Watchdogs are like adult versions of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. Many watchdogs (activists included) rely upon and produce blogs. A blog is not a journal article. So it should not be long (remember how journalism sadly admitted that long form reporting is on the decline. Consequently, print media and magazine subscriptions are also on the decline?) PCDNetwork blogged about blogging to encourage better communication--and not just pushing out a message. That in itself is an example of the 21st century method of connecting beyond.
The post offered some great guidelines--whether you’re following a niche area or thinking out loud about a strategy, or advocating your organization’s mission.
1) Pick a topic you’re passionate about.
2) Decide on your audience and goals.
3) Read other blogs.
4) Don’t overthink.
I would by and large agree with these guidelines, however, like many who blog seriously but choose to respect the underlining principle “respond in a timely way”, blogger abuse is increasingly clogging up the blogging culture. Just as much as blogs are growing, so is blogger abuse! Here are some experiences shared by some blogger friends as well as experience by myself. Warning: some of it includes bullying of bloggers. Others are just bloopers.
#BloggerAbuse #1: Soliciting Blogger Ideas and Taking More than one week to respond.
Blogs cover events with a discrete period of time. Emphasis on the word “time”.
#BloggerAbuse #2: Editing the blog submission to death where it waters down the point and delays any response.
#BloggerAbuse #3: Reframing the blog piece in the three sensational topics that sell--and I say this because peace topics lose out unless one of these three issues creep into the lead--as if it’s a headline: violence, sexual politics, religion. It’s not just these three topics that reframe the blog piece and destroy the passion behind the point. Specifically, it’s how these three topics have to influence how the blog post MUST be rewritten. (Remember how FEMEN dominated the narrative in Tunisia when it was Amina Tyler, the actual TUnisian activist, who was jailed.) Meta narratives or sensationalized topics should not overshadown the real deal raised in the blog post.
#BloggerAbuse #4: Sending Bloggers on wild goose chases...and then walking back the request because it requires more investigation. This is bologna. Blogs touch upon an issue and will revisit it as the issue progresses--or regresses.
#BloggerAbuse #5: Reposting a blog piece in the open online culture...but not listing the author of the blog until the very end--as if the person reposting the blog actually wrote it. Uncool. Unprofessional.
#BloggerAbuse #6: Larger media outlets recycling a rejected pitch submitted by a blogger and “amping” it up to a real article. If I say “plagiarism” this would be ‘gaslighting’, I guess, but I said it anyways. Deal with it. It happens. And it shouldn’t. But it does. (I’m borrowing the words imparted to me when I asked how blogger’s points could be so easily dismissed.)
Here are a few examples of blogging abuse that do more than bug the blogger, but kill the spirit of blogging with respect to the four guidelines:
1) Pick a topic you’re passionate about. Big media outlets “overguide” the blogging process so much, that they expect you to answer all the issues you’ve raised in the piece. In fact, they may push you to insert “recommendations” ----AHHHHHHH. Perhaps they ask this because they are afraid of publishing a ‘rant’. But you know what: blogs started and grew because they represented a medium of reacting and responding in a timely, short essay way. PCDN recommended up to 600 word blogs... longer ones are creeping up.
2) Decide on your audience and goals. Big media outlets: Have you actually asked your audience which topics they’d like covered, or do you just tell them by framing each issue based on mainstream top ten lists? () I remember a Blog editor took 7 weeks to post a blog submission. Another time, another editor agreed to the topic, outsourced editing to a second person, who reframed the issue. Unfortunately, their internal work politics played out because he disliked how the editor ran with it, and then decided not to post it. In the end, the blogger was penalized and missed out on other opportunities to submit and post within the month of the event. No compensation. Apologies mean nothing.
3) Read other blogs. Agreed...and respond to them. So what if another outlet covered that topic. Blogging means engaging. Respond to another outlet’s point on the same issue. They don’t own the problem or the topic, or even the opinion on the issue. Why can’t a blogger respond to outlet A’s point on outlet B’s platform with a counterpoint?
4) Don’t Overthink Assistant Editors receive your pitch positively, but then “refine” the idea by expanding it to an article that tries to cover too much ground. Then they kill it after sending you on a wild goose chase blaming it on the culture of investigative journalism. This is bogus. Blogs are all about telling a story, in real time, over time. This should not be confused with a long-winded narrative that takes two months to clear. The issue is no longer contemporary. (I repeat: “Don’t Overthink.”)