Saturday, April 30, 2005

Blogger vs. Reporter

An interesting take (from the Literary Review of The Hindu) on the benefits of blogging vs. writing for the traditional media:
Press Guy is asked to cover something different all the time. He has four days to investigate an unknown (to him) technology and write a two-page article. The editor insists pieces must have a proper introduction, body and conclusion, and must be accompanied by an illustration and a sidebar or two. Press Guy doesn't know who he's writing for. His copy editors will decide after he sends in the piece. It doesn't take him much time to figure out the nuts and bolts, since he's smart, but he's lost when it comes to explaining what this technology really means. That sort of insight takes time to observe, and time he has not. Maybe he'll look up Google and copy a line or two, inviting the wrath of his copy editors who'll instantly recognise the difference in writing styles. Maybe he'll cook up something and slip it past them, inviting the wrath of a clued-in reader. An introduction and a conclusion? Huh? How do you do that? Who is reading this article? Is the reader a stay-at-home mom who got a computer to talk to her son abroad? Maybe I should explain with a simplified analogy to make it easy for her? Or is my reader her tech-savvy son, who will be offended by the analogy?

Blogger doesn't have a waiting audience and isn't paid to write. Blogger writes because she discovered something that she's simply bursting to share. Blogger is under no pressure to write about something else tomorrow, or to write at all. Blogger writes simply because she feels like it. Reader feedback is immediate. There's no waiting for the issue to go to press and feedback arriving in the mail. This absence of pressure allows Blogger to explore both her writing skills and technical mastery.

Notice the critical difference here. With traditional media, the new writer is given an audience he didn't earn and doesn't know how to handle. It's a steep, painful curve. With blogging, the audience builds around the writer. The blogger grows to speak to the audience as an old friend.
To this I say: Four days to investigate? Try four hours for a lot of people. This is one of the great reasons why many knowledgeable people will never get news about anything they're interested in from the paper. They see more what we don't know than what we know.


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