June 28, 2004
Steffanie Wynn, 17, of Scottsdale feverishly bangs away on her keyboard as she sits in the space that not long ago was her playroom.
With eagle-eye concentration, she types her message. But she’s not checking e-mail. That’s passe.
She’s working on her "blog." Short for Web log, blogs are online journals that can be made accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. They look similar to a Web page and are surprisingly easy to set up via Web sites such as BlogSpot, LiveJournal and Blog-City.
Wynn and countless other teen "bloggers" post regularly to these online journals for all the world to see. But don’t think they’re lamenting about the turmoil of teen life, because they’re not — at least not all the time.
Like filmmaker Michael Moore, they are unapologetic about having an agenda.
"I do think teens across the country are looking to use blogs for politics," said Jeffrey Henning, an Arizona State University graduate and chief operating officer of Perseus Development Corp.
The company, based in Braintree, Mass., researches Internet trends. According to its figures, the number of blogs by the end of 2004 is expected to reach 10 million. More than 90 percent are written by people ages 13 to 29, and more than half are by teenagers.
"It’s a way for us to be heard," said Mark McCullough, a sophomore at Cave Creek’s Cactus Shadow High School and a Republican. "You express your opinion, and you see it there on a screen, and you look at it and it’s amazing. I
can see it, and everyone in the world can see it."
The rise of the political blog is credited to Howard Dean’s campaign. That’s one thing young Republicans and Democrats said they can agree upon.
"Dean was looking for a way to connect to young voters, and he was the first to use the Internet extensively," said Sarah Rosen, spokeswoman for the Arizona Democratic Party. Blogs were one way Dean’s campaign whetted the political interest of young people.
The campaign was so successful that every presidential candidate’s Web site now maintains a blog.
The Democratic Party announced last week it will provide news credentials to bloggers invited to their national convention. The Republicans are expected to follow suit.
John Hall said he sees blogs as the 21st-century version of the Kiwanis Club or Knights of Columbus.
"Blogs are a form of community," the ASU professor of public policy said.
The bloggers agree.
"You really feel connected to something," McCullough said. "It’s basically connecting together and sharing political views in a friendly manner."
A sampling of political commentary on blogs
Not every blog is political in nature, but many are. Here is a smattering of messages recently posted by young Valley Republicans on a Scottsdale teen’s blog at www.dancaldwell.us./:
• "With the beheading of Paul Johnson last week, al-Qaida once again proved to the Western World that reason, logic and common decency will not win the war on terror. It is sad that many in the United States and Europe still cling to the silly idea that the war on terror can be won through nonviolent means."
• "I watched most of (Reagan’s) funeral proceedings and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I was bawling when Nancy Reagan collapsed on the casket after she had been presented the flag. I think everybody should say a little prayer for Nancy Reagan."
And here is a sample of what young Valley Democrats have written in a blog at www.ydaz.org:
• "The Bush administration claimed all along that al-Qaida and Saddam had strong ties when they didn’t, but thanks to our invasion of Iraq, ties have probably been created between al-Qaida and remnants of Saddam’s force."
• "Here is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills S-89 and HR-163) which will time the program’s initiation so the draft can begin as early as Spring 2005 — just after the 2004 presidential election. The administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now while the public’s attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately."