The seemingly boundless interest in blogging. . .the Horse's Ass blog. . .and why forced blogging doesn't work
I continue to spend a lot of time speaking on the subject of blogging, and I've heard many of the same questions from different audiences. There is a lot of confusion about how best to respond to blogging, and in general how to adapt to a changing and very fragmented media landscape.
I don't pretend to have all the answers — but it's fascinating being in the middle of this, and being part of the still relatively small group of people trying to find answers to these questions.
In recent weeks I've spoken with representatives of the Semiconductor Industry Association, with the Seattle chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), and most recently at an event presented by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and TheNewsMarket. These events usually attract mostly corporate communications and agency people, they are in the front lines in trying to get to grips with the blogging phenomenon.
At each one of these events I try to freely share as much as I can about this blogging phenomenon and the medium's unique aspects. And it is always worth it, because I come back with a ton of stories about how other people do things within their organizations, and the cultural and other obstacles that they deal with in their work. Also, I meet other bloggers from other sectors and compare notes.
Differences in political blogging
Suzanne Hartman, from Hill & Knowlton, invited me up to Seattle to speak with the local IABC chapter after reading one of my essays on the future of journalism at New Communications Blogzine, and here on SVW.
It was an interesting trip and a memorable group. One of the people I met was David Goldstein, a political blogger (Horsesass.org—the straight poop on WA politics and the press). I remember saying to David that one good thing is if you make a mistake, a dozen people are looking over your shoulder and will point out factual errors by leaving messages at the site. Thus, there is a self-correcting process at work and an opportunity to grow a communal type of journalism such as that espoused by Dan Gilmor.
David says he gets hundreds of comments on his blog - but he says there is no community correction of facts. In the political sector, it seems people won't readily accept that certain facts they use are false. Instead, there is a partisan battle based around ideology
That seems a bit disheartening to me, because it means that when it comes to political issues, facts and reason can do little to change people's minds. Is there any such thing as meaningful debate, or are political arguments just lines drawn in the sand by opposing blowhards?
Blogging as a work duty rarely works
At the recent Dartmouth Business school event I was on a panel along with Charlene Li, Forrester's superstar internet analyst, Joel Dreyfuss, editor-in-chief of Red Herring, Wade Roush, senior editor at MIT's Technology review (now edited by former Red Herring editor Jason Pontin), and Jason Smith, ENPS project manager at Associated Press.
I was the only full time "blogger" even though the other journalists work for publications and write blogs. This is fine but I think that as established media continue to add blogs, problems are going to mount.
I can already see stress fractures at some large publications.
[This is not to say that my colleagues on the panel suffer from the following problems ... it just reminded me of some issues on the topic of journalists and blogging that I've come across over the past few months.]
The reason there is stress in established media organizations is that it is difficult to create a difference between the online publication and its blogs. Journalists are confused about what stories should go into the blog, what style should they be written in, and why the blog gets edited by the same editors as the publication.
In addition, writing a blog at work is yet one more extra task piled onto an already full plate. Many journalists that survived the dotbomb are working two to three times as hard as five years ago. It's a workload brought on by constant staff cuts and difficulty in recruiting experienced journalists to fill the job vacancies.
Adding blogging duties is a lot of extra work and it is forced work - forced blogging comes across as such and cannot be disguised. You know it when you see it.
Also, blogging journalists need time to develop a "blog voice" - or maybe several blog voices, depending on the time of day or mood. These are different personalities, and the style is different from the rigid house style of their employer. That's why journalist blogs are better done from home, and not hosted on their employer's server, and driven by passion and interest - not by the need to fulfil employee duties. IMHO.