public, he said.

 

Counteracting spin

Ed Hollett writes an award-winning political blog called The Sir Robert Bond Papers (bondpapers.blogspot.com).

He started it in 2005, intending it to be a series of commentaries by different people, but for most of the blog’s history he has been the sole author.

Hollett now has 11,000 to 12,000 readers a month.

Bond Papers is often critical of the provincial government’s spending habits and communication strategies. Hollett said he tries to counteract what he sees as spin, or manipulative public communication.

He said it’s healthy to be extreme and provocative sometimes to “shake things up a bit.”

He contends he is very rigorous about accuracy.

And Kirby, too, said he applies the same standards to his blog as he does to his academic research.

 

Self-imposed deadline

The bloggers who spoke to The Telegram have different perspectives on managing to produce content every week.

For Craig Welsh, a former Newfoundland journalist now working in communications in Iqaluit, staying motivated is “the biggest challenge.”

“Five years on, I’m still managing to find stuff almost every day these days to write about and interest myself,” he said.

“Every day I hear something that either excites me or irritates me." — Geoff Meeker, blogger

He writes an often humorous blog called Townie Bastard (towniebastard.blogspot.com), which regularly addresses Newfoundland and Canadian politics, curling, comic books and his personal life.

“It’s a nice creative exercise. Hopefully I become a better writer, just through the process of trying to assemble a blog, and a better debater from the arguments I try and put forward in the blog,” he said.

The blog also helps him keep in touch with people from home, although many of his readers are strangers, and not all of them are from Newfoundland.

His most viewed entries are reviews of “Republic of Doyle” episodes and a guide to living in Iqaluit.

Meeker, meanwhile, said he stays motivated just by turning on the news.

“Every day I hear something that either excites me or irritates me,” he said.

Karen Chappell has a different type of challenge. Her photography blog, Bitstop, (bitstop-nfld.blogspot.com) requires her to take photos every day. She’s been doing it since 2006 and rarely misses a day.

“I like a challenge. I’m kind of competitive by nature, so I like the fact that I have to do this.”

Sometimes the challenge comes in the form of a week of fog and rain, during which her signature sunny, upbeat landscapes are impossible.

Hollett said he used to be concerned about cranking out content day after day, but he now focuses on quality more than quantity.

Still, his blog is updated almost daily.

“It’s like anything else, you get into a habit, you get into a rhythm and you do it,” he said.

If he’s too tired, or what he comes up with is “junk,” he said he has to be his own editor and quit for the day.

“And the world doesn’t come to an end,” he said.

 

kbreen@thetelegram.com

 

 

A sampling of local blogs

Entertainment/ current events

Signal, the St. John’s Blog (www.signalblog.ca)

Product of Newfoundland (rjproduct.ca)

 

Cooking and recipes

A Wicked Scoff (awickedscoff.blogspot.com)

Rock Recipes (www.rockrecipes.blogspot.com)

Desktop Gourmet (www.desktopgourmet.blogspot.com)

 

Consumer

Gas and Oil (gasandoil.blogspot.com)

 I Shop and Tell  (ishopandtell.blogspot.com)

St. John’s Real Estate Online (www.stjohnsrealestateonline.com)

I Found My Childhood on eBay (i-found-my-childhood-on-ebay.blogspot.com)

Personal

An Ontarian in Newfoundland (newnewfie.blogspot.com)

Oh Me Nerves! (www.ohmenerves.com)

The Ferry Tales — personal/LBGT commentary (theferrytales.blogspot.com)

 

Politics

Polemic and Paradox (www.polemicandparadox.com)

Labradore (labradore.blogspot.com)

St. John’s City Council Business — Lionel West (lionelwest.blogspot.com)

 

Miscellaneous

John Gushue ... Dot Dot Dot — Miscellaneous tidbits (johngushue.typepad.com)

Flat Out Buddy — fitness (www.flatoutbuddy.com)

Organizations: Canadian Post-Secondary Education, School of Graduate Studies, EBay City Council Business

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Iqaluit Iqaluit.Meeker

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