By AMANDA SMITH-TEUTSCH
CYBERSPACE -- With public discussions around the town square being a thing of the past, more and more people are turning to blogs to share their views, ideas and opinions.
Blogs, short for ‘‘Web logs’’ take many forms: some writers use them as a form of online diary, chronicling their daily lives. Others use them as political soapboxes to disseminate their platforms on everything from the war in Iraq to minimum wage and national candidates.
Locally, many bloggers write about the benefits of living in the metropolitan Youngstown-Warren area, as well the ins and outs of local politics.
‘‘I was in grad school in the Netherlands, and it is long and cold there in the winter,’’ said John Slanina, who as ‘‘Janko’’ on the i will shout youngstown blog. ‘‘As I went around in my studies, I saw many examples of how other communities are incorporating urban development and economic design into their cities. I thought it would be a neat way to communicate what these other cities are doing.’’
On his blog, Slanina interviews local people who are working towards the betterment of the area, and collects various news articles and Internet tidbits focusing on of interest to the residents of Youngstown. A graduate of Youngstown State University’s Scholars program, he now holds two masters degrees and is working as a technology-based development consultant in Columbus. There’s a community of former Youngstowners, he said, that he stumbles on to wherever he goes.
‘‘There’s an ex-pat Youngstown community, that while they’re not physically in Youngstown, they still care passionately about the place, and they want to see it succeed,’’ he said. ‘‘Often, people don’t want to leave, but they’re forced to.’’
The blog has helped network people in the city trying to work towards positive change, he said, and those ex-patriots who see viable ideas elsewhere. There will be no criticism or pointing out what’s wrong with the area, he said.
‘‘I want to promote the area, and stay fairly positive,’’ Slanina said. ‘‘Stay realistic about what’s going on, but to talk about the benefits of still calling Youngstown home.’’
Mike Prelee of Hubbard began his Tales from the Rust Belt blog two years ago, after a friend who wrote a technology blog helped him set up a blog of his own. A political science graduate from YSU who know works in transportation, he late at night when his two children - ages three and 18 months - are asleep.
‘‘Its a little bit of commentary about local politics and national politics, with a bit of satire thrown in,’’ he said. ‘‘I had one satire post where I ‘interviewed’ (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Il.’’
He also touches on local news concerns, analyzing and proposing solutions to Youngstown’s problems while keeping away from a negative spin, he said.
‘‘Youngstown has a bad reputation,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s called one of the most dangerous cities. But there are good things about it too. I want to have a fresh voice out there, on things that can be done better,’’ Prelee said. ‘‘It’s easy to complain and criticize. But if you choose to live here, there must be a reason. Everyone has to make a contribution to improve (the area).’’
Others use their blogs not to highlight area improvements but to offer personal opinions and interests. Jill Zimon, of Cleveland, blogs on topics of interest to Northeast Ohio residents as well as the general-interest topics of parenting, education, law and politics on her Writes Like She Talks blog.
‘‘I started a blog because I wanted to make myself sit down and actually write. I have scraps of paper everywhere with ideas on them - different shapes of napkins, bills, where ever I can find a scrap of paper.’’
A freelance writer and full time mom, Zimon said she enjoys watching as traditional media outlets begin to use the new technology.
‘‘There are newspapers out there that are finding ways to use new media,’’ she said, using blogs and audio files of interviews. One posted a podcast of interviews of editorial board meetings that lead to endorsements, she said, offering readers insight into how the editorial process.
Zimon took part in a ‘‘Meet the Bloggers’’ roundtable interview of several statewide and regional political candidates recently.
‘‘The group invited anyone and everyone to the sessions,’’ she said, ‘‘anyone who was willing to take part in the informal conversation.’’
The resulting transcripts and podcasts were valuable tools for voters, and the total downloads for the "Meet the Bloggers" series now numbers over 63,000, she said.
‘‘It gave an up close and personal sense of the candidate,’’ she said.
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