: In a comment on my list of the relationship between weblogs and established media here, Dann says he wishes all media personalities — authors, pundits, hosts — had their email addresses on the Web. I respectfully disagree, having once had a large audience and having received too many letters to answer. And, besides, since I was always bad at sending thank-you notes to my aunts, I could be assured to be worse at it with people who didn’t know my mother.

But the spirit of the comment is exactly right: Interactivity is good for both sides, especially for media personalities, for they get to know what their audience is thinking, they get to know they have an audience.

That is why weblogs are great for such people. It is a way for them to interact with their audiences without having to write individual letters. It is a way for them to answer the same comment or question from many people at once. It is a way to enter an actual conversation. And better yet, we all get to watch. I far prefer it when people leave comments on my blog vs. sending email, for, again, I am a bad email correspondent (sorry, Uncle Richard and all the rest of you!) and I prefer to have the conversation in public.

So Bill O’Reilly, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Dan Rather, Paul Krugman, John Podhoretz, Stephen King, Charlie Rose, Oprah — and, yes, even Andy Rooney — you should all start weblogs to interact with your audiences. If Dave Barry can do it, so you can. And you’ll be glad you did.

  • The other thing about comments that I wonder about- blog comment sections tend to be quite polite and civilised, compared to the ranting-pervy-troll stuff of old dotcom forums (e.g. F’ etc.)… and people use their real names. It’s like the whole ‘anonymity culture’ of four years ago just up and went elsewhere. Anybody have an opinion/theory?

  • Please no Andy Rooney blog, though I doubt he’d be able to figure out how to do it.

  • I wonder if the civility has more to do with bloggers being polite or with blog owners editing out nasty comments.

  • Aunt Sissy

    You’ve broken all doting aunts’ hearts with your bloodless acknowledgement of having been “bad at sending thank-you notes” to your own.

  • Jason

    Jeff, wouldn’t a reasonable solution be to post your reporters’ email addresses, along with a notice that not all emails can be answered personally? that way, a reporter can stay in touch with his audience by still being able to read all of their mail, while not feeling the burden to spend 20 hours replying.

  • I think the new found civility comes from lack of anonymity. It’s the evolution of people actually using their real names (including myself) that I find interesting. Is it just me?

  • Jeff-
    Thanks much. You made my night.
    What I said was that every writer (or media person) ought to have a functioning e-mail address. I offered the caveat that only a small sample of messages might/should/could receive a response.
    I do agree that having a blog is a good way of dealing with the interactive relationship between “constant reader” and author.
    Perhaps a better “Rule #1” would be to have a method of receiving feedback in which the author is engaged. You are seriously engaged in your blog. An Andy Rooney blog (God forbid) which is read and maintained by 3.2 staffers without Mr. Rooney’s assistance won’t really provide the feedback that Mr. Rooney sorely needs.
    One of the great things about the Internet is that it is so “scalable”. My local reporter can maintain an e-mail address and not be overwhelmed by fan mail, criticisms, etc. Someone with a larger following (such as yourself) can use a public blog. Perhaps Dan Rather needs both and a couple of staffers to cull the verbal debris from the more lucid comments.
    Without suffering a larger bout of verbal diarhea [sp?], the point I’m trying to get at is that even the mighty Dan Rather ought to have to face the music from those that live in “flyover country” from time to time.

  • Brian

    The correct spelling is ‘diarrhea’. And, while I’m at it, the correct spelling is ‘Dan’.

  • Brian,
    Thanks for the former. You are mistaken about the latter.

  • No. NO . No – we get enough face time for celebrities.
    Bill Maher and Margaret Cho blogs are interesting but I don’t vist them too often.
    Wil Weaton is arguably (a celebrity) and arguably a very successful blogger.
    I want the talk of people who can more clearly be defined as regular – though media reps and computer programmers seem to be a high percentage of bloggers, so it is by definition a self-selecting audience and producer.
    For instance what could these people offer except rarely – that isn’t desseminated throughout blogtopia. You would just get a lot of kiss asses. Shudder.