Visual Growth: A Look Into the Rise of Blogging

This is trend story was written for Arts & Entertainment Reporting.

By Kitty Williams

Lifestyle and fashion blogger Carly Heitlinger began The College Prepster back in 2008 when she was a freshman in college. “It was like a little group of online friends back then,” said Heitlinger in an e-mail.

These blogs she was surrounded by in the beginning have faded out, and while The College Prepster began as a creative outlet, running it is now a full-time job for Heitlinger.

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Photo: Pixabay

Blogging has been around for many years, but has recently shown tremendous growth with help from social media platforms. Blogging has been made easy, and now anyone can share his or her personality with the Internet world, and that is exactly what readers like.

The last two years have shown growth in blogging activity on WordPress alone. According to a study published in 2014 by ManageWP, a website management service, the average number of blog posts published on WordPress each day was 20,000.

More current research from ManageWP concludes that there were nearly two million posts published on WordPress each day in 2015. That means that every second, there were over one thousand unique posts published on WordPress. These same statistics indicate that more than 500 blogs were created on WordPress alone every day that same year.

According to “A Brief History of Blogging” from Webdesigner Depot, the first blog was created in 1994, though it wouldn’t be until 1999 that it would be commonly referred to as a “blog.”

As blogging developed over the years, so did the platforms on which people could participate. Web sites like WordPress, Blogger, and even Tumblr are popular blogging platforms. Many bloggers also are also active on various other platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. When bloggers can be accessed on multiple platforms, the audience grows and it encourages interaction.

Blogging has developed with the increased use of social media. Most people have multiple personal social media accounts that they use to connect with people on. These accounts can be more business-oriented, but blogging accounts typically serve as more of a personal look into their lives, just as any other person’s accounts would be.

The appeal of blogs, according to Heitlinger, is that there is a blog out there for everyone, no matter the reader’s interests. “It’s not like watching television where you’re stuck with whatever a network has decided will be popular,” said Heitlinger.

Heitlinger’s blog is a personal one in which she talks about her own life and also provides resources for readers including gift guides, style tips, and studying advice. Just as it was in the beginning, she is still connecting with others through blogging. Her “About” page on her site reads, “Anything that I’d share with my close friends, I share here.”

However, much has changed over time. Having been in the blogging community for eight years, Heitlinger has been around to notice some trends in popularity. “There were definitely shifts of growth followed by plateaus and then more shifts of growth,” said Heitlinger. She attributes this rise, punctuated by periods of stagnation, to visual social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.

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Photo: Pixabay

Instagram and Pinterest are very visual social media platforms that bloggers use to make their content seen. Instagram is a photo sharing Web site, and Pinterest allows users to organize images onto different “boards.” These platforms may either echo a blog post or supplement it. Heitlinger herself has a “vlog” or “video blog” that she maintains on YouTube. She is also active on Twitter and Instagram, with over 31 thousand and 192 thousand followers respectively.

The visuals found in Heitlinger’s blog have evolved over the years. Pictures in early blog posts were taken on phone cameras, while her current posts feature professional level photos.

Andrea McHugh, the blogger behind The Newport Stylephile, also notes that recently it has been more important to have good visuals with online content. She notices that people have shifted their tendencies in what they interact with online. People are looking for concise articles with engaging captions and standout visuals. “I love a good New Yorker article, but it’s not often that people are reading three to four thousand word pieces,” says McHugh.

Given that it is a creative outlet that provides a person with the tools needed to connect with the world through his or her ideas and interests, blogging is ideal for writers. McHugh used her background as a freelance writer when starting her blog.

Looking back on when she decided to take the leap into the blogosphere, McHugh says, “It was kind of a reaction to having other writers advise that it would be a good method to keep fresh and get your ideas out there.”

“The social channels are very supportive of the blogs,” says McHugh. In addition, she notices that in years past, the visuals have been secondary to the writing, but now they have all been put on the same level of importance and influence.

McHugh’s lifestyle blog is not so much personal, but about Newport life. Its focus is less on her as the blogger behind the scenes and more on the reader she is connecting with. Her priority is “doing stories that are both relevant to Newport and my audience.”

Her blog is a resource for the Newport community. She may post about a local clothing store, business, or community event. McHugh is also a correspondent for the Rhode Show, a local television program. Her appearances there result in people’s going to her blog for more information about the products she talked about. Her readership growth has been very natural in this way.

McHugh also is part of a group of Rhode Island-based bloggers. In this group, the bloggers make connections and support one another. It is a “rising-tide-floats-all-boats community,” says McHugh. “We all try and help each other.”

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Photo: Pixabay

Blogs, depending on the format and purpose, can be personal projects. Oftentimes, people start a blog as a creative outlet and it is easy to do so. The Web sites that offer blogging tools make it easy for someone without knowledge of web coding or graphic design to make a beautiful and well-run site.

Nothing is there to hold someone back from running a blog, and that draws a lot of people in. People love to talk about what makes them happy and readers like when they find a kindred spirit.

“People are inherently nosey; who wouldn’t want to know what someone else is doing throughout the day?” said Heitlinger. “Bloggers peel back the curtain for at least a part of their life.”

Through blogging, writers get to share opinions that would have been less welcome had they written them for a publication. The blogs have become a more personal publication, a feature that is attractive to many.

This aspect of blogging is what makes experts argue that it will continue to thrive. According to “No, Blogs Are Not Dead” from Zocalo Public Square, “Blogs are well positioned to survive, in part because a blog is about an individual, not an institution, in an era when individuals matter more than institutions.”

McHugh believes social media will play a part in blogging’s future. Social media platforms affect blogging intensely, and they are also ever changing. “There’s always going to be a new channel,” she says. “I’m curious to watch how it shakes out.”

Heitlinger believes that the future of blogging will present what she calls a “hockey-stick model.” This means that blogging will continue to grow, but that the growth will present itself in different ways for different blogs.

“The big blogs and bloggers are going to continue to grow, but the number of blogs on the ‘tail’ are also going to continue,” said Heitlinger. “The big blogs will be the ones making money and the other blogs are just going to keep multiplying without gaining traction.”

She believes that the evolution of blogging will be a reflection of the evolution of social media.

Though Heitlinger’s blog has benefitted from the changes in the blogging world over the years, she looks back fondly on the early days of blogging when she used cell phone pictures and had a small community of friendly bloggers surrounding her. “It was so much fun back in the day,” she reflects.

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The View From Esther’s Easel: A Look Into the Life of a Salve Regina Art Student

By Kitty Williams

This profile was written for Arts & Entertainment Reporting.

 

Sara Bareilles’s singing echoes from a speaker in the corner of the drawing studio. The room is on the second floor of Antone Academic Center, undiscovered by the casual Antone-class-attending student. A wall that divides the room but doesn’t quite reach the ceiling serves as a perch for a man built of chicken wire. A few students sit on the other side spending their Saturday afternoon working on their art. The sound of their voices travels to the side of the room where Esther Hoekstra is working.

Photo: Kitty Williams
Photo: Kitty Williams

Hoekstra is sitting on a bench, leaning into her easel with a pencil in hand. Above the easel is a board occupied by a piece of paper with “Esther’s Spot Fall 2016” written on it, two photographs, and pinholes scattered like stars in the galaxy. The photograph on the left is a black and white image of a light bulb. To the right and slightly above is another black and white image of a light bulb, but this one is shattered.

“It could be a metaphor for something,” Hoekstra says, reflecting on something a professor told her. “It could be all your hopes and dreams are crushed, which could be depressing.” Offering a happier alternative, she adds, “But if you take it the other way… it could be that you were first broken and now you’re whole.”

As an art major with a concentration in graphic design and photography, Hoekstra has always seen art as an important form of expression. “It’s a way for me to show people without words how I’m feeling.” As someone who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder, she turns to art to help her through life’s difficult moments.

Art is also a means by which Hoekstra can explore gender and sexuality. Last year, she worked on a photography project that involved taking portraits of different people in an effort to capture how they express their gender and sexuality. In the portrait series, she included a self-portrait because she identifies as transgender genderqueer.

Amber Blanchette, a friend of Hoekstra’s, also found herself in front of Hoekstra’s camera for the portrait series. “I wore a very girly outfit as usual,” she says. As a fellow artist, Blanchette has a unique perspective into Hoekstra’s work. She understands the creative process that brings a piece of work from that original idea to the final piece. Thinking about the messages within Hoekstra’s art, she says, “I think sometimes she struggles with how she wants to say it, but it usually does reflect her personality.”

Recently, Hoekstra went through a time of doubt in her work. This doubt can spark thoughts that she should maybe do something else. “It’d be cool if I could be a park ranger or something,” Hoekstra says with a laugh. She has always had an interest in environmental science. These thoughts are “just fleeting,” she adds, though these interests sometimes creep their way into her work by way of landscape photographs.

Photo: Esther Hoekstra
Photo: Esther Hoekstra

In these times of doubt, Hoekstra will seek guidance from her former Drawing I professor, Dr. Gerry Perrino. “He shows you how to be one with yourself and with your artwork,” says Hoekstra. Perrino has a similar admiration for Hoekstra. “On top of having the potential to become an outstanding artist, she’s already an outstanding human being,” Perrino says.

“She doesn’t think that she is, but she’s a very brave person,” Perrino says in regards to her struggles with gender identity. “She deals with it gracefully, and beautifully, and openly.” He thinks this is reflected in her art in an inspiring way. “She’s not sure exactly what it is that she’s trying to say, but ‘whoever I am, I should be allowed to be that.’”

She didn’t have the same guidance back in high school that she has now. Her art education began in her Connecticut private school art class of only two students. Looking back on it, she wishes her art career had started differently. Every artist has a particular piece of work he or she has been less than satisfied with. For Hoekstra, that includes “basically all the work I did in high school.”

Hoekstra’s passion for art came from her mother. She remembers at a young age having her mother’s paintings on display in the house. “She used to draw naked women,” laughs Hoekstra. “That’s all I remember because it was embarrassing when kids used to come to our house and there’d be a naked woman on a painting.”

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Photo: Kitty Williams

As a perfectionist, Hoekstra hopes her work will improve as time goes on. She meets a question of future goals with uncertainty. She sees herself “maybe working for myself independently or something, selling artwork.” She also considers “working in a graphic design company maybe in Europe or something.” She’s still not sure exactly what she wants to do, but she knows the opportunities are endless.

For now, she will continue her work: shading things in, erasing mistakes, continuing to bring emotion and meaning to the outline of an intact light bulb that stares back at her from the page. The music coming from the corner of the room moves from Sara Bareilles’s “I Choose You” to “Gravity”: “Here I am, and I stand so tall, just the way I’m supposed to be.”

 

Why You Should Try Intramurals

BY KITTY WILLIAMS

Media Writing Class: May 2015

You’re new at Salve Regina University and want to be more involved in activities than you were in high school. You enjoyed band in high school so you think about joining the music ensemble, but you left your flute at home. You’ve always wanted to see what it would be like to hold a leadership position so you consider joining student government, but that would be a huge time commitment.

Those who want to find a fun way to be involved and stay in shape can look to intramural sports. Some people who join intramural sports are athletes who played the sport in high school but can’t afford the time it takes to commit to an intercollegiate sport. Others have no experience with the sport but want to give it a try anyway because it looks fun.

 

Salve Regina University’s intramural teams are sport teams made up of only Salve students. There are fourteen leagues offered including ultimate frisbee, tennis, basketball, and soccer. Because they are intramural and not intercollegiate, the students compete with each other within the university. They meet weekly to play games and have fun. Intramural sports are a good option for students who want to stay active but don’t have the time to commit to an intercollegiate sport.

According to Huffington Post, there are many benefits of participating in intramural sports. There are the obvious benefits such as keeping you active and healthy throughout college and meeting new people. Some other benefits include being able to try something new and reducing stress.

Like many students at Salve Regina University, Mark Letaif decided to join an intramural sport team when he arrived here in the fall. Letaif is one of the 108 students in the indoor soccer league.

Participating in intercollegiate sports would have been tough for him as a freshman biology major. Letaif enjoys participating in intramural sports. “It kept me in shape and it kept my love for soccer there,” said Letaif.

Craig O’Rourke II, Intramurals Coordinator at Salve Regina, agrees that the athletes “genuinely enjoy” participating in the intramural sports. He recommends intramural sports for the students that have no prior experience with

 

the sports. “We try to only offer intramural sports that you can walk in off the street and pick up,” said O’Rourke.

O’Rourke sends out a weekly report via email to all athletes and captains in order to keep them updated on scores and other information. One of the goals is to keep good communication with the athletes. This ensures that people show up to games and therefore avoid forfeits.

According to O’Rourke, attendance is vital to the success of the teams. If there is ever a tie between teams, the team with the fewer number of forfeits wins. “That’s my ultimate goal, make the leagues happen, get the games played,” said O’Rourke.

Of the fourteen intramural programs offered at Salve Regina University, the most popular intramural sports are softball and 5 v 5 men’s basketball.

Travis Pisano, a freshman at Salve Regina, participates in basketball intramurals along with volleyball and soccer. He also participates in intercollegiate soccer. He played soccer in high school and decided to continue it in college, but wanted to play basketball and volleyball for fun.

Although Pisano says that intercollegiate soccer is more difficult than intramural soccer, he says that the intramural sports are taken just as seriously as intercollegiate. “Everything is done properly,” said Pisano of intramural soccer.

 

Intercollegiate soccer is more time consuming because they have practices as well as games, while the intramural soccer league only meets for games.

So when you arrive on campus in the fall as a freshman, consider joining the league for a sport you never had the opportunity to play in high school. You could develop a new passion for a sport or rekindle an old one.

Oprah Winfrey Commencement Speech

oprahBY KITTY WILLIAMS

Media Writing Class: March 2015

MIDDLETOWN, CT—Oprah Winfrey told graduating students to trust that God has a plan for them in her commencement speech at Wesleyan University on Sunday.

Winfrey recalled the time she realized that, “God could dream a bigger dream for me than my imagination could hold.”

Winfrey gave the speech from the steps of Olin Memorial Library surrounded by bright flowers on a windy day. The audience was full of graduates in black and red caps and gowns, Winfrey’s niece being one of them.

The University’s President, Douglas Bennet, introduced Winfrey. The audience greeted her with applause as she stepped up to the podium. When Winfrey began speaking, a woman stood in front of the audience and translated her words into American Sign Language.

Winfrey asked aloud “How did I get from there to here?” and spoke about that journey with the graduating class and other attendees of the ceremony.

She recalled a time when she thought her career would be over because her hair burned off while getting a perm and had to make an appearance on the news while bald. This discouraged her, but then she told herself “you are not your hair.”

Winfrey also quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying, “Greatness is determined by service.” She built off of this, saying that greatness is achieved by “opening yourself up to the greater possibility that the creator has intended.”

Winfrey believes that the students will achieve great things in their lives if they believe that great things will happen. She discussed the possibility of fame and how some may not want to be famous given the lack of privacy fame causes.

The hard work that it took for the students to sit where they were sitting did not go unnoticed by Winfrey. She commended them for the sacrifices they have made in order to get all they can out of the education they were lucky enough to receive.

Shawn Jones is a graduate from Keene, New Hampshire who majored in film studies here at Wesleyan University. Jones’s mother is a preschool teacher and his father is a financial consultant and both are supportive of his interest in film studies.

“Her message was really really important for us to hear,” said Shawn. “I really found that [her speech] spoke to me…at this time especially.”

Shawn is off to Los Angeles next week to begin his career in film. He has an entry level position at DreamWorks Pictures. He already had experience with filmmaking from when he participated in a documentary film workshop abroad.

Miranda Jones-Smyth is a mother of one of the graduates from today’s ceremony. Her daughter is Emily Jones-Smyth, an English literature major. They are from Monterey, California. Jones-Smyth also attended Wesleyan University. “I had such a positive experience here,” said Jones-Smyth.

Miranda is a fan of Winfrey’s, especially when it comes to her book club. “Oprah is such an impressive woman,” said Miranda. “Her stories about her professional life really resonated with me.” Miranda is a graphic artist for Edelman and Emily is her first child to go to college.

Emily plans on working with the Peace Corps. She will help students from the ages of eight to nine learn the English language. She leaves in June.

Wesleyan University is a liberal arts college in Middletown, Connecticut looking over the Connecticut River. The university was founded in 1831. Martin Luther King Jr. visited the campus on more than one occasion.

Winfrey is a film actress, talk show host, television producer, and philanthropist.

While famous for many of these great accomplishments, Winfrey is also famous for her book club and how her book club has influenced book sales.

Rebecca Sherman: Every Person Has a Story

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BY KITTY WILLIAMS

Media Writing Class: February 2015

Rebecca Sherman is a freshman at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. She chose Salve Regina because of its proximity to her home in Dunbarton, New Hampshire and because of its welcoming atmosphere. Sherman would like to become a high school history teacher after graduation and therefore is focusing her studies here on history and secondary education.

 

Sherman did not always want to be a history teacher. When she was little, her career aspirations shifted from being a dentist to being a veterinarian, though she can’t remember why. As she has matured, her career goals have become based more on reasoning than on whim. Her high school history teacher and soccer coach, Mr. Romein, inspired her to want to teach. “He was one of the first teachers I had that made learning fun,” says Sherman.

 

Sherman is fascinated by history. “I like that you can basically escape whatever is going on today and think about what people were doing in the past and how the past influenced the future,” Sherman says. Her favorite periods in history are the Colonial Era and the 1960s because they were times of breaking away and making changes. The Colonial Era was all about the creation of a new nation, and the 1960s focused on the changes brought about by the Civil Rights movement and the women’s movement.

 

However, the time of the Salem Witch Trials holds a special place in Sherman’s personal history. She is related to one of the accused witches from the Salem Witch Trials. Her mother uncovered this information while researching her family tree for a project in college.

 

Sherman is actively preparing for her future by volunteering at a local after-school program once a week. The program gives children whose families are going through troubling times something to look forward to after school. “It’s all about being a mentor to them, and that’s basically one of the roles of being a teacher,” says Sherman of the experience. She finds working with children rewarding because the kids enjoy the time they spend together.

 

Sherman is continuing her learning experience this semester in the class Intro to American Education. Although her ideas for the future have changed before, she believes that they will remain as they are from now on.