Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ruminations on Blogging
By Blogger

Zach started the weekend off on a contemplative note, and I suppose that got me into a similar mood. I've been thinking a lot about blogs, blogging, and what the hell we'll eventually accomplish with this silly little internet movement. Will Carroll has written extensively on the subject, and Will Leitch wrote an interesting column for Baseball Analysts about how newspapers can appropriate the blogger mentality in their baseball coverage.

To address Leitch's column first, he suggests that two people cover a baseball team at any given time. One would write the "hard news", the basic game description, who's hurt, and so on and so forth, perhaps like it's currently done, but perhaps in an even more spare style, like this play by play description from 1930, plus a little more prose. The other writer would be the Writer of the pair, the one who waxes eloquent and assumes the educated first person, the one who takes on the blogger/columnist persona. I don't think it could work quite as Leitch proposes, because deadlines render near-impossible a reasoned and thought-out examination of night games for the next days' editions.

However, what should be interesting to a sports editor is the concept of a team-specific dedicated columnist. If a good writer was given the opportunity to write about whatever occurred to him or her regarding a baseball team during the season, and that person was given a full press pass and travelled with the team, think of the possibilities. We would read a season-long narrative as it was being woven. One day, the writer might ruminate upon the fourth outfielder's prospects of getting two starts per week, and how that might affect the team. One day, he or she might wander the crowd and get into discussions with different fans, building the different impressions into a column. And beyond the freedom of subject, I would institute freedom to be a fan, a freedom bloggers possess. To re-phrase Zach's point about Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy may not be impartial, but being an unabashed fan forces him to be even more honest to gain and keep readers. Columnists who play the rhetorical game of impartiality and supposed objectivity risk stifling the human passion they must have somewhere in their souls (yes, I believe even Satan can be truly passionate).

I'll conclude with a thought about something many people have realized about blogging, which is that it is almost entirely dependent on feedback. What does that mean? In order to keep doing this, I need to feel as if I'm getting something out of it. Part of that is looking at the page hit counter and seeing that Sportszilla's average daily readership takes a leap every time Deadspin links to us, but another big part of it is hoping that a column will prompt discussion, either in our comments section or on another blog, or even that someone will write something in a similar vein without referencing me and I'll recognize that we were thinking about the same thing.

That's why it kills me to find a "Weblog" for a major media outlet that doesn't include a comments section, let alone that there are "blogs" behind subscriber firewalls. Those writers aren't doing it for conventional feedback. Maybe they get the odd email, but it's likely they're doing it either for a personal high, or they're getting paid. Furthermore, if that's how those columns are packaged, I refuse to call it blogging. In the purest sense of the word, those are, in fact, blogs because they are logging information on the web, but the spirit of the medium dictates an open forum of ideas and fostering of community, whether it's linking and reacting or discussion in the threads. If there is no linking and no networking with other blogs or sources, and if there is no open discussion in the threads, then the column is simply a re-labeled newspaper column, static like the old form and repurposed with a buzzword attached to it. In an internet environment where writers don't reference each other and openly avoid impromptu discussions in the town square, then The Great Discussion slows to the pace of the Original Media. If that's where we're headed, we may as well screw it and find some other way to do this.


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