Hermits Rock

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My local newspaper’s Opinion Editor, JCC, complete with clunky literary allusion and backhanded slap at readers (both moves are characteristic), is recruiting bloggers. He must have decided that a zealot, a listmaker (I see he’s quitting), a liberal, and this woman who writes some other stuff, and a few others isn’t enough to satisfy the area’s fickle readership. He’s wrong about blogging in general and about blogging for a local newspaper in particular:

  1. There’s no inherent value to volume. Different bloggers take advantage of the medium in different ways. Some write frequently and authoritatively (taking advantage of instant publishing); others foster conversation with aplomb (enjoying the promise of interactive readership); still others act as punching bags at which readers swing dead horses (loving the ease of polemics); and still others are generally enthralling (creating a meeting-place for the cult of personality).
  2. Thoughtfulness matters. JCC writes, “Blogging is not editorial writing. It’s repeatedly providing raw, authentic reactions to the news of the day.” For JCC, this translates to writing clear rather than “elaborate, belabored prose.” (We’ll leave aside the question of what, exactly, he thinks “elaborate, belabored prose” is best suited for—writing that’s cooked and contrived, perhaps?) But that’s just silliness. “Raw, authentic reactions” are fine and good, but they’re not a function of good writing no matter what medium the writing’s published in; they lead to too much backtracking, hemming, and hawing of the “Well, that’s what I meant at the time” variety. There’s ample room in blogging to use it as a space for drafting and refining ideas and for developing more comprehensive trains of thought. But thoughtfulness is what matters most. In the best bloggers, thoughtfulness is revealed as they take advantage of the connective nature of the Web, reveal a nimbleness of thought and critical eye toward their subjects, and develop an authoritative voice.
  3. There is inherent value to institution. The readership of the Press-Citizen‘s blogs is tied directly to the Press-Citizen. Readers from across the state and the nation turn to the newspaper’s website to discover what’s happening in Iowa City. The Press-Citizen‘s bloggers take on that mantle and thus carry some institutional weight. Readers most certainly understand this, even if JCC doesn’t. Many blog comments will reflect that understanding; moreover, the paper’s blogs readers return because of that authority. Some, in fact, will use comments as an attempt to hijack the paper’s voice to their own ends. Such are the complexities that the institution brings to the blog. One would think that’d be obvious enough that they’d color the way one characterizes that readership, but, apparently, that’s not the case.

In spite of the fact that JCC doesn’t get it (his own short-lived blog was ample evidence of this fact), I’ve flirted in the past with applying to be a sanctioned (and un-semipseudonymous) blogger, on the one hand to see how much it would pay, and on the other because I sometimes think that outfit could use a little more class. But every time I thought about it—and I thought about it again, briefly, today—I decided against it for one very simple, very important reason: there is no substitute for pretty. Both aesthetically and ergonomically, the website’s horrendous.



JCC is the opinion editor of the Depressed Citizen now? Excuse me while I go chortle. . . that’s funny on so many levels.

I’m impressed that they’re actually paying bloggers, though, since they never paid members of the print version’s Writers Group. If I still lived there, I’d probably be tempted for that reason alone, though I agree, aesthetically, it’s all appalling.

He’s been Opinion Editor for about a year. He’s mostly invisible, except for his weekly poetry column in which he invites his favorite PhD pals to write bad poetry, and for the fact that every once in a while the page just has his fingerprints all over it. He doesn’t have many bylines of his own, but when he does his worst habit is trying to interpret the PC‘s readership (as he does in this column). His second worst is the literary allusions, which are often less apropos than he thinks. It took him eight months to stop using the verb “editorialize,” though it’s obvs he still thinks it when he writes the opinions.

Anyway, I thought they paid the WG a nominal (like $20) stipend? I mean, I just assumed the bloggers were being paid something like that… If not, no wonder they can’t keep anybody.

No, let me revise that: his worst habit is offering interpretations of the PC‘s readers that frequently belittle them and usually reveals that he’s not that interested in them anyway. This little ditty today is a fairly good example of it.

No, they don’t pay those WG people a cent, or at least they didn’t at my time. You’re supposed to do it all for the honor and the glory. Gag. I suspect they’re treating bloggers the same way.