Posts from July 2003

A world without editors

A world without editors

: Nick Denton and I were taking on IM sometime back about why we liked blogging so much and with typical Nick understatement, he popped this simple reason onto my screen:

“No editors.”

Amen, blogging brother, amen.

I just had an unnerving encounter with an editor — print, of course. I was debating whether to blog it and whether to be coy about the publication. But, what the hell, it’s a publication about journalism that was asking for a piece about blogging and so they should expect a journalist to blog it.

Nieman Reports, a thumbsucking quarterly out of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, asked me and many others to write pieces for an issue about weblogging. Be happy to, I said, without a moment’s hesitation. For the good of journalism. For the good of blogging. Anything.

So I wrote the piece. You can see it here. To most of you, there’ll be nothing new in it. But I wasn’t writing for a blogging audience. I was writing for the audience of 10 journalism machers who actually read these wet-thumb periodicals and many of them apparently don’t yet know what blogs are. So I tried to tell them about my happy experience with blogs — my own blog, Iranian blogs, and my company’s blogs.

The edit I got back was a ham-handed butchery that also betrays plenty of print prejudices about this, our new medium. For example:

: I said that weblogs have the “potential to unlock a treasure of audience content.”

: She said, “a treasure of audience interactivity.”

: And that’s essentially insulting to weblogs; it devalues them. This isn’t just another way to chat, damnit. This is content as much as any newspaper’s or magazine’s content.

: I said: “Weblogs are conversation.”

: She said, “Weblogs are a tool for creating conversation.”

: There’s a difference. Again, this isn’t just another community tool. It’s a content tool. Besides, her sentence was wordier. First rule of editing: Take words out, don’t add them in.

: I said: “Weblogs can also change the world.”

: She said: “Weblogs … can also expand the way we think about and experience events around the world.”

: Well, that’s poorly stated and wimpy and wordy and it’s not what I said. I meant what I said. This isn’t about viewing the world. It’s about changing the world. Again, the apparent aim is to defang weblogs.

: I said: “Weblogs are revolutionary.”

: She said: “In Iran and other nations where people are repressed, we are learning that Weblogs can be tools of revolution.”

: Once again, wordy and obtuse and diluted. Weblogs are revolutionary much closer to home — in America … and in newsrooms.

: I said: “Webloggers are also being given credit for at least keeping up the pressure that helped bring down Majority Leader Trent Lott (thanks mainly to Josh Micah Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com). Bloggers are influencers.”

: She said: “Webloggers — in this case, Josh Micah Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com, in particular

Experience democracy

Experience democracy
: Pedram has a wonderful post today urging his fellow expat Iranians to experience Western democracy, wherever they are, so they can take that experience back to a free Iran. It is hopeful yet responsible and realistic talk from Iran’s next generation of leaders.

He’s everywhere

He’s everywhere
: Tom Watson, Britain’s blogging MP, responded to an online interview with my blogging colleague, Joe Territo. Today’s topic: democracy in Iran:

It’s not an issue of national interest – this is about global freedom and global interest. Democratic empowerment of Middle Eastern youth is invaluable to building a better future in the region.

Joe also has Jerry Springer signed up for regular interviews, coming soon.

The sweetest hero

The sweetest hero
: Jessica Lynch was just great on her homecoming to the peaceful Palestine. The poor woman looked more frightened facing cameras than she must have looked facing the enemy. But she did a good job and she was real and honest, right down to her little but visible “WHEW” after it was all over.

Damn, I was going to enjoy that trial

Damn, I was going to enjoy that trial
FoxNews says there’s a 90-95 percent chance that we killed Saddam’s sons in Mosul today.

It’s a boomer thing, you wouldn’t understand

It’s a boomer thing, you wouldn’t understand
: Roger L. Simon insightfully sees more in l’affaire BBC/Blair (and NYTimes/Blair before it): It’s a generational thing, about authority and jealousy. It’s one of those rare blog posts you can’t summarize in a snippet, so go read.

Gilligan’s blog

Gilligan’s blog
: David Steven performs a great bit of digging and analysis through Andrew Gilligan’s contributions to the BBC’s group war blog.

Point 8, Gilligan never apologises. One of the beauties of blogging is the ability to use later posts to comment on, reshape or even correct earlier ones. ‘That’s what

I thought was happening then, but this is what I now know

Fate

Fate
: Here how the Guardian’s leader (translation for us Americans: editorial) begins:

It is exactly 10 years to the week since the deputy White House counsel, Vince Foster, put the barrel of a Colt revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He left behind a crumpled suicide note intended as an epitaph on the culture he had experienced during his short six months in Washington: “Here ruining people is considered sport.”

Anyone reading the newspapers over the past few days might well conclude that London does not lag far behind Washington in its playful appetite for destroying people.

I don’t mean to sound hard but I will: People who commit suicide — by definition — are not destroyed; they destroy themselves.

David Kelly killed himself. Vince Foster killed himself. (Note to tin-hatters: Spare me your reheated Clintonian conspiracy theories on this; I’m tired and grumpy and will bark and bite and thwap you on the nose with a rolled-up Times.)

Sadly, for reasons only they will know, neither man could not stand the pressure of politics: Foster in the middle of the White House, Kelly in the middle of the hottest story du jour. It is a tragedy that neither knew that soon enough and managed to get away or grow a tougher skin. If you can’t stand the heat of politics, then for God’s sake, man, stay away from the stove!

But politics is tough and for good reason: If you want to sway the ship of state, there will be people who disagree with you. They will say so. They will fight you. They will want you to lose so they can win. That’s politics and it always will be. That’s democracy. Even if you could strip away all the childishness and sniping and gossiping and petty fighting and greedy power-grabbing that will still be true: Politics is tough because it matters.

I find the chest-thumping and sodden sympathy over Kelly to be frequently disingenuous. He is being used in death more than in life. If he had not killed himself, he would be a trivia question in no time.

Kelly is not the issue.

The issue is: Who lied when no one should lie, especially not government, especially not the press?