Saturday, January 08, 2005

Full Disclosure

Welcome to the inaugural post on the Citizens' Band (CB) blog!

With that very word, "blog", being Merriam-Webster's "Word of the Year" for 2004, the time has never been better to become acquainted with it. Blogs are new and interesting and trendy. They exist in a range of topics and sizes. Posts can consist of anything from verbose essays to terse one-sentence commentary and external link. Some are by professionals about fields the authors have expertise in; others, like the CB hopes to become, are a voice to the concerns of amateurs.

A recently published study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that blog readership increased by 58% in 2004, spurred especially by the rise in politically oriented blogs. A stellar example of the latter type is PowerLine, a group blog authored by a trio of conservative commentators who update their site multiple times a day. PowerLine was recently named as TIME Magazine's first-ever "Blog of the Year".

Blogs have become the medium whereby ordinary people can, among other things, channel their "righteous indignation" over any matter that irks them. In September 2004, a now-infamous 60 Minutes story purported to show National Guard documents casting doubt on President Bush's record in the National Guard. The controversial story escalated when many people, led by several leading bloggers, called into question the authenticity of the documents. In the ensuing fallout, CBS first defended, then retracted its story with great embarassment. The power of the online word had been demonstrated.

Yesterday it was revealed through a Freedom of Information Act request by the USA Today that the Bush administration had paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind law and encourage fellow African-Americans to do the same. Williams, a prominent political commentator, appeared on television interviews and wrote columns in support of NCLB without disclosing his affiliation with the administration. Williams now admits the unethical nature of his actions and "wouldn't do it again." This latest scandal comes after the Bush administration's use last year of video releases designed to look like news reports supporting its prescription drug plan. That action drew a reprimand from the General Accounting Office for being an illegal use of public funds.

These are the kinds of stories that get trafficked widely on the Internet, and the reactions of your everyday web surfers (including blog readers) can help determine the outcome. We already know that the Web is a primary source of news for many people. The next step in this Internet revolution is the weblog. The weblog, or "blog", empowers individuals and groups who are otherwise limited by means and location to trade thoughts with a potentially limitless number of people.

Into this setting steps the Citizens' Band, a humble entry into the online information bazaar. In the coming weeks and months, I hope to enlist a number of contributors with a diversity of background, interests, and philosophy. So, please update your bookmarks and visit this site often as it grows. Your comments and participation in discussion are not only encouraged, they are essential to the nature of a site like this. I hope you enjoy what the CB has to offer.

No comments: