Thursday, June 26, 2008

Residents stay wired to their communities

Local blogs become more common in county

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With the ability to start their own blogs in a matter of minutes or create a radio show from their living rooms, residents are finding themselves as reporters of the latest local news.

Many residents in Prince George’s County have started community blogs, an abbreviated version of the term ‘‘Web log,” which allow administrators to post text, video and audio and give visitors a chance to comment on posts. And many of those users say their blogs allow residents to stay informed about what is going on in their communities.

Cheverly residents Dan Scott and Charles Andrews recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of CHVBlog, at Chvblog.blogspot.com.

‘‘We started the blog because we felt there was a lack of a community-based news service,” Scott said. ‘‘There’s a town newsletter that we have, but it comes out monthly.”

Scott and Andrews have written about happenings in the town such as fires at the Cheverly Metro station in March.

Andrews said most responses to the blog are positive because residents enjoy having a forum to discuss town issues, but not all responses are. Andrews recalled an an e-mail from state Sen. David Harrington (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, displeased the blog endorsed resident Steven Johnson, a Republican candidate in the April District 5 special election, and not Democratic candidate and eventual winner County Councilwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale.

‘‘I had to explain to him, ‘We’re not a news source,’” Andrews said. ‘‘‘We are biased.’”

Rob Goodspeed, co-founder of RethinkCollegePark.net, often found he and co-founder David Daddio provided information for local papers such as the University of Maryland, College Park paper, The Diamondback. The reporters sat in on the same meetings Goodspeed and Daddio did on developments such as East Campus, a 38-acre mixed use project featuring residential, retail and office space.

Both University of Maryland students, Goodspeed contacted Daddio about forming RethinkCollegePark.net after reading a May 2006 op-ed column he wrote for The Diamondback which proposed creating a Web forum to discuss the future of development in College Park. The site launched in July 2006 and today, Goodspeed said the site gets 100 to 300 hits daily.

Despite the rising popularity of blogs, Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association director Jack Murphy said there will still be a need for local newspapers and reliable reporters. Blogs can contribute to the conversation since they tend ‘‘to be more opinions on what’s happening.”

‘‘I think that the people who care about what’s going on in Cheverly are the ones who are checking out the blog in the first place,” Murphy said. ‘‘The people who care about the community, they’re going to read the blog but they’re also going to read the newspaper to see what’s going on about the same issue.”

Cheverly Councilman Mike Callahan (Ward 1) said he reads CHVBlog every three days and even asked Andrews and Scott to start a NCAA Tournament basketball pool this March through the blog which he said garnered 27 participants. Callahan said he likes how the blog connects residents who wouldn’t normally talk to each other.

‘‘Be it everything from a town issue to what’s the best beer to the neighborhood basketball pool to traffic in the community, it is a great community device,” Callahan said. ‘‘And they do it with humor. They don’t do it with any kind of venomous attitude. They’re not attacking people. It’s a fun thing.”

E-mail Natalie McGill at nmcgill@gazette.net

well Connected

Some county blogs include:

www.rethinkcollegepark.net

www.hyattsvilleh4x.com

www.greenbelttogo.blogspot.com

www.chvblog.blogspot.com

www.route1growth.wordpress.com