Monday, December 22, 2008

The Power of Blogging

In November's Atlantic Monthy, Andrew Sullivan explains why blogging is swiftly gaining a superior influence in our super-saturated media culture, while altogether heralding a new "golden era for journalism."

Here are some of his most compelling reasons why, mixed with my observations:

1. Hyperlinks make bloggers immediately accountable and give readers an instantaneous way of checking references and sources that continue to multiply. Original quotes and facts can be effortlessly checked and verified. Just a click away.

2. Blogging takes place, not daily, but hourly. A columnist can ignore or duck a subject. A reporter must wait until every source is confirmed. The newscast must wait until noon or 5 p.m. or 10 p.m. A novelist can spend months or years, pontificating, revising. The blogging deadline is always and now. It is "free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud."

3. A blog, no matter how well reported, is personal. It's a news diary that's immediately public. An utmost serious thought and a attempt at levity can be posted just minutes between each other. Inevitably, no matter how hard you try not to, you end up writing about yourself. For every person that has a blog, that person becomes "part" of the news.

4. The responses to blogs (known as commenters) are often "more brutal than editors," more picky than copy editors, "and more emotionally unstable than any colleague." "The feedback is instant, personal, and brutal." Unlike newspapers and television stories, self-corrections are made in the same place and the same format as the original screwup. If you don't acknowledge a mistake, you are hounded by commenters, demeaned by colleagues, ridiculed on other blogs. It's the most accountable format of journalism today.

5. A blog is not a publications. Think of if as a broadcast. "If it stops moving, it dies."

6. Some commenters and e-mails, unsurprisingly, know more about the particular subject than the blogger does. They are armed with their own links, facts, resources and often challenge the blogger's thinking and maybe even change it. Possibly within a span of hours. On the weekend. In the middle of the night.

7. "You can't have blogger's block. You have to express yourself now, while your emotions roil, while your temper flares, while your humor lasts." This is why blogging matters. It's the rich personality that stands out. The longer you pause or wait to post, the more you thoughts will be diluted, and influenced by the other places you click.

8. A blog's readership is intensely personal. Keep a blog long enough, and you get regular e-mailers. These are those who go beyond the comment section, to e-mail you personally, sometimes affectionately, other times respectfully to tell you why you are wrong. The tradition reporting method involves a reporter searching for new sources. A blogger splashes a new subject on his page and dares those to come to him. Not all the information is good information. But you might be surprised how many stories are generated from reaction to a line in a blog post.

9. "People have a voice for radio and a face for television. For blogging, they have a sensibility."

10. While there are no shortage of strictly partisan blogs, linkage helps bring single-minded politicos to other sites that hold views they don't agree with. When FiredUp slams some journalist's work, the writers often link to the piece directly so you can view it for yourself. "Perhaps the nastiest thing one can do to a fellow blogger is to rip him apart and fail to provide a link."

11. A "blogroll" is an indicator of a blogger's respect. Who he or she respects enough to keep in their galaxy. Add everyone or even too many, and the impact of your "roll" is diluted.

12. While the blog is increasingly influential, there is still nothing like reading a well-semblanced, synthesizing, thoroughly reported piece. (Such as Sullivan's essay is.) "The triumphalist notion that blogging should somehow replace traditional writing is as foolish as it is pernicious . . . Blogging's gifts to our discourse make the skills of a good traditional writer more valuable, not less. The torrent of blogospheric insights, ideas and arguments places a greater premium on the person who can finally make sense of it all, turning into something more solid, and lasting and rewarding." And while staring at a computer, zipping around links is convenient. There's still nothing like reading a crumpled up newspaper or magazine cuddled up on the couch.

1 comment:

Paul Seale said...

And this is written by the guy who swore (and probably still believes) Trig Palin is Bristol's child.