in defense of BoingBoing (or why i’m not a journalist)
Last week, i posted a link to a news article about a high school banning blogging which Cory reposted on BoingBoing. In turn, Phil Gyford critiqued BoingBoing’s journalism and Clay worried about about the way memes spread. The commentary on Gyford’s post is rich with anti-BoingBoing attitude (as well as some very interesting dialogues).
So many aspects of this collection of material bother me. Embedded in all of this is an assumption that what any of us bloggers do is journalism. I, for one, am not a journalist and have no desire to be one. In the case of the post in question, i put it up there for my own reference and because it references the ongoing paranoia that people have about kids and blogging, questions of its educational value, etc. I don’t care one ounce about the truth value of that article – i simply care about the fact that people are talking about this, journalists feel the need to report on things this way. I’m not trying to be a reporter so much as i’m trying to document things that are of interest to me.
Truth be told, i hate writing, yet i write for a living. That said, blogging is not what i consider to be my writing. My writing comes in very formal structures, goes through peer-review and takes forever to reach its intended audience. My blog is my little land of ponderings, ideas, links, rants, etc. Much of what i write there is inexact at best. But it’s my zone, my tool of procrastination and documentation. I even take Many-to-Many more seriously than my blog because at M2M, i feel like i’m producing text for an audience (and it’s why i blog there much less frequently). On my blog, i’m writing it for me and those who might get a kick out of it. I don’t want to be told that i have to live up to journalist’s rules simply because i have an audience. I’d rather the audience go away than be expected to have to do something with that blog. The blog is for me and if it became a responsibility, it would go because the last thing i need is more responsibilities. Besides, me trying to make meaning about my life is neither of journalistic or academic caliber.
This connects deeply with what i think Cory and Xeni are doing (i don’t know the other BB people as well). They are blogging the things that matter to them. “A directory of wonderful things” is not meant to be a universally agreed upon notion of wonderful. Cory and Xeni’s posts are clearly what’s most wonderful to them. Thus, it absolutely kills me to see people bitch and moan about BoingBoing, as though it’s written for them. What makes BB special is that many of the quirky things that those characters blog are also appreciated by others. But it’s not about the readers, it’s not about journalism, it’s about what matters to the writers. Y’know what – i’m not interested in everything that they have to say either. But it’s their blog and i just skim past the things that don’t matter to me. And of course they don’t have open comments – no one wants to manage self-important audiences who bitch constantly. Yuck. It’s not about not wanting criticism – goddess only knows that they get plenty of that all the time in every form imaginable. It’s about not wanting to have everything you write be attached to constant negativity intended to make you miserable.
Perhaps i’m in a funny position because i know and love Cory and Xeni. Sure, they’re quirky characters and that comes through in their blogging. And yes, they have passions that border on obsessions. Sadly, i realize that the way people are treating them looks a lot like how people treat celebrities in this culture. And, honestly, that’s pretty sick.
I guess what it comes down to is that i don’t really understand why readers of blogs expect so much from bloggers. I know that i struggle with this and i know that it makes some of my fellow bloggers utterly irate. Why do people expect blogs to be journalism? Why do readers expect bloggers to be attentive to them simply because they read? This causes me excessive amounts of guilt. I literally do not have the time in the day necessary to respond to all of my email or to talk to everyone who approaches me because of my blog. It makes me cringe to be called a bitch because i can’t do it and i get so frustrated because people expect something from me that i can’t offer. People think that having an audience of people you don’t know is a blessing, but it’s also a curse. And i don’t know how to resolve the good and the bad in an easy way. But when i see people say horrid things about Cory and Xeni, it makes me sad because i know how much that stings. What motivates people to say these things? I mean, sure, i could go meta on the psychology of humanity, but that’s not good enough. It’s the difference between knowing and _knowing_.