July 20, 2004

blogging v reporting, monster grudge match

My opinion is that bloggers are not reporters but this doesn't mean they're all less valuable or somehow less respectable than reporters. They're different. They pass on information differently. If allowed, they can complement each other. It's disconcerting for me to read news articles about "the bloggers" as if we're some homogenous bunch of yahoos, gossips, do-gooders, or wanna-be reporters. The recent LA Times editorial [are opinion piece writers reporters?] prompted a reply from me.
Dear Mr. Jones,

I read your opinion piece on the bloggers at the DNC in the LA Times. I'll be "blogging" from the DNC in support of my niche-blog librarian.net. I'm a public librarian and I'm concerned about the loss of the public sphere, and how this is playing out in public libraries. I'm also a bit of an activist and see a unique opportunity to use my access as a means of providing access to DNC activities and goings-on to my readers who are interested.

I'm not a journalist, I'm just a woman who has used my half-decent citation and commenting skills - with a dash of technological know-how thrown in- to create a small community of like-minded folks who can stay informed on the issues. While I don't think you could call my blog "kindly" it does try to be reasonable, open-minded, and even handed when discussing such hot button topics like the USA PATRIOT Act and the Children's Internet Protection Act. I like to think I've helped thousands of librarians stay abreast of the issues, and it is always clear that I am speaking only for myself -- I accept no advertising, I accept no donations except for web space.

I realize that you weren't probably intending to belittle bloggers with your comments, but I feel that you do the community a disservice by being dismissive. Sure there's a lot of windbags, and a lot of misrepresentation. However, to be fair, we see the same sort of misrepresentation in the mainstream media quite frequently and they are nominally paid to be objective. Our reputations depend on our continued credibility [and some power laws, sure] which at some level makes our opinions different than the other approaches to the goings-on at the DNC. It's as if the promised world of 1000 cable channels were made real only it's 1000 different RSS feeds from the convention. Might not be your cup of tea, but I know I'd tune in to one or two.

I have no interest in blogs supplanting traditional media channels, and I'm not much a blog hypester; I'm just a librarian with a blog. I figured I'd tell you my story since it seems to vary from your current opinions of bloggers and the "blogging at the DNC phenomenon"

jessamyn west
Posted by jessamyn at July 20, 2004 10:22 AM

Why would a librarian, presumably fairly knowledgeable in the language arts, use only lower-case letters in her name? Proper nouns should be captalized, should they not?

Posted by: Kevin at July 20, 2004 11:38 AM

It's just become a shorthand signature for email based on two things

1. I am a bad typist, and type my name hundreds of times a day and it's quicker to not have to hunt down the shift key. Petty but still that's reason #1 I can do find-and-replace in word processing programs based on case, but not in the email editor I use.

2. Since it's obviously my name, I'm not worried people will confuse it for something that is not my name.

I'm more of a descriptive grammarian than a prescriptive one, at the end of the day, though I tend to go back through my writing and edit for other similar errors like lower case "i" and not using commas and periods. It's not a statement about anything, though I expect that the types of people who are put off by a lower case signature may find much else to dislike in my, um, creative grammar and spelling.

Posted by: Jessamyn West at July 20, 2004 01:08 PM

I suppose I am put off by lower case signatures, but don't fancy myself a "type", thank you, just somebody who doesn't understand the popularity of "cap-failure" and thinks it is pop, hipster type stuff. I suppose the type of folks who can't be bothered to capitalize their name or maybe think they are being humble or cool or something may take issue with that. At least I have logic and fact on my side, though, right?

Posted by: Kevin at July 20, 2004 01:34 PM

I have logic and fact on my side, though, right?

You have hundreds of years of grammatical convention on your side, though proper noun capitalization standards in English don't extend much earlier than that. As for myself, I am neither humble nor cool. Feel free to email me if you'd like to chitchat more about this, or would like to describe the javascript error you are seeing.

Posted by: Jessamyn at July 20, 2004 02:19 PM

Hundreds of years is plenty for me. I can't chitchat more now- how'd you get on the gmail beta train? I will send the javascript error in a sec.

Posted by: Kevn at July 20, 2004 02:32 PM

Very well put letter, Jessamyn. And thanks for the other tips on your site, which I'm passing on to our team of bloggers/delegates who'll be attending.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at July 20, 2004 02:54 PM

i have to add that the informal nature of email, etc. makes it refreshing for me to ignore the normal conventions of grammar. i enjoy the fluidity of the keyboard more; i feel neither hip nor humble. rather, unfettered.

and, J, let me say i am glad you've got this blog going and are representin'!


Posted by: Della Street at July 22, 2004 11:49 AM

Drawing on deep pools of fortitude and concentration I am going to resist commenting on a subject of obvious importance - capitalizing or not capitalizing one's name - and essay instead a frothy quip or two on the relatively trivial subject of "The Grownups'" view of blogs and bloggers.

jess, you go girl!

Mr. Jones is a pretty much simon pure example of the sort of person who figures that opinionating about the Great Issues of Our Time is something that should be left exclusively to those who have been carefully brought up and went to all of the Right Schools. Policy opinion is properly left to folks like himself, who've figured out how to make a living by being cocksure about nearly everything and getting quoted about it endlessly by their carefully cultivated fan clubs in the major newsrooms of the Legitimate Press.

Posted by: Dick Eagleson at July 26, 2004 11:46 AM

I hope to see the bloggers out there (at BOTH conventions) paying attention to the topics that get ignored by the newshandlers and arrangement specialists, out of a pathetic and trembling fear that something unscripted might happen.
-Orange Mike

-- Rev. Librarians Redux
-- library signs: PATRIOT
-- library signs: CIPA

DNC 7/26-29
26jul... blogger b'fast
27jul... bazaar
28jul... bash?
29jul... voter reg

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