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Weblogs having impact on politics
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

JUNE 29, 2003 - - Thanks to the Internet, there's an easy way a political junkie can become a political insider.

How? Through an online feature called a Weblog, or "blog" for short.

A blog is an easy-to-use online diary. It can feature anything the "blogger," or owner of the diary, wants - - from news on bands to political opinions.

Essentially, these online diaries take publishing on the Internet to a new level. Prior to the advent of blogs over the last year or so, anybody could publish to the world by building their own Internet site. But they generally had to know sophisticated computer programming. But now, bloggers immediately can post opinions, news, gossip - - virtually anything - - by going online to a special Web form for their blog. And they can do it without knowing much about the complicated world of computer coding.

"There's a step between gossip and hard news that the Internet fills very well," says Hartsville native Wyeth Ruthven. Last June, Ruthven transformed an e-mail list of people of his thoughts about state and regional Democratic politics into a blog called Wyethwire (

Now, hundreds point their Internet mouse to Ruthven's blog to get his take on the latest political news.

"I'm able to get my opinions heard by larger media outlets," says Ruthven, a University of Virginia law student who served as speechwriter to Gov. Jim Hodges.

While he said Wyethwire and other blogs appeal to political junkies, traditional media political reporters often read blogs as a kind of online tip sheet.

"I think it's going to change the way the media covers politics," Ruthven said.

For example, a reporter with The State newspaper recently read a post on Wyethwire about U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minnesota)'s anti-war rhetoric in college. The reporter then asked Coleman, who spoke at a S.C. political banquet, about it and included it in a column, Ruthven said.

Without the blog being online, the reporter might not have had the insight to be able to ask the question, Ruthven said.

Jonathan Pait, a public relations officer at Bob Jones University in Greenville, runs a Web site called Common Voice ( While not a blog, it offers similar features, including routine political columns and a tool for users to comment on the day's headlines.

He said he started the site, much like many political bloggers did, to involve people more in politics. But so far, many only use the site on a superficial level and reasonable discourse between users often turns into namecalling.

Still, he added "people of influence" read his site and others like it to check up on the news and what people say about it.

"We're giving another option for the people already involved," he said.

Other South Carolina political blogs include anonymously-written Palmetto Journal ( and (, and Jeff Quinton's Backcountry Conservative ( None responded to interview requests. [Editor's note: Quinton responded after deadline.]

Charleston's Phil Noble, who a Web site ( that analyzes the Internet and politics around the world, said the Weblog is a new tool picking up steam.

"I'm sure there are a lot of individual small Weblogs where they're gathering small audiences," he said, adding that their impact likely will increase in coming years.

The good thing about Weblogs is they provide ordinary people with a quick and easy entry into the world of political intrigue, news and policy. In other words, it's pretty easy these days to become a political insider.

But they also have a down side. Because of the ease of use provided by the technology, it's not difficult for unsubstantiated gossip, innuendo and lies to make their way online. And just because they appear online, they gain some credibility - - even though the information doesn't go through the checks and balances of standard journalism.

The jury's still out on how Weblogs will fare as part of the political process but so far in South Carolina, they're starting to get noticed.


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