A Note On The Sarah Lacey Session

I just read the cNet article on Sarah Lacey’s session at Gnomedex Saturday. Ugh. Here’s my comment:

Even the cNet article misses a key point: “blogger” is a meaningless phrase, as it rests solely on the technology. A person on LiveJournal writing for her friends is a “blogger” — so are my students who use WordPress to complete university assignments. So is a journalist — citizen or paid — who uses a blogging platform for publishing.

“Blogger” is a so-what term.

Much of the conversation Saturday morning revolved around “journalism” — although no one seemed to want to use the word, including Sarah (except when she was talking about herself as a “tech journalist”). There were questions about ethics (that word wasn’t used, either) and the advertising/editorial tension that’s always going to be present when writing is accompanied by money.

NONE of these issues are new. Well, they aren’t new to “journalism” … paid or citizen … although they certainly sounded new to “technical journalists.”

The lead journalist (<cough> blogger) for the West Seattle Blog sent me a tweet pointing to the June Media Giraffe Project as an example of a recent conference where these issues were discussed and called by their name.

The fact is that everyone is NOT motivated by money (see Wikipedia) … that “bloggers” who want to be journalists who are paid are going to have to exercise ethical judgment (dealing with PR, for example) or else they’ll lose their readers and their PR sponsors … and that it’s long past time to stop talking about the blog-space as though it’s a homogeneous whole. It’s not. Neither is your library. Or your cable (or satellite) TV line up. Or, come to think of it, YouTube.

Among other things, I think the “A-List” discussion should be retired. What do you think?

PS. For those of you at Gnomedex, I’m the person who expressed frustration at using the word blog, a technology, to describe a form of content, which can vary from personal promotion to journal, from academic writing to politics, from paid to political … far, far more varied that the very narrow “tech journalism” sector.

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3 thoughts on “A Note On The Sarah Lacey Session

  1. Hi, TR … agreed … which is why I ask anyone when they say something like, “I don’t read blogs” or “I don’t trust blogs” to explain what they mean when they use the word. (This question is frequently directed at professors, btw.)

    Hi, Patrick … that wasn’t my take-away from Sarah’s point.

    If your goal is to be a thought-leader in any field, I think it’s smart to write a blog or produce a podcast as a way to “brand” yourself and help you stand out in a crowd. Thus, this is the frame through which I heard Sarah’s comment about how she doesn’t directly monetize her blog (which, btw, is not very old). I didn’t get “professional conference-go’er” at all.

    And thanks for the “dog” visualization! It’s a great one (and it rhymes)!

  2. Lately when asked I say that the word ‘blog’ is pretty much like the word dog. Say dog and no two people will conjure up the same mental image. The same applies to the word blog.

    No matter how trite you think that sounds let’s just acknowledge it and move on.

    What bothered me was Lacy’s suggestion that in lieu of ads you should set yourself up as a consultant/professional conference goer. I’ve been to two “conferences” this summer which were shot through with that kind of speaker.

    There’s eight hours I’m never getting back.

    While my blood pressure went volcanic during that talk I have come to have a good laugh about some of it. When you stop to think about it it’s up to the people who were there to tell the story of Livingston v. Scoble.

    My version wil be lofty and based on the old Oxford tale about the time Wittgenstein waved a hot poker in Karl Popper’s face.

  3. I totally agree with you re: “blog/blogging” referring more to the technology and the format than to the content. We wouldn’t have “blog” in our site name right now if not for the fact that we didn’t know any better when we started and had no idea the site would evolve (in response to community requests and needs) … now the B-word is entrenched in our brand and we’re kind of stuck with it, but I run around second-lining every explanation/introduction with something along the lines of “we’re a community news site that publishes IN BLOG FORMAT.” It does grow wearisome at times to have to spend so much time offering footnotes to counter the sometimes-prevalent perception that anyone who publishes in blog format, er, “blogs,” is some kind of loose-cannon amateur; that can be particularly galling if you happen to be a veteran journalist working in “new media” in a neighborhood otherwise served only by old-media new hires who have been out of school for approximately five minutes.

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