Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Why do bloggers blog?

What is blogging?

Is it journalism? Joseph Rago, writing for The WSJ's OpinionJournal, seems to think that no blogger can consider him/herself a part of that exalted group.

Cassandra, at Villainous Company, provided the link (and the snark) to his thoughts.
The blogs are not as significant as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead, they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks, picking at the scraps.
Well, that has SOME merit. Some bloggers merely provide links - though, that's not totally insignificant. It takes time to keep up on other's blogs, find links to other sites, and read, digest, and come up with commentary on that topic. For beginners - which, don't forget, many bloggers are - that takes a lot of time.

Is that journalism? No. It's more akin to writing a thoughtful letter to the editor. The advantage of a blog is that the powers at the editor's desk can't keep you from having your say. For reasons of space, not to mention not agreeing with the writer, newspapers often fail to give their readers that outlet.
We rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought--instead, panics and manias; endless rehearsings of arguments put forward elsewhere; and a tendency to substitute ideology for cognition. The participatory Internet, in combination with the hyperlink, which allows sites to interrelate, appears to encourage mobs and mob behavior.
"..rarely encounter sustained or systematic blog thought"? Oh, nonsense!

I challenge anyone who believes that to read:
  • Eject! Eject! Eject! - his blog is hard to define, but he writes long philosophical posts about politics, military, and culture.
  • Eternity Road - blogs on Christianity, culture, and politics, among other things.
  • Gates of Vienna - blogs about War on Terror, immigration, politics, culture, etc.
These are just a few of the many bloggers who write long, thoughtful pieces on a regular basis.
The technology of ink on paper is highly advanced, and has over centuries accumulated a major institutional culture that screens editorially for originality, expertise and seriousness.
Could many of us use an editor? Sure - I'm one of them. I have been known to shoot from the hip, firing off a quick rant without adequately fact-checking, spell-checking, or taking long enough for second, more reasoned thoughts.

But, although I don't have access to an editor, I do have MANY editors - my fellow bloggers, blog readers, and friends, all of whom who given feedback for free. Generally, they gently point out that I have erred. A few times, I have received sharper criticism. I can't complain. I am getting help in getting better, for free.

The above applies to serious bloggers. What's a serious blogger?
  • Posts on a regular basis - at least weekly, preferably several times a week.
  • Posts for a non-family audience. I don't criticize family bloggers, but they are hobbyists, not those dedicated to communication with a wider audience.
  • Limited to those with at least 10 posts. This eliminates the dilettante, who enthusiastically creates a blog, posts once or twice, then drops the blog.
  • Willing to work to improve. Over time, accepts criticism, seeks out suggestions, and makes an effort to become a better writer.
This is just a short list, but I think it would weed out a significant portion of the blogosphere. The ones that are left are more similar to journalists than those excluded, who function more like those "publishing" a family newsletter at Christmas.

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