The nature of the blog

"Blog," I recently discovered, is an abbreviation for "Web log." With the aid of free online tools (at www.blogger.com and other websites), people who, like me, have no knowledge of the special coding this usually requires are posting daily or weekly entries to journals on the Internet. The blogs of these journalists are often similar in content to the diaries of their great-grandparents - giving details of comings and goings, as well as reflections on daily life. And of course, many are quite personal, raw and unedited. Like so-called reality TV, they explore the realm of what is normally private.

For centuries there have been two basic types of journalist: (1) those who keep a journal, more or less private and (2) those who write or edit for a news medium, usually for public consumption. These "bloggers" are blurring the lines - diminishing the old public/private dichotomy.

Other blogs are commercial news sites, offering regular updates and linking readers to related Web reports and commentaries. The (London) Guardian has picked up the concept on its website www.guardian.co.uk/weblog. If you visit the site, you'll notice the newspaper prefers the term "weblog" (one word).

Creating language, under duress

Of course, such commercial sites must continually keep up with breaking news and deadlines. It is under such duress that decisions affecting language are constantly being made in the media. A case in point is the recently trendy phrase New Economy.

It's usually associated with a burst of new technology and rising expectations for commercial use of the Internet. You will recall that dotcom companies were said to pose an imminent threat to traditional retailers. Some specialists were even saying that, in this New Economy, traditional theories of economic cycles no longer applied.

A quick check of our archives indicates "new economy" was only used some 30 times in the Monitor throughout the 1980s. It appeared there 75 times in the '90s (more and more, of course, as the decade passed) - and then about a hundred times in 2000 alone. In early 1999, the term began to be capitalized, giving it an added legitimacy. The Monitor was not alone; many publications and news agencies were featuring stories on the New Economy as the millennium came to a close. Bullish economic bulletins made the New Economy seem like a solid reality.

But in light of the recently bearish mood on Wall Street and the demise of so many previously sizzling dotcoms, it's perhaps appropriate now to wonder whether we were all duped, caught up in hype along with thousands of investors and millionaire wannabes. Caveat lector!

Was there really such a thing as a New Economy? Have we now settled back into an "old economy"? Many people have much riding on the answers to such questions - including those in Washington who are using projections of federal revenues to justify trillions of dollars in tax cuts.

To keep up, just follow the money, in your favorite journal - or blog.

Send language questions to Lance Carden, the copy and style editor, at turnsofphrase@csps.com or One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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