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National Public Radio (NPR)
SHOW: News & Notes with Ed Gordon 9:00 AM EST NPR
November 14, 2005 Monday
ED GORDON, host:
Blogging is making everyone a columnist. Once the ground for only a select few, it seems everyone with a computer and a thought is setting up their own site and giving their opinion. But commentator Amy Alexander says she's not one to follow that trend.
Some friends recently asked me why I hadn't set up a blog, you know, a personal Web site that a lot of folks these days use as a diary or to advocate a political viewpoint. I admit that I've entertained the thought of setting up a blog, usually when I'm ranting at TV newscasts or shouting about something I've seen in the day's newspaper. And as I get older, I realize that my opinions have gotten stronger, even if my journalistic experiences have become less varied.
Before I had children, I was the kind of run-and-gun journalist who lived for adventure--riots, earthquakes, forest fires, you name it. If it was jumping off within a thousand miles of me, I was there. But one of the biggest lessons I took away from the many years I've spent in newsrooms is this: Without editors, you are dead, specifically without a copy desk. You might as well be standing in your living room, ranting away, facts be damned.
That brings me back to my point about blogs. Not all blog readers know the difference between pure unfiltered, unedited opinion and good old-fashioned solidly reported news. Yes, I know that bloggers lately have been credited with everything from drumming up mainstream media interest in the overlooked plight of missing black and Latino women to exposing any number of government hacks and mischief-makers. But much of what appears on many blogs is speculation, however well-informed.
And as I read the growing numbers of blogs, it seems to me that the ones that have gained the most popularity in recent years, such as Daily Kos and Atrios, are big on promulgating the same kind of back-slapping, mutual admiration society, white-guy networking that drove me nuts back when I worked in newsrooms, same elite dynamic, different medium.
Some of these political blogs are funded by advertisers which, of course, means that they must, at least to some degree, answer not to ostensibly objective editors but rather to business entities that have a stake in whatever it is the blogger is saying. Thus the veneer of citizen journalist that has been bestowed upon the most successful bloggers is really a misnomer.
Then there is the amount of space that many bloggers spend on minutiae. Who cares where they went over the weekend or how their children did in the science fair and what movies they saw? I mean, if I don't have the time and patience to read such ephemera, I suspect that you don't, either. I certainly don't have the time to write such mundanities or the stomach for having the flotsam and jetsam of my life zapping around the globe, courtesy of the Web. The unfiltered me is fine for my living room, but I am loath to inflict her upon the world.
Don't get me wrong; I do read a few blogs, from Mark Anthony Neal's sober observations on fatherhood and black masculinity to James Wilcox's trenchant observations on politics and social life. At the same time, the proliferation of blogs troubles me. Which brings me to the final reason why I don't blog. Why write for free? Until the day comes when a deep-pocketed benefactor turns up to bankroll such a venture, I'll refrain. And should they emerge, they'd better be fronting an editor, too, an extra pair of eyeballs to keep me from ranting right into the Internet abyss.
GORDON: Amy Alexander is an author and media critic living in Maryland.
Markos is white? I blog for free? So confused.