Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Blogging in the News

I knew it was only a matter of time before I'd open the paper and read an article like this. Newspaper columns like these I strongly object for a variety of reasons, mostly because they trivialize blogging, whether intentionally or not, describing it as though it's little more than the latest craze for young people. The first website mentioned, for God's sake, is described in terms that render it little more than an approximation of a low-rent Elle or Cosmopolitan magazine feature. Those not in the know might assume we bloggers talk exclusively about cutesy fashion tips or sure-fire ways of making sure our cuticles are perfect. The reality is not nearly as easily defined. This knowledge, I realize, will not be news to my regular readers or active participants in the nebulously-defined endeavor we called collectively deem "the blogsophere" but in the odd chance someone new to the parade reads what I have to say, please let me set the record straight.

Maybe this is merely common sense, but as Voltaire famously put it, "Common sense is not so common." The egalitarian format of the web provides a wealth of different kinds of blogs in a staggering variety of genres ranging from the ever-popular emotional vomit type, to Mommy blogs which obsessively document the lives of the writer's children, to the fashion tip modern day Emily Post sorts, to blogs which showcase a person's art, to the kind of citizen journalist/social commentary blogs of which this is an example. One of the strengths of the internet is that it is, as yet, unregulated and so it's truly a medium of the people.

The reality, however, and call me a snob if you wish (I've certainly been called far worse) is that They The People often have very little to say of substance. As anyone who has browsed the internet for any length of time at all, the challenge is not finding a wealth of information, the challenge is instead sorting through the copious amount of crap in order to find the proverbial rose in the garden of weeds. The relative ease of blogging opens up the internet to anyone, and this more often than not invites any yahoo with a computer and/or a digital camera to spill his/her guts all over the monitor. Sometimes the results are fantastic and deeply thought-provoking, often they induce little more than yawns.

I have a bone to pick with the writer of this article. Several bones, actually. My first criticism is in references to a particular assertion in the text of the article.

...Young Adults are joining a national trend of posting thoughts and ideas in hope of making a difference and/or making enough money to call it a career.

Most blog authors who I interact with on a regular basis, indeed, the ones that you will find linked to this blog are usually several years older than me. The reality, take it how you will, is that most people my own age and younger do not "blog" in any conventional sense. If they do, they likely use their blogs for largely masturbatory activities like the sort described above, or worse yet as a template for emotionally overwrought confessionals--little more than a high-tech journal. Some of us have hopes to make money by blogging, but so far, paid positions are rare. Those who make money off their blog either a) advertise copiously on their site or b) have the connections and luck necessary to get a job writing at the handful of heavily-visited sites. As it stands now, this blog features no advertising for a reason. I'm opposed to it on principle and I also understand quite well that a relatively low-traffic site like mine would not produce much income from ad placement.

The article does get it right when it mentions that many of us want to make a difference. That I can get behind, though I do make a point to qualify that I never forget to remind myself that my relative scope is fairly limited. Small potatoes blogs like this one average twenty hits a day and most of those visits are by members of an adoring core audience. To me, the real thrill in this exercise is making an impact on a few people who I love and who love me in return. This family atmosphere would be compromised, if not made far more difficult if I hit the big time, so to speak.

Yet, if you spoke to most of us, we'd like nothing better than to be one of the big boys. Count me as someone not holding my breath.


joshhill1021 said...

What a great commentary CK. You can count me as part of your adoring crowd.

But I was thinking about this, it is not just local papers like you cited, but the MSM like CNN and MSNBC also portray us in a negative light as college students or high schoolers. In my experiences most people do not understand the difference between blogs and facebook/myspace and in some cases there are little differences, but in some cases such as you and most of us in this little community we know, the differences are vast.

Comrade Kevin said...

I appreciate all of your supportive words, Boxer!

You are quite right. That unfortunate perception is widespread all over the place and particularly in the mainstream media.

It's up to us to make a point to show that blogging is far different than social networking and other trivialities.

Fran said...

What Boxer said!

On a whim I did google ads and have not seen one penny from it... nor do I expect to! I have to laugh at what ads come up, sort of ala gmail... I have had ads for all sorts of nutty things pop in.

In July I was interviewed by our a newspaper regarding a blog I had started for my church. While the woman who interviewed me was lovely and seemingly most respectful of blogging, I did have to laugh. There were several inaccuracies in her reporting, details which were not hard to capture from our interview.

It did make me smile! And they think that bloggers and other citizen journalists are the problem. Hah!

Anonymous said...

Add me to the fan club, dood.

I dunno about wanting to be one of the big boys, CK. The thing is, you become what you previously scorned. I'm sure at one point even Bob Woodward didn't want to be part of the MSM. Oh, wait.

Not that anyone is asking me to join any of the so-called A-list, but I don't think I would even do that.



Fran said...

Just this morning a story on NPR about bloggers making $2k a month on ads and getting book offers.

Alrighty then.

The Cunning Runt said...

That would be me.


I generally stop going to blogs which get so big that there isn't the feel of dialog between participants. I'm seldom at Shakesville these days; the Pub makes me a little nuts, with too many simultaneous conversations going on. Even Blue Gal's Salon moves too quickly for this old turtle!

Points well made, CK. Perhaps we're just not hooked into the insipid stuff, but everyone I frequent has a mix of light-weight tension-breakers and thoughtful observations about real world problems and events.

That's why I'm here, actually! ;)