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Blogs, Newspapers, Your Arm, Whatever. Just Write.

Bora Zivkovic: “Not all bloggers want to be journalists.” Bora talks about science blogging in particular, but you could apply his explanation to any discipline.

I’d like to add that those of us in New Orleans in late 2005 learned quickly that if we didn’t blog, many local and national journalists would write a limited or outright false narrative for us, not stray from it even if evidence arose to the contrary and repeatedly drum it into the minds of the rest of the nation and world. Following that, actual policy, rebuilding solutions and national slogans would be based on this manufactured consensus reality, these prevailing but rather shaky premises. *shudder*

Again, it’s not just about controlling your message, but keeping in mind that what you put out there has very real consequences, such as the information and reactions of very real people. A lot of perspectives then in many different voices is a good thing. As Ed Yong said just today, once again with respect to science but immediately applicable to your area of expertise, “We’re all aware of the problems of mainstream science reporting. It’s not all bad. I reckon most of it is probably quite good. But it could be a lot better. And scientist bloggers have the potential to make it a lot better.”

As blogging versus/as journalism is brought up again (for some unknown reason – thought we buried this dead horse some time in 2006), it’s important to read a recent post by Mark Folse. For those of you who don’t know Mark, he is a former ink-stained wretch and current poet-author-blogger who has published newspaper articles, books and blogs.

Blogging is a category so generic as to be almost meaningless. It would be like calling all writers “bookers”. If anything, this bit of the Internet has evolved from a sort of cork-board of odd pictures and moments into something else, just as Wet Bank Guide evolved from an exercise in explaining Katrina and the Federal Flood into one of explaining New Orleans.

Journalists wanting to be bloggers. Bloggers wanting to be journalists. Oh, enough already. Take my advice: Your knowledge and your voice. Take it and just write. Write for whatever reason makes you want to write and don’t let anyone define writing or blogging or tweeting or next-big-thinging for you. Write your heart out regardless of format, word count or number of readers. Just write.

Coming back to the holy/holey narrative, how many of you scientists or science lovers began to blog as a direct result of crappy, but more importantly, spineless, agenda-based science reporting in major newspapers and cable news? Check these out: Memo To Scott McClellan: Here’s What Happened and The Smithsonian Defends Censorship. You, blogger, journalist, whatever you call yourself, don’t have to belong to the Catholic Church Of Journalism if you don’t want to. You don’t have to give in to “We were afraid for our jobs, funding and continued existence, so caved to whatever demands those in power placed on us.” You can sack it up and tell it like it is.

What is the heart of journalism really, other than love and respect for (ferreting out) information and getting it out there to as many people as possible with as little pretense and fanfare as possible? He who ceases to be a student was never a student. Let’s concern ourselves more with the content and less the form and, yup, just write.

P.S. As long as anyone gets all uppity about what blogging should or shouldn’t be, what posts should or shouldn’t include and OMG The Internet Is Serious Business Journalism With A Capital J, I will include images of LOLcats in any post on this topic. Peace out.

7 comments… add one

  • Brian Romans January 21, 2011, 3:15 PM

    I wholeheartedly agree with your ‘just write’ sentiment.

    But I disagree that the discussion is beating a dead horse. Far from it. The ongoing discussion between various forms of science communicators is, I think, a useful frame for understanding where people are coming from and what their goals are. I’m not saying anything should be formalized such that people feel they need to “label” themselves as a certain type of blogger/writer. That would likely discourage people from getting online and writing. In fact, I think keeping the discussion going amongst scientists and journalists helps keep any ‘professionalization’ from creeping in.

    • Maitri January 21, 2011, 3:29 PM

      Fair point, Brian. I think my skepticism with respect to blogging vs/as journalism is that I see a number of bloggers now suddenly fretting about what their blogs Are and Mean in the wake of Twitter, Facebook and other forms of rapid-fire social media.

      a) There will always be a need and audience for long-form writing (we still have the freedom to use Twitter when we want and the blog when we want),

      b) Why have this crisis when the important thing is the content and message and not where you write or how long your words are? It’s when people self-consciously think they ought to start flexing their style or “chopping off their points” solely in order to fit into some arbitrary notion of what the medium means that I say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. What’s different now? Didn’t we put this blog format vs. print format thing to rest a long time ago?” and

      c) It’s not blogging that’s changed, but commenting. We don’t all comment on each other’s blogs like we used to, but just watch when someone says they’re taking their blog down because they don’t know who/what they’re writing for anymore – the aghast and supportive comments come in. What that means is not that folks aren’t reading you any more, it’s that blogs have become that much more normal and people don’t feel they need to be a part of the support system that encourages you to write on this strange, new medium. (Also, if you don’t know who/what you’re writing for anymore, waaah. Just repurpose and write. Or don’t. But, for god’s sake, don’t take down the blog. Let’s at least have easy access to everything written so far.)

  • Kea Giles January 21, 2011, 7:32 PM

    Good points, great advice: “Your knowledge and your voice. Take it and just write.” Question: How much personal experience, personal voice becomes too personal in a blog? Don’t know if you can answer that, but it’s weighing on my mind these days.

    • Maitri January 21, 2011, 7:52 PM

      That is something only you can decide, Kea. Please never let anyone define that for you on a blog you own and run. I mean, forget the blog, how much personal are you willing to share with strangers in real life? I don’t share any opinion or information on my blog that I wouldn’t talk about with someone on a bus. Furthermore, I’m an extrovert but I’ve also found that introverts or people who are awkward socially in real life thrive on their blogs.

      Hope this helps. :-)

      • Kea Giles January 22, 2011, 6:19 PM

        Good points! Esp. about not sharing info on blog you would talk about with strangers on a bus. Except for me, that means I wouldn’t say anything at all! : ) I’d like to see others weigh in on this subject.

  • Kea Giles January 22, 2011, 6:22 PM

    Good points! Esp. about not sharing anything you wouldn’t share with strangers on a bus. Except that means I would never say anything! : ) I’d like to see others weigh in on this topic. In any case, I remain inspired by your advice to just write. Thanks.

  • Kea Giles January 23, 2011, 1:23 PM

    I think I figured it out: Write, write! But don’t write anything you wouldn’t want your LinkedIn contacts to read. How’s that? Keep it professional, but still use your own voice and experiences as much as possible. And one more thing: I also very much like this point you make: “What is the heart of journalism really, other than love and respect for (ferreting out) information and getting it out there to as many people as possible.”

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