Editor’s note: Chuck Woodbury, one of the nation’s leading RV consumer bloggers and owner/operator of the popular RVTravel.com website, draws a historical perspective today (April 25) regarding the evolution of print-to-Internet blogging in the weekly column he delivers to RVtravel.com e-newsletter subscribers.
I believe I can say with some certainty that I am one of America’s first bloggers. In 1989, before anyone had even heard of the Internet and the word blog had not been invented (blog is short for weblog), I kept a “Roadside Journal.” Every three months for 10 years I would publish what I wrote in my on-the-road newspaper Out West, which was read by about 15,000 people. I wrote about whatever I found interesting as I traveled the West in my small motorhome. I would write about people and places, or often just what I was thinking — sometimes serious, sometimes silly.
The main difference between my Roadside Journal and a modern-day blog is that I could not post it instantly. I had to wait for the next scheduled issue of my newspaper.
Back then, there was almost no way for a roving reporter, much less the average person, to write about his travels to a sizable audience unless they were a newspaper or magazine columnist. In the whole country, I bet there were only a handful of such people. Roving journalist Charles Hillinger of the Los Angeles Times was one of the most popular. His dispatches were syndicated in hundreds of newspapers.
On TV, Charles Kuralt reported from the back roads in his “On The Road” segments for CBS television (many of the best segments are available at Amazon.com) and wrote many books based on his back roads travels. Both Hillinger and Kuralt inspired me to hit the road as a roving journalist. I never met Charles Kuralt, but I did meet Charles Hillinger on two occasions. He was a jolly fellow who reveled in telling stories about his experiences traveling in small-town America.
Before Hillinger and Kuralt there was Ernie Pyle, who traveled America in the 1930s writing a daily column for Scripps Howard Newspapers. Ernie later won a Pulitzer Prize as a World War II correspondent. Some of his best stories from his travels in America were published in his book “Home Country” which is available in some used bookstores and on Amazon.com. If you have never read Ernie Pyle, you should. If you can’t get a copy of “Home Country,” “Ernie’s America” is excellent, too. You will fall in love with this man, who, sadly, was killed by a Japanese machine gunner’s bullet in the final days of World War II. The only home Ernie ever owned is now a library in Albuquerque. Years ago I visited and wrote about it.
Nobody knows how many blogs there are today. Blogging.org estimates there are 31 million in the United States alone. Thousands of RVers have blogs, maybe you. If you don’t have one and want one, just go to Blogger.com and set one up for free. It takes only a few minutes.
As I prepare to leave on an extended RV trip I wonder what I will write about that’s different from all those other RVers out there blogging about their travels. I once felt special as a writer, taking pride that I had “earned” my audience. Not everybody back then could write for a big newspaper or magazine, or publish their own periodical as I did. Now, anyone with a blog or even a Facebook page has the ability to reach an audience.
A few years ago I pulled into an especially nice RV park in southern Oregon. It was so nice I told the woman at the counter that I planned to write about it on my blog. She didn’t appear to care. It turned out that many other visitors told her the same thing. “Everybody has a blog,” she said.