September 26, 2004

That NYT Magazine article about bloggers.

I suppose the New York Times thinks that by writing about bloggers, it can force all us bloggers to link to it. I already link to them much more than to anyone else (because I begin every day interacting with the paper NYT). I was going to shun the blogger piece, but I won't, because I wanted to comment on this:
[I]n 1999, Mickey Kaus, a veteran magazine journalist and author of a weighty book on welfare reform, began a political blog on Slate. On kausfiles, as he called it, he wrote differently. There were a thousand small ways his voice changed; in print, he had been a full-paragraph guy who carefully backed up his claims, but on his blog he evolved into an exasperated Larry David basket case of self-doubt and indignation, harassed by a fake ''editor'' of his own creation who broke in, midsentence, with parenthetical questions and accusations.

That paragraph makes me realize our culture has indeed changed dramatically--not, because of blogging, but because the NYT could write out an observation like that and not feel compelled to drop in the word "postmodern."

This is interesting too:
The blogs that succeed, like Kaus's, are written in a strong, distinctive, original voice. In January, a serious-minded former editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education named Ana Marie Cox reinvented herself online as the Wonkette, a foulmouthed, hard-drinking, sex-obsessed politics junkie. Joshua Micah Marshall, in his columns for The Hill and articles for The Washington Monthly, writes like every other overeducated journalist. But on his blog, Talking Points Memo, he has become an irate spitter of well-crafted vitriol aimed at the president...
Which persona is the invented persona? Wouldn't it make more sense to conclude that the dry, dignified version of Kaus/Cox/Marshall was the playacting and the vivid personal voice is the real person? Isn't self-expression the incentive to blog? Well, yes, but that self-expression can include escaping from your usual, socialized-to-get-along-well-with-others persona and finding the edited version of yourself that is readable, bloggable. It can't be bland, but it doesn't need to be nasty. The bloggers I've come in contact with--with a rare exception--are decent and fair. I'm struck by how rational and orderly the world of blogging is. You really can't get away with just "spitting vitriol." As the Times writes in its inelegant phrase, it must be "well-crafted vitriol" if you are to hold readers, and then it isn't really spitting at all, is it?

Interesting fact about Josh Marshall: He drinks a very large Coke and a very large iced coffee at the same time. The Times thinks it's interesting that he "sometimes even" writes in bed. Well, who in possession of a laptop doesn't write in bed sometimes? Does he blog naked? That might be interesting. Or not.

Interesting fact about Kos: When he was 17, at 5' 6" tall and weighing 110 pounds, he joined the Army, where he learned to fight back after years of being bullied. Also, Kos cares a lot about bloggers getting respect, and when he talks about it, though he smiles, the New York Times perceives "all the veins ... pulsing in his neck." I like this Kos quote: "If I care about something, I'll write about it. It's the essence of blogging." He displays a very tough attitude, then he expresses a fear of his own high traffic and a guilt about not linking to other bloggers enough. Kos has the most spirit and angst about blogging. If you wanted to make a documentary or a biopic or a fictionalized film about a blogger, Kos would make the best subject.

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