Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown is one of the latest to stay in touch with constituents by airing his unedited views online.
But for the name at the top of the page, the Web log would seem unspectacular - the work of some disaffected technophile tilting against the establishment:
"Bloggers are a force," quips the blog in an eclectic column that ricochets from San Francisco journalism to German philosophy. "The established order of politics (EOP) and the MSM [mainstream media] face a big challenge from this fearless army."
This, however, is not the rallying call of some anonymous agitator. This is one of the first blog entries by Jerry Brown, mayor of Oakland. For a politician who has always teetered on the edge of the counterculture - known as Mayor Moonbeam - the leap from establishment figure to cultural insurgent is perhaps not a difficult one. But more politicians are following in his footsteps, looking to the Web as a way to bypass the media and get out their own message - unvarnished and unedited.
"I'm not surprised that [blogs] are being adopted by people inside the establishment - they're perceived as very real, very intimate," says Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Internet and American Life Project in Washington. "It's a way of having constituents feel very in touch."
Recently, Web logs - or "blogs" - have been most notable for their evolving role in "gotcha" journalism. Though most of the estimated 8 million blogs on the Internet are little more than online diaries, a small percentage have a more serious aim, acting as media watchdogs, insider newsletters, or political gadflys. Blogs exposed poor reporting by CBS anchorman Dan Rather, hastening his departure, and they successfully pressured the top news executive at CNN to resign.
Yet politicians are beginning to see blogs are more than forums for snoops. To some, they are the ultimate cyberspace soapbox. United States Rep. Ray Cox of Minnesota was the first major politician to start a blog, according to the Pew Project, and the prime minister of Japan has one. "It enriches the conversation and provides a forum for an exchange of ideas that - for a public official - is very useful," says Oakland's Mayor Brown.