To be honest, I am not sure the gender of the blogger matters to me at all… Content rules. My selection of blogs to read is not influenced by the gender of the writer (it seems unlikely to me that I’d recommend a blog to someone just because, “it’s written by a man!”. If I recommended a blog to you in such a way, I imagine that your first question would be, “What’s the blog about?” — asking about the content).
In fact, of the blogs I read regularly (I have a giant list of feeds in my FeedDemon) that aren’t specifically gender-focused, I tend not to know the gender of the author in most cases. The content is what’s important and is the ultimate measure of the value of the blog in my world.
Also, though I cannot speak to the motiviations of your friend who said, “Does it really matter?” , I suspect that he was commenting on the fact that content, not gender, should determine if a blog is taken seriously. That being said, I feel it was short-sighted that the author of the local article did not include female bloggers, or any bloggers other than white males.
My short answer to the question of if female bloggers are taken seriously is the same answer to the question of if male bloggers are taken seriously: No. Bloggers are not taken seriously solely as a function of gender. If the content is good and should be taken seriously, then they are — and should be — taken seriously as bloggers. Regardless of gender.
Do I feel that people should or should not read my blog solely because of my gender? No. I hope to attract and keep them with my (infrequently-updated) content that happens to be written by a male.
The broader question — are bloggers taken seriously? — is a salient one even removing the gender issue. As a blogger of more than 12 years (and sysop of The Cafe’ BBS for years before that), I believe that bloggers are not taken as seriously as “traditional” journalists. And, in my opinion as a long-time blogger, that’s okay. I take my blogging seriously, but do not think that I am doing anything more than sharing my opinion with those who care to read it.
The oldest blogs (not counting “finger” .plans which date into the late 1970′s, but don’t fit into the widely-accepted definition of “blogs”) ON THE PLANET are less than 30 years old (the first “dot com” was registered in 1985). Just one example, I’ve got copies of GOURMET magazine from the 1950s in my house, and they’re not “early” issues! GOURMET was founding in the early 1940′s, I think, so they’re incredibly established and therefore have a longer, more enduring reputation to uphold. It’s far too easy to start a blog — no matter if one has the “chops” or not — and call oneself a ‘journalist’, expecting to be taken seriously.
Do I think this will always be the case? No, of course not. We’re exploring the web and blogging as new media and the validity of bloggers seems to be increasing. But just because one has a keyboard and a blank page, it doesn’t make one a writer any more than having a knife and a pan makes one a chef.