Journalist Discovers Blogging, Laughs
[The part of Marc Fisher will be played today by John Kelly.]
Laughing. Chuckling. Giggling. And, yes, guffawing.
These are some of the things I hear when I turn on my radio in the morning. For some reason, they remind me of blogging.
I've been blogging for all of two days now, three if you count today. And I do, for it is respected journalistic practice to pronounce a trend after accruing only three examples. (See three women in culottes? It's a trend.) So today I'd like to share my inchoate blogging impressions.
But first, that radio laughter. The standard morning radio team today has a couple of guys and a girl sidekick, or a single guy and a girl sidekick, or a main guy and lots of little sidekicks. What they all have in common--whether it's an oldies station or a country station or a modern rock station--is that they are perpetually laughing like hyenas. They make "Click and Clack," the constant chortlers from "Car Talk," seem as sober as a pair of Methodist preachers. And what are these morning crews talking and laughing about? About what was on TV the previous day: "American Idol," "The Apprentice," President Bush's news conference.
These radio teams--Stevens and Medley, Mike and Christine, Kelly and Charla--have become surrogate friends. They represent what we all want to be part of: a tight little circle of buddies who know each other well, crack each other up, and laff, laff, laff. There's nothing wrong with this. (Many newspaper columnists try to do the same thing.) People need connections, even if it's with disembodied voices coming from a speaker.
Which brings me to blogging. Since I do a newspaper column practically every day, I've considered blogging sort of superfluous. I have enough trouble coming up with one kernel of an interesting idea every day, let alone several. But I see the appeal of the blog. Part of it is the removal of the safety net. When I push this little button on my screen that says "Publish," my thoughts are instantly out there, available to anyone (except, possibly, the Chinese). That also speaks to the suddenness, the instantness, of a blog. I don't have to wait for the printing press to heat up.
But what I'm interested in today is the interactivity of the blog, the ability for readers to just as instantly comment on a blogger's comments, and also how a blog is like that morning radio team: How does it serve as a surrogate for the kinds of social interactions that were once common in America?
Robert Putnam is a Harvard professor and the author of "Bowling Alone," a book that examined the decline of "social capital" in America. Social capital is the way in which we are civically engaged--the clubs we join, the neighbors we visit, the water cooler conversations we have. Putnam has measured how this has been in decline-- We don't join bowling leagues--and how this is not good for the country's civic health. When I took a seminar with him in 1999 there was much discussion of how the Internet would fit into things. Were the relationships forged online as "valuable" as those formed face to face? I think the answer is probably "yes and no."
But that's enough from me. Tell me what you think. How do use blogs? What value do you derive from them? What is their relationship with the newspapers that you read? (You do read newspapers, don't you?) Are blogs just laughter from the radio or are they something more valuable? Because I'm interested in this notion of "reverse publishing" (that is, taking what appears online and sticking it in the newspaper), I wonder if you would also e-mail me your comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm sure there's more I'd like to say, but one thing I have learned about blogs: You never have enough time to write them.
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