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Richmond Bloggers Gain New Powers 

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Susan Howson widens her eyes with mock incredulity.

"This is a news event?" she quips. "Wow, it must be slow out there."

Criticizing the mainstream media (MSM) is central to blogging, but Howson has further specialized by critiquing movies for her blog, www.misanthropicreview.com. Sitting at the end of a long table at Cous Cous Saturday night, she was joined by a dozen other local bloggers for a live meet-up.

As for the newsworthiness, a summit, however casual, of Richmond's blogger community goes beyond a sign-of-the-times barometer. In March, the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a think tank that studies news media, conducted a survey of local blogging activity in 15 randomly selected cities, including Dallas, Charlottesville and Ann Arbor, Mich. The study found Richmond had more community blogs dedicated to local news --17 of them -- than any other city in the sample, a fact local bloggers like to point out was first reported on, um, blogs.

The researchers were particularly impressed with the efforts of John Murden. Murden, who sat next to Howson at the June 14 event, has plugged away for four years on his Church Hill blog, www.chpn.net. Flipping through the feedback section on his posts about the shooting death of Deshun Taylor reveals comments from the 14-year-old's neighbors complaining about the violence in Fairfield Court.

Murden started covering civic association meetings and district races until he got tired of doing it alone and posted a call for other neighborhood blogs to join him in January 2007. He offered to share the code and format of his site, spawning a clutch of 10 ultra-local pages focusing on neighborhoods such as Jackson Ward and Manchester.

There are 299 local blogs -- as of June 16 -- whose content flows into www.rvablogs.com, a site that compiles new postings from member sites.

Blogger Ross Catrow, who hosts RVABlogs, sits midway down the table at Cous Cous, sipping beer and pondering the more lighthearted minutia of life -- a blogger mainstay -- asking the table: "Do you blow your wad, or shoot your wad?"

Blog your wad, by the looks of it.
-- Amy Biegelsen
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