Blogging in the Early Republic

Media reports on the blog explosion over the past few years tend
to link bloggers with venerable figures from bygone eras.
Journalists point to the likes of Martin Luther, Thomas Paine, and
George Orwell as prototypical bloggers, but

W. Caleb McDaniel suggests we look in the less-turned pages of
history
. That’s because the majority of blogging isn’t done by
high-profile thinkers on political websites like TomPaine.com, but
rather within localized communities of interest.

Online journal writers’ true ancestors, McDaniel argues, are
people like Henry Clarke Wright and Edward Neufville Tailer Jr.,
avid American antebellum readers and writers who kept records of
their lives and their reading. They clipped and commented on the
news in diaries much like contemporary bloggers’ websites.

McDaniel compares the recent explosion in blogging to the
eruption of democratic print media during the 19th century. By
1850, the diversification of printed material had encouraged
readers to pore over a variety of specialized works. Wright and
Tailer are exemplars of an era in which readers responded to the
‘bewildering abundance’ of texts with writings and discussions that
oriented them within specialized circles like library clubs and
lyceums.

This media filtering process, whether in today’s ‘blogosphere’
or antebellum America’s diaries, stems from the needs of
individuals navigating a media environment containing a wealth of
information. Or, as it was for Wright, to ‘see more of what is
going on around me.’
Rose Miller

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Blogging in the Early Republic

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