Blogging isn't exactly news.
By now, most people know what a "Web log" is, and are aware of the often contentious relationship between these media free agents and more traditional print news sources. Although blogging is most prominent as an alternative source for news and editorial commentary, there are as many different kinds of blogs as there are bloggers.
Local bloggers' interests are diverse; some blogs are vehicles for political or spiritual commentary, while others are tools for community organization and involvement, and some are simply personal journals that document humorous stories, craft projects, or what's going on in the garden.
Dan Paden, whose "No Blog of Significance" is unabashedly opinionated, said, "I blog more for me than I do for my readers. It's a way for me to articulate thoughts that nobody would sit still and listen to, if they had to do it in person."
While Paden views his blog as an outlet for his ideals, others hope their blogs prove to be motivational for readers. Natasha Ball, whose blog "Tasha Does Tulsa," documents her attempts to enjoy every diversion and cultural offering our city has to offer, said, "I hope my blog inspires Tulsans to get off their duffs and experience their environs. I also want to provide a good read and a few laughs."
The Family Who Blogs Together
For some, blogging is nearly a full-time job. Emily Priddy, whose main blog is "Red Fork State of Mind," documents her efforts toward living a sustainable lifestyle at "The House of the Lifted Lorax" and about independent businesses in town at "Indie Tulsa."
Her husband, Ron Warnick, maintains "Route 66 News," a blog devoted to happenings related to the Mother Road. So how does this blogging power-couple find the time to keep so many publications up to date? Simple. "We don't have cable, we don't ever watch TV, so when most people come home and sit in front of the TV, we work on our blogs," said Priddy.
In Priddy's case, eschewing television is more of a lifestyle choice than a political statement. For others, however, blogging is part of a conscious decision to look beyond typical news sources. "I make it a practice to never consult CNN, or FOX or MSNBC," said Jeff Shaw of "Bounded Rationality." Instead, Shaw said, "I get 95 percent of my news from the Internet, and with the exception of the major newspapers, I get my news from alternative sources on the Internet."
Political bloggers like Shaw offer commentary and perspective that reaches beyond the coverage of the mainstream press. And since blogging is a 24/7 enterprise, sometimes they beat more traditional forms of media to the story. Ball noted, "I've seen local blogs announce news before the mainstream press plenty of times . . . and I think the community benefits from the angles bloggers present on local issues."
Tulsa bloggers are, after all, members of the community they blog about.
As such, they offer an individualized perspective on issues. Ball added that, in comparison to traditional news sources, bloggers "tend to be more candid and colorful and, in my opinion, more interesting."
Better Than CB Radio
Tulsa's political bloggers aren't just entertaining; they also make an effort to be reliable and responsible about dispensing the news. "I know that there are bloggers in town that people (including me) depend on to get facts that they normally would not get. I realize that there are people that look to me to provide some of that, so I'm sensitive to my responsibility to be as accurate as I can," said Shaw.
In light of this new media climate, bloggers can break a story any time of day or night, and they have the freedom to follow specific issues more intensively than most newspapers or magazines can. Shaw added, "I don't think (blogging) will, nor should it, replace the traditional news sources, but the traditional news sources are going to have to change."
Although the blogosphere isn't exactly known for measured rhetoric, objective, principled journalism, or civilized debate, Tulsa bloggers beg to differ. There is a noteworthy level of mutual respect between these amateur political and social pundits, even when their views are polar opposites.
Paden, whose staunchly conservative viewpoint is apparent in his blog, still admires "Alternative Tulsa," a liberal news and commentary blog. "We disagree on almost everything in the universe, but unlike most liberals I encounter, they are generally quite civil with me about their disagreement. I have to give them credit for that. The political environment is so polarized now that it's very difficult to disagree civilly," said Paden.
Shaw agrees with Paden's levelheaded attitude. He values bloggers with open minds and a measured style, who keep their writing fresh and timely. "I don't like to read any blog that is bent in one direction with no possibility of considering different perspectives. It gets old reading the same thing over and over," said Shaw.
Pats on the Back
Blogging not only provides news and critique to readers, but also creates a community for the bloggers themselves. The Okie Blog Awards are a yearly tradition, in which awards in a variety of categories ranging from "Best Political Blog" to "Best Humor Blog" are awarded to Oklahoma bloggers. The awards were established by the bloggers themselves, and are decided by the blogging community. Beyond providing validation to the area's outstanding bloggers, the awards are an opportunity for them to meet one another "in real life," and compare notes on their techniques.
Many local bloggers herald UTW's own Michael Bates' "Batesline" as the gold standard of Tulsa blogging. When Natasha Ball got her fist congratulatory comment about her blog from Bates, Ball said, "I was elated. I danced around the living room. I even cried a little. I was star-struck, I guess. I was happy to know I would start to reach more readers, too, since several of the local bloggers with established readerships had told their subscribers about me."
Bates isn't the only well-known local blogger. Jeff Shaw admires Emily Priddy for the dedication that fuels her multiple blogs. "I want to meet the Red Fork Hippie Chick, just so I can tell her to slow down," said Shaw.
Tulsa bloggers have legitimately built a solid community and have gained a dedicated following. "The community of bloggers here in Tulsa is a close one, and I think there is a core of Tulsa blog readers out there," said Ball. Just as for other news sources, readership is ultimately what it's all about in the blogging world; the more readers a blog garners, the higher its Google ranking, and the higher its Google ranking, the more people will be attracted to a blog. The process builds, and is often serendipitous. "If you give it enough time, your blog will inevitably attract people who share at least some of your interests. How cool is that?" asked a pleased Dan Paden.
Ball noted that blogging is also a good resource for building interest and motivation in the Tulsa community. "As more Tulsans get turned on to blogs, I think they will find they have more of an interest in making Tulsa what they want it to be, rather than to sit around and complain about it. To me, that's the genesis of community--that critical mass of interest in its welfare," said Ball.
Ultimately, blogs are an indication of the buzz that surrounds a community; the more passionate bloggers and readers there are, the greater the number of opinionated and motivated people in the community itself.
Be Aware of the Blog
Jeff Shaw said he started blogging because, "I felt like I had something to contribute." His blog, which leans toward the conservative side of the political spectrum, is a measured, rational analysis of local issues. "My original intention was to focus on just doing common sense editorial on local issues, but I think now I've evolved from that. I will continue to blog on local issues, but I want to broaden my blogging to include quality of life issues, urban planning and education," said Shaw.
Currently, Shaw has been focusing on the economy, personal wealth and being thrifty--issues that are at the forefront of many readers' minds, considering the current economic climate. Shaw tries to present a balanced analysis of the issues. "I've been trying to read from different perspectives; those sources that people wouldn't normally consider. I think it helps my perspective," he said.
Though this blogger celebrates his level-headedness, he admits an opinionated streak. "The entire period last year on the Arkansas River development in Tulsa was as contentious as I care to get," said Shaw. He added, "I fielded some pretty nasty email, and I got to see how 'passionate' some people are about making their case. I still don't see how the Arkansas River is an asset. It's an old prairie stream. It's not any more of an asset to Tulsa than the Polecat Creek is to Sapulpa."
It's Shaw's calm and skeptical demeanor that make "Bounded Rationality" a trustworthy source for level-headed commentary, no matter the issue at hand.
"Alternative Tulsa" is a liberal political blog that prides itself on offering a different brand of political commentary than is common in the Bible Belt. According to the "About Us" section of the website, "AT's" mission is to present ideas and commentary for people in Tulsa and Northeastern Oklahoma who want a different view of politics and culture. "Our philosophy is independent, rational, literate and open-minded," says the mission statement. As such, "AT" succeeds in posting frequent updates on both local and national news.
Beyond the news, "AT" focuses on local organizations that work toward sustainability and progressive values in the Tulsa area, and even posts book reviews of non-fiction, politically-related books, and literary fiction. Since 2006, the site has been providing a potpourri of well-written critique, including frequent commentary on Tulsa's conservative media outlets, such as KRMG and FOX News. And, nearly daily updates mean that "AT" is timely and relevant.
According to further statements on the site by the authors, "Alternative Tulsa" seeks to highlight ideas and opinions that provoke and enlighten . . . "doing our small part to publish the truth as we see it and, as the saying goes, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
"AT" is a promising destination for Tulsans who want a different take on the day's news.
"No Blog of Significance"
Opinion blogger Dan Paden makes no bones about the inflammatory nature of some of his posts. He starts every blog entry with a lengthy disclaimer, inspired by an idea Michael Bates offered on his "Batesline" blog. Paden's disclaimer warns that he doesn't mean to offend.
"I do get frustrated with what I see as positions that are less than consistent with human nature and certain other realities," he said.
Paden's conservative and Christian views are apparent in his posts, which offer opinions on politics, spirituality, and martial arts. He started blogging "almost by accident" in January of 2005, when he inadvertently created a blogger account when trying to comment on another blog. "I had absolutely no idea what to do with it at first, and just noted my thoughts on things that I ran across on the Web," said Paden. Since then, Paden's blog has developed a narrower focus on both religious and secular news.
Although Paden blogs mostly for himself, he hopes his views are interesting to potential readers. "I do hope that my posts in general are thought-provoking and that some of them are informative," said Paden. For the most part, Paden seeks to provide commentary without controversy. He remarked, "People don't seem as interested in commenting when they can't draw me into an argument." Paden's unapologetic attitude is exemplary of the freedom that the blogosphere can provide; his blog is utterly opinionated and utterly his own.
"Tasha Does Tulsa"
Natasha Ball started her blog for many reasons but, she said, those reasons "boil down to something I kept hearing out of the mouths of my peers, who are early-twenty-something kids in their first professional jobs out of college. They said, 'There is nothing to do in Tulsa.'" Ball set out to prove Tulsa's young professional demographic wrong by making it her mission to experience every festival, farmer's market, museum and restaurant in town. "With the blog I wanted to debunk the notion that there's nothing to do here by spotlighting exactly what Tulsa has to offer," Ball said.
Her efforts won her the 2007 "Okie Blog Award" for "Best Culture Blog," and a regular readership. A team of contributors helped Ball stay on top of local happenings. Party Brenda, Mos Jef and Natalie make sure "TDT" doesn't miss a step in documenting Tulsa hijinks. And the blog's light, funny style means that even an entry documenting something as mundane as a trip to Red Lobster can be titillating.
Here, prolific blogger Emily Priddy offers up news and reviews of mom & pop businesses in Tulsa. Priddy said she was inspired by the film "Independent America," which charts the journey of a couple who traveled cross-country to document the impact of megastores on small communities. "The film," said Priddy, "was a critique of how commerce has become decentralized, what the impact is to the community when you bring in a big-box store."
Priddy thought Tulsa needed a local source to promote independent businesses and stave off the negative effects of national chains on local commerce. She set a goal for herself to frequent only mom & pop businesses for a month. According to Priddy, it was a challenging but enlightening project. "I had to be creative about where I bought gas. I had to think before I spent. It forced me to get out and explore a little bit. There is so much in this community that would fly under your radar unless you're looking for it," Priddy said.
Priddy hopes her blog inspires Tulsans to seek out those unexplored bits of the community, and support local businesses. However, "Indie Tulsa" is also a reminder of the fragility of local stores. "Some of the businesses I've mentioned on there are already going out of business," Priddy said. She hopes that her blog eventually gains more contributors. "I'd like to have more eyes and ears out there... that would be that much more publicity for those struggling local shops," she said.
The author of "Irritated Tulsan," who calls himself Jerry to retain anonymity, started his blog this past March, prompted by the urging of his friends. "I tend to rant quite a bit and a couple of friends of mine said I needed to start my own blog."
Since then, his blog has developed a trademark style of over-the-top critique of local government and public figures.
When asked what he hopes to provide readers with, Jerry's answer was simple. "Laughter. I want to provide daily comic relief for readers. If I write something I feel is too serious, I'll toss it out."
Lately, the posts on Irritated Tulsan that have elicited the most responses don't involve Kathy Taylor or the BOK Center, but country singer Toby Keith. "I can write about child abuse, HB 1804 and polygamist cults, and get no response. Write about Toby Keith and angry emails pour in," said Jerry.
As for how the "Irritated Tulsan" compares to less lighthearted forms of news media, it's in a class by itself. According to its author, the blog "neither compliments, nor contradicts, traditional media sources. It distracts from them."
"Red Fork State of Mind"
"The House of the Lifted Lorax"
For Emily Priddy, blogging is a reflection of daily life, as you can tell with mention of her three blogs, "Indie Tulsa" (above), "Red Fork State of Mind," and "The House of the Lifted Lorax." "Red Fork State of Mind," the winner of the 2007 "Okie Blog Award" for "Best Inspirational Blog," is a running commentary on life, nature and spirituality.
Originally, said Priddy, "The idea was to use it as an informal almanac of what was going on in my yard." The blog quickly evolved into a more general account of Priddy's day-to-day existence and life in Tulsa's Red Fork neighborhood. "I used to write a newspaper column and it's more like that now, my observations on life," Priddy said. "Most of it revolves around what's going on in my garden or in my beehive, or with my chickens and my dogs."
Priddy tries to live a sustainable and eco-conscious lifestyle. "The House of the Lifted Lorax" documents those efforts, from installing solar panels on the roof to harvesting honey from Priddy's beehives.
Although Priddy occasionally gets recognized from the picture of her on her site, she's not concerned. "I've got three dogs and an attitude problem, I don't worry," Priddy said.
Priddy noted that she tries to be consistent in the attitude she presents in her blogs. As a Christian Scientist, she said, she "tries to see past immediate material concerns. With the blog, I've tried to make sure that every post is of a tone that is consistent with what I've said I believe. There's enough negativity out there."
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