Rathergate and me

Rathergate and me

: I just finished the op-ed I was asked to do on Rathergate; if it runs, it will be this weekend and I’ll post it then. But today I wanted to address why I haven’t written more on DanScam because some people — some nicer than others — have been pushing me on it.

First: I should have written more and that is my mistake. I do cover media here, in a manner of speaking. I live in both media worlds — big and blog. And CBScam is big media news. And so I should have commented on it here earlier and more often. I was wrong not to.

Second: I have found frequently in the blogosphere that if you don’t jump on a story at the first moment, it’s damned hard to catch up. That was particularly true of Typegate; the story moved with the speed of bits and expanded so fast I couldn’t even reliably link to who was on top of it. Others were covering it far better than I could.

Third: I still have problems with the fact that the roots of this story, too, are in the mud of this campaign. Others make typography or Cambodia their hobbyhorses; mud is mine. But I grant that the story morphed; it wasn’t about Bush and the military but instead about Rather and the apparent forgeries. My allergy to mud dissuaded me from paying sufficient attention to this.

Fourth: I also regretted being drawn into the mud-slinging stories by people pushing me to do so here. I tried to stay away from it and did for a long time but finally succumbed to comment on it in my way and it got just as dirty and nasty (and predictable and boring and useless) as anyone could predict it would. So I didn’t want to be sucked in again.

Admit the irony: We get sick of Big Media telling us what we should read. But here commenters try to tell us what to write.

It’s not media. It’s a blog. It’s personal. I’ll write about what I want to write about (or not). You don’t like it? Then go blog.

So I’m admitting that I should have been more on top of the Rather story but I’m not saying this because natterers needled annoyingly; in fact, the more they nattered, the longer I stayed on the sidelines.

Doc Searls says it much better than I am:

I got slammed in an email this morning that essentially called me chickenshit for not piling onto Dan Rather and CBS for whatever it was they did (and continue to do) wrong.

Well, folks, it’s not that I don’t care. Or that I don’t know anything. It’s that I don’t know enough, and I’m busy doing my job, which isn’t blogging.

And it’s not like nobody’s on the case. I see Technorati finds 332 posts matching “Rathergate” alone.

My fave, of the few threads I’ve visited on the matter, is this one, following a cautious and responsible post by Dan Gillmor. Lots of intersting thoughts and perspectives in there.

Here’s one more. Blogging isn’t cable TV. We don’t have to fill otherwise empty pipes with “content,” and we don’t have to hold eyeballs still while our customers stab them with advertising messages. Most of all, we don’t have to join the ranks of the professionally opinionated, or the choirs of voices raised in righteous rage against political enemies.

We’re free-range writers. If you don’t like what we say or don’t say, there are plenty of other potential sources of what you want, all gathered in a place that would never exist if it were up to the major media, the entertainment industry, the publishing industry, and the lawmakers and regulators who protect them all. (Even the writer who gave me shit wrote back later to report that he’d found what he wanted here.)

If there’s any fer-sure “message” about this “medium,” that’s it.

When I do put up my op-ed, you’ll see that I slam the man, Dan and praise the bloggers and issue a few cautionary notes but if I summarize it in 25 words here, the guy who asked for the op-ed won’t give me the 1,000 words of space I’m expecting. So that will come later.

: UPDATE: See Jay Rosen in the comments responding to a commenter who demands that he speak on an issue.

This is an odd reaction to blogs. In the long run, I think it’s a compliment, a backwards valentine: Somebody wants to know what you say about something or expects you to have an opinion — even and often one with which they’ll disagree — and so they can’t believe it when you don’t; you disappoint. Nonetheless, a blog is still personal; it’s what a blogger wants to write when he or she wants to (or has the time to) write it.