A little self-absorbed navel-gazing

The Tribune's Dwight Jaynes has a big story today about blogs - generally, and Jack Bog's Blog specifically. There's also some discussion of the demise of Portland Communique.

Jaynes even got Erik Sten, Sam Adams, and Randy Leonard (who blogs exclusively right here at BlueOregon, Dwight) to go on the record with comments about Jack and B!x.

So here's your open discussion for the day: What do you like about blogs? What makes you crazy? Which local blogs do you enjoy? What's missing in our local blogosphere? What would make BlueOregon a better place?

Meanwhile, for your enjoyment: some choice cuts from the Trib article...

“At the moment, bloggers are fulfilling the ‘watchdog’ function that the fourth estate used to perform,” [blogger Paul Nickell] says. “Bloggers tend to view the MSM with a suspicion, and rightly so at times, I think, as being not so much a citizen watchdog but a corporate lapdog. … So as far as the issue of media accountability, the explosion of blogs has been a good thing. “I think that is exactly what has happened here in Portland, with the late and lamented Portland Communique, and of course, Jack Bog’s Blog. The attention focused on the Portland Development Commission and the current conversation about Portland’s policy on tax abatements, for example, simply would not be happening without Jack and his brethren bloggers.” ...
“Power?” [blogger Betsy Richter] says. “Popular bloggers create powerful blogs, sure. Luckily, most bloggers realize that with power comes responsibility, and they encourage community and dialogue via their comments sections. So it’s the community of readers and writers who become powerful — not necessarily the blogger him/herself.” But blogs aren’t all high-minded. There is rampant irresponsibility, unchecked rudeness and utter ridiculousness. On the worst of blogs, people are slandered, insulted and ridiculed. Misinformation runs amok. Nickell, who edits the Oregon State Bar Bulletin in his real job, talks about the other side: “To be honest,” he says, “a lot of what is to be found in the blogosphere is junk, trivia, profane and techno-minutiae. So, yes, to some degree blogs are background noise. “But when they are done well (and many are), they are a contribution to the marketplace of ideas.” ...
“I am very fond of Jack, personally,” [Randy] Leonard says. “And in general, blogs can be influential. But his blog has degenerated. Earlier, he had a really good kind of relationship with elected officials. Now, well, he’s predictable. Really, some of his commenters have made it worse. He attracts a lot of negative people. That’s what’s turned off a lot of us. To his credit, he cleans that up — but he does attract that element.” Trolls, bloggers call them. Most blogs have a comment section, an opportunity for free exchange of ideas or civil arguments with the host or other commenters. Problem is, there are people out there lurking the Internet who are like those sparrows under that glass canopy at the airport — ready to make their own kind of stinky deposit on a Web site. Eradicating those comments from the site is a distasteful, monotonous duty to bloggers.
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    I'll say this: That's one of the few mainstream media pieces which quote me and actually deliver said quotes in the proper context and without munging them. Heh.

  • Worldwide Pablo (unverified)

    Ditto to b!X. We've been on both sides of the reporter's notepad for about 30 years, and being on the nonreporter side this time, it was nice to see things turn out exactly as remembered.

    Still, as your headline suggests [as to navel-gazing], we wonder if anyone really cares, besides we "true believers." We'll see.

    Part of the interview with Dwight Janes that was not reported revolved around the idea that bloggers perform the modern-day equivalent of the colonial-era pamphleteer, who with persistence, stealth, an appreciation for hidden information and a nose for finding an audience, persisted in speaking out with the hope that maybe just maybe one day history might be changed.

    That could be bloggers'legacy. But, again, we'll see. It depends whether blogging gets corporatized to something unrecognizable. And whether we rise above being yet another echo chamber.

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    Blogs will definitely change, and individual bloggers will see their voices wane in influence (as did the pamphleteers). Even BlueOregon represents a later evolution of the genre--with multiple, often conflicting voices posting on the same site. But the overall influence of the medium--toward news that is more collaborative, more interactive, and more responsive to readers--will have profound effects on news over the next decade. The age of dead-tree media, in its current, 400-year-old variety, is nearing a close.

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    Pablo, I think the pamphleteer parallel is an interesting one, something I hadn't thought about. Thanks for that.

    Jeff, I agree that both blogs and mainstream media have to adapt to changing times and changing technologies. Nor will all the adaptations be ones I'm comfortable with--for instance I'm not particularly thrilled with what the 24-hour news channels have done to broadcast journalism.

    A rather idiosyncratic pet peeve: As a historian who now spends her days reading dead-tree media from over a century ago, one of my concerns about blogs is their relative impermanence. The digital age isn't very preservation-minded. There's no proof that a CD-ROM has a shelf-life longer than 20 years and the speed of hardware and software changes means that most digital records are lost to time. (This is a problem for individuals too--I suspect I'm not the only one with a bunch of 5 1/4 inch floppies lying around full of old letters and writings that I can't easily access.) It is conceivable that a few years down the line it could be as hard to find a copy of c. 2005 Blue Oregon as it is to find a c. 1705 pamphlet now.

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    Oh, and usually I can spell my own name...it has been a long day in the library!

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    As a historian who now spends her days reading dead-tree media from over a century ago, one of my concerns about blogs is their relative impermanence.

    That's why every library in the world should buy my print editions of Portland Communique. ;)

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    The article in the Trib comes right at the time that I was thinking about submitting my last piece for blueoregon, which was to be about my impending emigration from the blogosphere. Actually, my entrance into the blogosphere has been a brief excursion, similar to visiting Hong Kong on vacation. A different world, but not necessarily one I want to live in.

    I will summarize what I was going to submit: reading blogs is a tedious activity akin to picking blackberries at the end of the season. You got to put up with a lot of barbs and what fruit you get may be either overripe or undeveloped.

    Of course, I see that many people do not actually read blogs; they just scan the headline and then spout out theirown prejudices abput spomething related to the topic. The blogosphere is heavily populated with axe-grinders. Write a piece on education and one regular writer will jump in about how the entire system has to be reformed and several others will nanner on about teacher salaries or Oregon's per pupil costs. These postings are as predictable, annoying and boring as the scam mortgage commercials on Air America.

    I love to read Russell Sadler's columns, but it's amazing how many people have to jump in and comment on his theme without apparently reading, or at least understanding, what he wrote. Same with T.A. Barnhart and several other good writers who have something to say.

    I see where blueoregon gets about 1,500 hits a day, but I also see about 15 to 20 regular contributors, either wonks or axe-grinders (or both). I suppose there are hundreds of others who read but don't comment, but how much do they read and how often? Perhaps more people would post comments, but like me, they take some time to reflect on the issue and the original article before writing. But if you take the time to reflect, by the time you get around to writing somehting, two dozen other posts have been filed on the topic and the discussion has drifted off the original subject and degenerated into namecalling. At that time, what's the use?

    I have a pile of back issues of the New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and Harpers to read and I think that will be time better spent. Sure it's somewhat gratifying to see my name and comments in print, but I really don't need that many 15 seconds of fame.

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    Gil - thanks for your thoughtful comment. It is VERY important to recognize that over 95% of our readers never, ever comment. And those that do comment are generally a different sort than those that don't - for starters, they're people with opinions, who like to tell others what those opinions are, etc.

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    I appreciated Erik and Randy being forthright enough to say publicly that while they respected Jack and were entertained by him, his blog is rapidly descending into an echo chamber of negativity and grousing for its own sake.

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