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CNNU: Politics play out for students on Internet

By Tracy Tallman
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: CNNU is a feature that provides student perspectives on news and trends from colleges across the United States. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the schools where the campus correspondents are based. This contributor is Tracy Tallman, a student at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.

BOCA RATON, Florida (CNN) -- Multimedia journalism student Laura McDermott is prepping for midterm elections by writing about it in her blog, "Stupid Moments in Florida Politics."

The 22-year-old Florida Atlantic University student hopes to keep classmates involved with her witty and cynical comments about Florida politicians.

"I try to add humor in an attempt to not bore the readers. Or at the very least, so it doesn't bore me. Because I always assume I'm the only one reading it," she said. (Read McDermott's blog at http://stupidfloridapolitics.blogspot.com/external link)

A recent entry titled "If I start kicking puppies, I'm just going to blame alcohol" discusses allegations of racial slurs by state Rep. Ralph Arza.

"Is there something in the water in Florida that just makes politicians do dumb things? It boggles the mind," she wrote.

McDermott said she tries to stay as unbiased as possible while still speaking her mind.

"There's some pressure with knowing anyone can read your opinions. You have to be ready for someone that might not agree with you," she said, "especially when you write about something like politics."

Though McDermott's blog has only a handful of readers, it serves as an example for students searching for an outlet.

"A lot of students believe that the government won't listen or doesn't care about what students have to say. It's a misconception that can only be fixed by getting out there and saying something that you feel is worth saying," she said.

Blogs are becoming the latest trend in campus discussions and announcements. Professors are even assigning blogs as homework, allowing the students to engage in a multitude of topics with ease.

"It's such a great tool," Florida Atlantic professor Bonnie Gross said. "I hope that students get more familiar with media on the Web, then they can use what they learn to become better informed about politics."

Still, many students in Gross' class choose to write about topics such as movies and fashion trends. The question becomes then: Are professors encouraging their students to write about political issues? (See other blogs by Gross' students at http://fauclass.blogspot.com/external link)

"I think [McDermott's blog] demonstrates that politics can be interesting and fun, and that it doesn't have to be boring. Some students do get that," Gross said. "It's a minority, but it's a hopeful sign."

McDermott's blog is a reminder that some students can become active citizens without the help of their college campus.

"I think she's doing great," Gross said. "She's been getting As."

McDermott said she finds her blog topic compelling and enjoys logging on to write each entry.

"I write about politics not only because it's interesting, but also because it's a way to stay informed about what politicians are doing," she said. "Blogs can be very powerful if enough people pay attention to a particular one. With one simple click, you can have your thoughts and ideas read by hundreds or thousands of people. Or, in the case of my blog, approximately seven people."

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Laura McDermott's blog, "Stupid Moments in Florida Politics," allows the college student to engage in a lively political discussion.

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