In praise of blogging parasites

Harken back to Robert Niles on bloggers as parasites.

I hear the frustration behind the comment. You bust your rear to get stories in the paper, then watch bloggers grab traffic talking about your work. All the while your bosses are laying off other reporters, citing circulation declines, as analysts talk about newspapers losing audience to the Web. It’s not hard to understand why many newspaper journalists would come to view blogs as parasites, sucking the life from their newsrooms.

Still, the charge riles me every time I hear it. To me, it’s a poorly informed insult of many hard-working Web publishers who are doing fresh, informative and original work. And by dismissing blogs as “parasitic,” newspaper journalists make themselves blind to the opportunities that blogging, as well as independent Web publishing in general, offer to both the newspaper industry and newspaper journalists.

And my response.

The best way to understand blogging is to blog. That’s why I say: All journalists should blog. You can’t get modern media without understanding blogs, and you can’t understand blogs unless you do it.

Now comes Nick Carr who says, not only are bloggers parasites, but it’s an honorable appellative.

Bloggers blog for a whole lot of reasons, of course, but what I think sets blogs apart, as a literary rather than a technical form, is that they offer the opportunity for a writer to document his immediate responses to his day-to-day reading. The continuous flow of text through the eye and mind is a characteristic of many people’s lives, but the experience has never been able to be captured in the way it can through blogging.

As a young writer, I kept a journal, and I did so off and on for many, many years. Since I started blogging, I haven’t been tempted to start again. While my blog isn’t personal, I really have no interest in documenting my life in the way one would with a journal. It’s much more interesting to have an outlet for frequent “thinking out loud” and reacting to items and issues I find important. The process is improved by the fact that other people can read and respond. Comparing journal writing to blogging is like comparing Pong to World of Warcraft.

The process of blogging has taught me more — both about the world around me and about myself — than I ever gained through a private diary.

Carr’s post is one of those tightly crafted essays that is hard to quote only in part and capture the true import of the message. You must read the whole thing, especially the bit about old London. That’s the essence of why he thinks being a parasite in the world of media is a good thing, and journalists should be happy the parasites are out there.

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