Oprah Gay? No Way! So What, Blogs Say

With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by CBSNews.com's Melissa P. McNamara.

When Oprah makes an announcement, it's big news in the blogosphere. But bloggers question her decision to announce that she and her best friend are just friends. Plus, bloggers in India fight back after their servers were shut down in the name of fighting terrorism. And who is blogging these days? Find out what a new study has to say.

Not That There's Anything Wrong With It

Despite the fighting in the Middle East, threat of nuclear missiles in North Korea, and sectarian violence in Iraq, Oprah has crept into the news cycle. Surely you've heard that in an effort to dispel years of rumors, the talk show queen announced in her magazine that she and best friend Gayle King are not gay.
The two friends first met in 1976 when Gayle was a production assistant at Baltimore's WJZ and Oprah was an anchor there. Ever since, they've been talking about "four times a day" and would have no problem telling the public if they were in a sexual relationship ... if they were.

"The truth is, if we were gay, we would tell you, because there's nothing wrong with being gay," says King.

But all the attention has bloggers asking, "So what?"

"This is a woman who really loves to make people happy, not because it makes her happy or because she wants ratings or she's trying to repay a debt to society. She does it out of the goodness of her heart. But we still feel we need to know if she's gay or straight," Tosin Sule blogs at The World Around Me.

Others find it a telling sign about society that Oprah felt the need to make such an announcement in the first place. "Times have changed, but judging from the recent brouhaha over Oprah and Gayle's famous friendship, we're still struggling to trust the concept of deep and platonic bonds between women. Or, for that matter, deep and platonic bonds between men," Annie Dennison writes at Smart at Love.

Nelly agrees. "Since when did any close friendship become a sexual thing? I don't think 20 years ago anyone would have doubted the relationship, but now ... we're all so bloody obsessed with sex, everything is sexual!" she writes at the Importance of being Nelly.

Thinking Girl says the issue is intertwined with gender roles. "Why is it that the questioning of one's sexuality is such a touchy topic? It goes to the heart of gender roles, that's for sure. It's a personal matter, also true. And being anything other than heterosexual in this society means having less power. Not good," she blogs.

Still, many bloggers are happy Oprah has a loyal friend in an environment where many people may be after her money. "Now, I personally don't think Oprah (or Gayle) is gay, but it wouldn't matter one bit to me if she (or they) were. Her friendship (and that's what counts!) with Gayle has lasted over the years and the huge disparity in their incomes hasn't been a problem," Joseph Ryan at Mediawingnuts writes.

India Blocking Bloggers?

Word that India is blocking some online sites and blog providers has bloggers outraged, and, well, blogging (those outside India, that is). The news was BoingBoing's top blog post, as word spread throughout the blogosphere.

Dina Mehta writes: "This is so utterly weird. Since yesterday afternoon, I haven't been able to load any Blogspot blogs — they seem to be blocked somewhere … It's a real shame if this is a directive from the Government of India. We must all raise our voices against it."

India Express reports that more than 25 percent of India's 38 million Internet users are active bloggers. And while the Indian government hasn't exactly clarified why the government ordered local Internet service providers to block access to providers, including the popular blogspot.com, many bloggers link it to the bombings in Mumbai.

Deepak Maheshwari, secretary of ISP Association of India, told India Express, "We have received a letter from DoT, asking us to block around 18 URLs." An official at the Department of Information and Technology, Gulshan Rai, told the New York Times he was aware of "two pages" that had been blocked for spreading what he called "anti-national sentiments."

In response to all the negative press, the Indian Department of Telecom issued an official press release saying it was a technical glitch, that the ban should have been limited to Indian ISPs, not the parent Web site. But bloggers are still angry.

Many Indian bloggers are accusing the government of censorship. "The eighteen or so websites that the Department of Telecommunications ordered to be blocked, come nowhere near to a threat to anyone or anything in this country," Shivam Vig blogs. "Even if they did, there should have been a public debate, and the DoT should have justified as to how the blocking of these sites is important for national interest."

"For all the talk of India's freedom and democracy, the Indian government has apparently just banned access to all of Blogspot and Typepad. For shame," Manesh at Ultrabrown writes.

And Truth Hunter asks, "Could this censorship happen in the U.S.?"

"Heavy-handed censorship will be the norm and it won't work," Revere at Effect Measure blogs. "I'm sure it won't stop governments from trying."

Amit Varma offers fellow bloggers some tips on India Uncut on how to get around the ban.

Bloggers As Young Exhibitionists

It's confirmed: Bloggers enjoy writing about their personal lives and their family members are reading.

A new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that bloggers are a mostly young group, 54 percent under the age of 30 in fact.

Bloggers are a social bunch, too. About 60 percent of bloggers maintain their Web sites to keep in touch with friends and family, and half of them blog to network or meet new people, the survey said. Ninety percent of them say they've read other blogs, compared to just 39 percent of the Internet audience that says it has read someone else's blog.

"Bloggers in general don't intend to have a lot of impact," Amanda Lenhart, who directed the survey, told the Washington Post. "The motivation comes from within; it tends to be very personal. They're not out to change the world."

But blogger Mary Ann points out that half of the bloggers surveyed also say changing people's minds is a major reason for their blog. "While purely personal, or literary, or photographic blogs are also nice, weblogs remain an important shortcut to finding information on the web," she writes at Five Wells.

But just 9 percent claim that the news media has paid attention or cited them, though as Slate's Jack Shafer points out, 9 percent of 12 million bloggers comes out to a whopping 1 million bloggers.

Nervous journalists don't have too much to fear, however. As Shafer says: "This study shows that at this early point in the blog era, the great mass of bloggers aren't set on replacing reporters. The top 100 or top 1,000 may consider themselves 'citizen journalists' of one sort or another, but the survey finds that 65 percent of bloggers don't consider their output journalism at all."

That could change, however. The number of bloggers are growing, and they're not going to stop blogging any time soon. About 57 million Americans say they blog, and 80 percent of the survey respondents plan to continue a year from now.

But is any of this news to bloggers themselves? Alex, a blogging dad, may sum up bloggers' reaction best. "An interesting and very extensive report about bloggers. It nice to know who we are," he writes.

Jason at Exontes Zilon says the study raises interesting questions. "Nothing really grabs the blogosphere as much as itself. It sounds like a Friday night crisis, but it's less lonely than that. Can we call it collective individualism? Should we employ Shakespeare, Nietzsche, or Jung when considering that 37% of bloggers say they are their own favorite subject? Does it change things if over half of them are anonymous?" he writes.

"The effects of (the blogs) have already changed the way our society communicates, and it's only just beginning. Hang on, folks. It's gonna be a bumpy ride ..." Carlos Pedraza blogs.

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By Melissa McNamara

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