On blogging

I recently finished reading Blog by
Hugh Hewitt.
I’m a little behind the curve on that, since everyone else read and reviewed
it three months ago, but better late than never. The book deals mainly with
political blogging and the influence blogs have had on the coverage of news
stories. I
found it fascinating even
though not much of it applied to me specifically. More than anything, his diatribes
against mainstream media arrogance reminded me of my college days.

My bachelor’s degree is in journalism, but I have never worked for any sort
of journalistic enterprise. I chose journalism as a major because I wanted
to write for a living. I rejected it as a career because the more I studied
it, the more I hated it.

First of all, in order to be a journalist, you have
to eat, drink, sleep, breathe, and bleed news. A journalist is never off
duty, and I desperately wanted a job that provided a definite daily quitting
time.
I had horrible visions of being on my honeymoon when some psychopath decided
to assassinate the president a block away from my hotel. If that happened,
I’d have to leave my bride in the hotel and cover the story, and the interruption
to my honeymoon would tick me off more than the death of my country’s leader.
Anyway, my point is that professional journalists consume and are consumed
by their work, which often leads to a terrible arrogance and condescension
toward any non-journalist who dares to have an opinion about anything of public
significance. I wanted no part of that.

Second, journalists are trained to exercise "news judgment," which means
they decide what people need to know. I remember one time a guest speaker gave
a lecture to my reporting class concerning coverage of a presidential election.
He said that every election has five main issues, which are decided by the
media. I raised my hand and said, "Do you mean that the media somehow discerns
the five main issues the public cares about, then reports on them?" He answered
clearly, "No. The media decides the issues. Public sentiment doesn’t enter
into it." I remember another time I was being interviewed by a panel for a
newspaper
job, and a senior editor from The Dallas Morning News asked me about
a "quite sophisticated" (his words) essay in which I had opined that newspapers
should focus more on explaining why particular events are important than why
they happened. I told him people need to get some sort of value from their
news, and news articles don’t usually deliver that. It turns out that I was
ahead of the curve with that remarkable insight, since a lot of newspapers
were experimenting with a concept called "community journalism" that I (at
the age of 20, with no experience and only one year of journalism coursework)
described in my essay without ever having heard of it. The editor was visibly
impressed, but I didn’t get the job. It’s just as well.

Another thing is that news as it exists in newspapers, magazines, and television
does not communicate everyday reality—it focuses on aberrations of reality.
But when you eat, drink, sleep, breathe, and bleed news, your perception of
reality
is as distorted as 60 Minutes—maybe
more, because you see a lot more than what gets published. Again, I wanted
no part of that.

And lastly, most journalists make peanuts for wages. I would have been miserable
as a journalist, and I didn’t want to be miserable
and penniless.

Getting back to the book, Hewitt is pretty certain that the blogosphere is
to the mainstream media as Martin Luther is to the Catholic church. Even his
supporting
points
seem
to
argue against that, drawing a closer parallel with Gutenberg than Luther, but
whatever. Blogging certainly has an impact, and no one can credibly argue otherwise,
though many have tried. But I think the impact of blogs is not precisely what
Hewitt expounds in his book.

Blogging is journalism minus all of my objections:

  1. A guy can blog when he
    wants and rest when he wants.
  2. The public sets the agenda, not the networks, The New York Times, or Newsweek.
  3. Good bloggers can make everyday reality compelling and readable, thereby
    presenting a mostly balanced view of the world.
  4. I haven’t made any money off of blogging, but I’m not penniless.

Another plus about blogging is that a blogger doesn’t have to cover what an
editor tells him to cover. If I were writing for the Austin American-Statesman,
I wouldn’t be able to focus my efforts on celebrating marriage. I’d have to
investigate the academic performance of a University of Texas football player
or interview
an environmentalist about pollution in the natural springs or fill five inches
of newsprint with some junk about the city council. I wouldn’t be filling a
miniscule niche like I do with this blog.

One idea in the book that I had not thought about was the influence small
blogs can wield. When I began this blog back in August of 2003, I was the only
marriage blogger I was aware of. Now this blog gets about 1,300 visits per
week, according to Sitemeter. That’s not exactly spectacular in the grand
scheme of things, but there are now quite a few other blogs devoted to marriage,
and many more that
regularly
deal with the topic. Our combined readership is certainly significant, and
may some day convince people that marriage is a wonderful gift of God rather
than the aberrant plague the mainstream media portrays.

5 thoughts on “On blogging

  1. I too chose journalism as a major because I wanted to write for a living. My college newspaper was a public relations rag to appease the university leadership. I wrote some really good editorials, but I was too smart for my own good. I have never worked for a newspaper since. Thanks for your post today. This was a good way to know you in a new light.

  2. I didn’t go into journalism because when I was growing up (in the 1970s & 1980s) we were always taught that journalists report the news, but should not make the news or inject themselves into the news. I thought that was silly and limiting, that there needed to be some sort of regular outlet where a writer could report the news while adding their own world view and opinion.

    Little did I know that this was just a trick of the media to make you think that what they reported was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth — when in reality they were presenting the “news” as they wanted people to see it.

    So now, we have plenty of news outlets that give us the writer and/or editor’s personal world view, and so few outlets that actually report the unfiltered facts.

  3. That last entry is creepy!

    “….he is already in the house. He is still here right now, smoking, walking all around the house with his shoes on which btw I just washed the floor 2 days ago! Hopefully he will leave soon…”

    I never realized it, but blogging kind of “anchors” people in reality and readers will notice when they’re gone and, in this instance, who was last to see them.

  4. Great post, man.

    I discovered I liked writing about 1 1/2 years ago, when I was asked to write an article for a Christian magazine. Since then, I’ve written a few articles and have a couple of columns that reach tens of thousands of readers every week. Then, one year ago, TypePad changed my life :) I could write with freedom, without worrying about what the editors would say. I enjoy “corporate writing” (my articles and columns), but here is nothing like the freedom that comes with my own blog, where i can be JUST Josue :)