To Live an d Blog…

Last May Travis Smith wrote about blogging.la inTo Live and Blog in L.A. for the LA Times. Today, three months later, the Downtown News is running a story by Nora Zelevansky called To Live and Blog in Downtown about bloggers in Downtown LA, including blogging.la. So the words To Live and Die… are officialy “played out” and I would request that writers stop using them.

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To Live and Blog in Downtown

Local Issues Spark a Blooming Online Discussion

by Nora Zelevansky

Downtown is Los Angeles’ melting pot. As the urban center grows, attracting more residents and businesses, the varied population is diversifying further. Gentrification, history, and kinetic energy has long been compelling to people of all kinds who find themselves Downtown. Recently, however, instead of being haphazardly discovered, the neighborhood has become a destination for groups like the fashion community, politicians and culture vultures.

Suddenly the word is out about Downtown, and many of the primary sources of information are local bloggers. Sean Bonner, founder of a leading portal, blogging.la, and a pioneer of the medium, aptly describes a blog (short for web log) as “a regularly updated website with commentary written by one or more people. Blogs are a voice. It’s putting the power into the hands of the ordinary guy and making a difference one person at a time.”

Online Downtowners can have a forum to express their opinions, contact like-minded thinkers, and disseminate facts about local treasures. Local blogs provide grassroots outreach for everyone from Dodger fans to artists to newshounds who recognize them as sources for inside dope.

Blogging is particularly attractive to those with more marginalized views, who can find sympathetic friends online, such as the 29-year-old Downtown worker and West Hollywood resident who runs the boifromtroy.com blog. “Boi” prefers to remain anonymous lest his mother decide to “Google” him and discover his sexual orientation.

His site, developed during the recall of former Gov. Gray Davis, caters mostly to gay Republicans, especially USC football fans. Beneath an appropriately rainbow title, daily commentary, usually just a paragraph, chronicles everything from political life (often criticizing Democrats like John Kerry), We-Ho drama, the latest news on the Trojans, or even “Get togethers for Gay Bloggers.” There are links to related sites, reviews from supporters (reminiscent of those in movie ads), and, although there are no personals, there is a description of Boi himself: “I’m 6’1″, 175lbs . . .”

Meeting like-minded people is certainly an Internet attraction for Boi. Having been attacked with questions like, “How could you be a gay Republican who likes sports?” he is delighted to meet online Republicans and gays who are warm and welcoming.

“Groups of bloggers will get together around a common interest,” he says, recalling one lunch with fellow Republicans at Downtown sushi favorite R23. Boi now gets 800 to 1,000 hits daily, although admittedly most are not from Los Angeles residents.

Boi also wants to spread his opinion and recruit followers. “I saw that web logs could drive stories in the media. This [is] a very powerful tool, especially in the political world.”

Boi likes Democratic mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg’s blog, changela.com. The Republican notes that at the recent Democratic Convention, bloggers were issued media credentials.

Political types are not the only ones taking advantage of the Web. Sports fans are also using it. Jon Weisman’s site, Dodger Thoughts, focuses on Downtown’s favorite baseball team. No one better describes Dodger Thoughts than the blogger himself. The top of the home page reads, “Jon Weisman’s outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers and baseball.”

Weisman offers Dodger commentary and up-to-date news – a little less regularly since his second child was just born – as well as links to everything from non-partisan baseball sites to Dodger sites, to invaluable resources like statistic sites. An employee in the development department at the Los Angeles County Museum by day, Weisman started blogging to exercise his passion for writing.

“If blogging had been around five or 10 years ago, I would have started it then. I’ve been writing since high school… The Web, with its freedom and ease, is really an outlet that is suited for me,” Weisman muses.

“Without taking the fun out of it, I try to bring some lucidity to discussing the Dodgers,” adds Weisman.

For people like Weisman, web logs offer exposure and personal satisfaction. The success born of dedicating time, expressing an opinion, and building an accessible site can be rewarding.

“There is much more communication in this world than any other [writing] world I’ve been in,” he said. “It’s remarkable how many people I call friends that I’ve never met in person. I’m blown away by how many people now read the site. Each little advance has been a surprise, has been gravy.”

Some see their sites as an essential alternative media source. Caryn Coleman, who runs Sixspace Gallery Downtown with her blogger husband, Sean Bonner, started Art.blogging.la in January to contrast the opinions of prevailing Los Angeles critics.

“I started blogging and writing about art because, as a gallerist, I have opinions about the local and international art community,” she explains.

Coleman is quick to confirm that Art.blogging.la is not a calendar. The site offers entries on art world developments, often featuring lesser known artists and Downtown shows, and allows for interactive reader commentary.

Orange links offering “News, Previews, Reviews, Interviews, Archives” are placed artfully to the left on a chocolate brown background, making the well-designed site a resource for art enthusiasts. Coleman brings her opinions about the politics of the art world to the forum, through which she hopes to incite change.

“My goal has been to create a dialogue about the Los Angeles art community as a whole,” she said. “Art blogs give anyone in the art community a voice, and in turn, give art lovers an alternative place to read. I believe that art blogs will eventually reshape art criticism. They already are reshaping it in many ways.”

Downtown’s newly elected neighborhood council president Brady Westwater recently launched lacowboy.blogspot.com, which will focus on city life, politics, culture and the burgeoning neighborhood council effort.

“Accepting a dare from Matt Welch, of the late lamented (other than by the L.A. Times, of course) L.A. Examiner, I am going to take a stab (which may prove to be an all too relevant verb) at starting a debate about politics in Los Angeles, along with all the other aspects of life in L.A. that make it both exciting and despairing,” he wrote in his first post.

Westwater’s commentary has been sparse so far, but previous posts have included opinions about the L.A. Times, the closing of the historic Perino’s restaurant and upheaval at Olvera Street.

Although not based here, some of the foremost Los Angeles blogs still touch on Downtown issues. Kevin Roderick’s blog, LAObserved.com, deals with Downtown issues from the Grand Avenue reinvention to Dodger updates to inner happenings at the L.A. Times.

Roderick’s first blog-related project was about Valley history, followed by a site detailing the Valley’s attempt at secession. Now he blogs on everything from problems accessing Calendar Live to prominent Los Angeles families like the Ahmansons. He manages to reconcile his newspaper, magazine and book writing with his blog personality by keeping the hugely popular Los Angeles site true to his personal interests, as is the blogger’s right.

As he explains in the “About” section of his blog, “LA Observed is a logical step in my online evolution, but I’m not a media chauvinist. I value offline sources, and therefore many entries here will lack links. Get over it.”

If readers don’t like it, there’s sure to be a Downtown blog somewhere that suits them.

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