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