The blogs of war
October 21, 2003
Until the Iraq War, blogging was a pursuit known best to a few thousands computer nerds. But just before shock and awe rocked Baghdad, an architecture student in the city started sending out daily messages on his weblog.
His weblog - or blog - was called Salam Pax, and the publicity generated by his subjective, personal look at life on the ground in a time of war ushered the term blogger into everyday language.
Some people think bloggers are revolutionising communications. The defining characteristic of blogging is its highly personal nature. It is a direct link between writer and reader. In a way, blogs are to words what Napster was to music.
Proponents talk about the link between writer and reader doing away with editor and publisher. But Salam Pax's blog was so successful that London's Guardian newspaper picked him up. His fortnightly column continues to provide refreshingly honest glimpses of his war-torn city. Still, he thinks pundits' claims that blogging is a new form of "new journalism" may be going too far.
"The good thing about it is it's not restrained by the way journalists need to work. It's never going to be the news, it's always going to be what's around the news, how people's lives are affected by certain events," he says. "You have bloggers who go around checking what's in the media, but the most interesting are the people who write about themselves.
"For example, Iranian bloggers. What's interesting about them is they're never in the news, but it's always the students writing about their daily experiences. It hurts it when people call it news reporting. It's not."
Nevertheless, Westminster made history last July when it hosted the world's first bloggers' summit. The aim was simple: how best to use the "blogosphere" to generate public interaction and shape future policy. The organiser, James Crabtree, was only half joking when he said: "I guarantee that half the people there will be under 25 and half...