The Canadian science fiction writer William Gibson predicted in 1996 that everyone would one day express his or her ideas via the Internet. In reality the real vitality of Internet expression today exists at the grassroots level, and professional Internet writers sprout from ordinary netizens. At the center of it all the blog serves a haven for this new and growing online culture.
Unlike other means of Internet communication such as email, individual homepages and bulletin board services (BBS), blogs are more convenient, individualized and are able to generate information quickly. These features enable bloggers to write about their thoughts, life stories and interests as well as spread public information in a timely manner.
Blogs have changed the traditional position of news consumers from passive readers to active participants in news-making and communication. They have weakened the hegemony of the traditional media. Bloggers write about what concerns them and what they see, hear and observe, using words, sounds, photos and videos.
It was through the "Zippergate" scandal in 1998, which centered on the then U.S. President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, that people became familiar with the blog site of the Drudge Report (drudgereport.com). Afterward, the role of blogs in spreading information and influencing public opinion became a major part of the public's discussion about the Internet.
The emergence of blogs has posed a challenge to traditional media to a certain extent. When everyone becomes a journalist, the concept of journalism begins to change. Journalism will be more individualized and privatized. Some people think blogs herald the trend of grassroots journalism, while others look upon blogs as the "citizen media." From the case of the Drudge Report, we can see that blogging has allowed the spread of trivial information by individuals to develop into a media agenda, further expanding its public influence.
Although a survey conducted by the China Internet Network Information Center indicates that individual blogs in China have not had a powerful influence in spreading information and influencing public opinion, blogs are becoming important sources of information and are moving to the fore of the dissemination of news.
On November 26, 2005, an earthquake jolted Jiujiang City in central China's Jiangxi Province at 8:49 a.m. Xun Zhao Dong Hai, a blogger from central China's Wuhan City, posted a report at 9:04 a.m. on bokee.com, one of the leading blog sites in China, about how he and others felt the strong tremor. That message was posted at least 15 minutes earlier than the reports carried by traditional media nationwide.
In early March 2007, a young man named Zhou Shuguang went to southwest China's Chongqing Municipality to report the story of a family in the city who refused to move out of their home after their house was set to be demolished. In an Internet cafe near the family's house, Zhou uploaded reports and videos about the life and activities of the family on his blog. In doing so, he became a pioneer in individuals' reporting public events via the Internet.