Sunday, February 05, 2006

David Neiwert on blogging

A professional writer/journalist takes a look back as he passes the three-year mark in blogging. Orcinus is what I consider a gold sandard for blogging, comments and insights from a professional writer who also happens to know what he is talking about. By his own admission he does tend to run on, but that is the price of not having an editor.

I don't read his blog much because I'm already a member of the choir. Also, for reasons that I can't unravel, I can't open comments from that site. Probably something about my having too much security software, but that's okay. Most comment threads soon turn into a tiresome waste as they drone on. (A few, as at the Head Heeb, Althouse, etc. represent a civil community of regular readers, but most tend to be either a mess of carping or a string of redundant amens.)

Information -- particularly good information, which is to say, it has factual integrity and real significance -- wants to get out; it creates its own demand for dissemination. If it's suppressed or ignored, in a democratic system, it will still find its way to the surface.

Blogging, in this sense, represents a kind of market response (that is, in the market of ideas) to the demand created by the information that wants to be disseminated. It's a way for information to get around the bottleneck. Obviously, this is as true for people on the right as for those on the left.So really, blogs are just another communications medium, a way for information to be transmitted. Like any other medium, it has great potential for both bettering and worsening the national discourse.
...bloggers are not journalists, in the professional-craft sense, despite various claims to such status by some bloggers. At times, they may actually engage in reporting work (Josh Marshall particularly comes to mind), but this is something of a rarity. Besides, we bloggers who are journalists too know that it essentially represents a kind of publishing without an editor -- which is both part of the pleasure of it (I certainly can't imagine any editor ever approving any of my disquisitions on fascism) and its danger (I think regular readers of my verbose posts would tell you I could use a good editor; and then there are the mistakes that are inevitable when you work without a backstop).

Actually, the function in the old communications model that bloggers come closest to replicating is that of the editor -- not in the sense of being an overseer of writing and reportorial quality, but in setting priorities: deciding which stories are important and deserve greater attention, ascertaining which stories are reported upon.

A good blogger is not so much a journalist as a good editor (and remember, most editors are writers too). A blog is thus a kind of publication, and it attracts readers according to the quality of insight its editor brings to it.

But instead of a situation where increasingly we had only a handful of carefully selected editors who worked their way up the ranks by remaining loyal corporate yes-men, now anyone with a good news sense and a way with words can influence the course of our discourse. The Internet has shattered the old bottleneck. It has democratized how information flows in modern society.

There's a lot more at the link.

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