Thursday, April 29, 2004

Brief Thoughts on Blogging

The press is growing more critical of blogging.

Here's one article from the Advocate (via Rebecca Blood) that says that bloggers need to act more like journalists and do some original research, rather than just respond to articles in the mainstream press. The author dislikes the reverse sequencing of posts, which disrupts story-telling. He also finds that "Webloggers consider it sufficient to link to an article with no context, or simply repeat the context someone else has given it." Lastly, he finds that discussion over events and issues is so spread out chaotically throughout the blogosphere, that it is impossible to follow a coherent discussion.

Mother Jones's article was much more critical. I gorge myself on these hundreds of pieces of commentary like so much candy into a bloated — yet nervous, sugar-jangled — stupor. Those hours of out-of-body drift leave me with few, if any, tangible thoughts. Blog prose is written in headline form to imitate informal speech, with short emphatic sentences and frequent use of boldface and italics. The entries, sometimes updated hourly, are little spasms of assertion, usually too brief for an argument ever to stand a chance of developing layers of meaning or ramifying into qualification and complication.

For responses, see Oxblog and Matthew Ygelsias.

My two cents. Look, blogging is never going to replace the mainstream press. We need proper journalists out there doing serious leg work and research to produce quality articles. Most bloggers have day jobs. Bloggers is merely a way to burn off some steam at the end of the day or to rough draft ideas for future work or to bounce around ideas with virtual friends. Perhaps, we bloggers, have excessively hyped up this medium and created unrealistic expectations.

Blogging is a highly imperfect art form. The backwards sequencing is confusing. The lack of coordination of discussion means that talk is disjointed, redundant, and monopolized by the few biggest bloggers. And longer posts tend not to be read.

That said, so what? Blogging has many virtues. (I have to run, so this will be short.) It is a means for regular people without university degrees or press credentials to speak their mind, and perhaps to make a name for themselves in the rarified world of blogging. It's a form of political participation. It can be a way that marginalized groups, like adjuncts or stay-at-home moms, can find each other and perhaps become politically organized. It facilitates networks of like minded individuals, who then develop other projects. It can be a way of centralizing information about a certain topic.

Blogging will never replace the Times or the WSJ. But it is a new way to communicate and to participate. I love blogging, warts and all.

UPDATE: Funny post by Allison Kaplan Summers on the topic of journalism v. blogging. She writes, Journalism is prostitution and blogging is recreational sex. When you blog, you do it when you want it, how you want it, and on what topic you want it. It's all yours. You hope that others are getting off on what you write, but your livelihood doesn't depend on it. It is all about putting yourself out there, satisfying your own writing needs and proving to yourself how clever you are. If you don't feel like doing it, you don't have to do it. You are free.

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