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Keynote speech
Sullivan: Blogs to replace formal op-ed style

Will Sullivan photo

Blogger Andrew Sullivan gives the Saturday keynote address.

By Lily Fu
November 15, 2003

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Weblogs can offer journalists an alternative means of reaching global audiences while promoting reader interaction and debate, according to writer Andrew Sullivan, who keynoted the Online News Association conference on Saturday.

Sullivan writes "The Daily Dish" at, a blog, or an online journal, that explores topics ranging from religion to the war in Iraq. In the early 1990s, Sullivan, a former editor and writer for The New Republic, became known for pioneering discussion on controversial issues, such as gays in the military and same-sex marriage. Now in its fourth year of operation, "The Daily Dish" is one of the most read and influential blogs on the Internet.

Sullivan files several short paragraphs everyday that link to various Web sites on topics he writes about. He touted the nascent blog format as a low-cost way of reaching a mass audience.

"In general, the overhead is minimal, but the reach is infinite," he said.

Sullivan said his Web site now has a larger audience than The New Republic. He said bloggers are taking power away from editors and publishers, and that traditional media's way of expressing opinion will be outpaced.

"The op-ed column is a dinosaur as a genre," Sullivan said. "I think that in the future, newspaper editorial pages will have five bloggers rather than five columnists."

Blogs offer users the opportunity to pick sources they trust and come to respect, forcing writers to be personally accountable information they post online. One of the ways blogs enforce this is through Web links that appear with each entry. Sullivan said this is important so that readers are given the tools to form their own opinions. Sullivan believes the public is often skeptical of traditional media, which he referred to as "the man behind the curtain."

Sullivan said his blogs invite people to respond to items he posts. In the process, his site becomes a portal of other people's ideas and comments. Oftentimes his readers offer him comments, tips and links that he otherwise would not find.

Unlike traditional columns, blogs invite ongoing discussion and acknowledge that human thought is not final. "A blog doesn't need to make that commitment," he said. "Let's continue this conversation onwards."

Indeed, conversations frequently continue for an extended period of time and Sullivan said his blog accumulates facts, vocabulary and even inside jokes.

Even with the freedom blogs offer, Sullivan reminded the audience that he is dependent on classic reporting because the very nature of blogging calls for issues to be commented on and responded to.

Despite being the voice behind one of the most popular blogs, Sullivan admitted that there is no clear business model for blogging success. Sullivan currently solicits donations from his users and conducts pledge drives.

As for the future, Sullivan envisions that there could be magazines driven entirely by blogs, confessional blogs, as well as blogs of pure fiction.

But one thing he was certain of is that blogging has taken over his life. Even on weekends while out with friends, Sullivan jokingly said that he reminds himself, "You could be posting right now."

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