For this assignment, we were asked to respond to a blog post by The Atlantic‘s Andrew Sullivan, in which he talks about how he became a blogger and reflects on the differences between blogging and publishing, which was what he primarily dedicated himself to.
One of the first things he uses to describe the blog is a ship’s log, in which the crew of a ship kept track of the distance the ship sailed. By looking forward in the log, one essentially moved backward in time as he/she followed the ship’s travels. I found this comparison particularly fitting, since blogs work in the exact same way – posts are organized from newest to oldest. A blog on politics could make a good history book of sorts because it would detail the events in the political sphere with every development. One could get a similar result from looking at the daily newspapers for a period of time, but as Sullivan also points out, bloggers are expected to respond to developments immediately – as Matt Drudge told him, blogs are broadcasts, not publications.
I was also intrigued by the differences in accountability Sullivan describes between blogs and newspapers. In the case of newspapers, writers, he says, are usually accountable to their editors. When articles are published and mistakes are made, corrections are printed in a less-prominent area of the newspaper. Additionally, the writers do not always get feedback from the readers directly. (Though that is definitely different now that articles are posted online and have the ability to receive comments.) With blogs, on the other hand, it’s very different – readers respond immediately and apparently ruthlessly. The blogger receives feedback right then and right there, from experts and average readers alike. The fact that some readers are harsh in their criticism does not come as a surprise, as that’s how most comments online are, but it is interesting that bloggers are thus held to a very high standard, possibly higher than some writers are, if their editors are not very stringent. This increases the credibility of the blogosphere, since the mediocre blogs will lose readership and relevance, while the reliable ones will be constantly kept honest by their readers and attract more readers. It is also an interesting comparison Sullivan makes when he says newspapers can print corrections in small corners, while bloggers must post their corrections in the same prominent places they post the rest of their material.
He also talks about the personality of the blog, which stems directly from the personality of the blogger. Here, he describes the clear difference in tone between a print writer and a blogger – print writers do not allow their true selves to appear in their writing; rather, they take special care to keep themselves out of their writing. In blogging, however, it’s the opposite – bloggers must allow for their personalities to characterize their writing. This is a major difference – as Sullivan says, blogging is “rich in personality”.
Finally, there is the difference in branding – blogs are branded by their bloggers. Even the blogs on many online journalism sites, he says, are branded based on the writers. He uses Daily Kos and Drudge Report as examples of independent news sites named after the bloggers who started and maintain them. Blogging thus becomes a more personal medium, in which the readers are interacting not with a publication, but with the writer of a publication. One gets this feeling simply by reading almost any blog – often the descriptions are written by the blogger in the first person.
It is interesting to read Sullivan’s perspective on blogging and recall how, at the beginning, he was a real novice when it came to blogging. He even needed someone else to upload his posts to the site. I think it’s telling – blogs are ever more important but are, in essence, simple.