Marc Ambinder is the White House correspondent for National Journal and a contributing editor at The Atlantic. In November he wrote about being “a blogger no longer.” Here’s an interesting passage in his sign off piece about the difference between writing traditional journalism and writing a blog.
Really good print journalism is ego-free. By that I do not mean that the writer has no skin in the game, or that the writer lacks a perspective, or even that the writer does not write from a perspective. What I mean is that the writer is able to let the story and the reporting process, to the highest possible extent, unfold without a reporter’s insecurities or parochial concerns intervening. Blogging (on the other hand) is an ego-intensive process. Even in straight news stories, the format always requires you to put yourself into narrative. You are expected to not only have a point of view and reveal it, but be confident that it is the correct point of view.
So, blogs are first person affairs? Many of them are indeed, but there’s no bloggers’ rule book that says, “Insert your opinion” or “Write in fist person.” Blogging is more about the platform. It’s where writers rush to publish. Again, there’s no rule book that says speed is of the essence, it’s just that pro bloggers feel compelled to publish a handful of times per day.
Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb, in a reflective piece about how he used to write for AOL for a mere $5 per post, says he’s now having a hard time filling RWW’s current opening for a full time tech blogger.
Big league bloggers and writers these days need to be able to write well, in large quantity and quickly. It’s not easy, but who said writing for a living, in an era when anyone can publish with ease, was going to be easy?
In yet another thought piece on the lost art of blogging, The New York Observer observes that the best pro bloggers are writing original material today.
“I think the story of blogging in the last couple of years or more, professional blogging, is that we all do a lot more original content,” said Lockhart Steele, publisher of the Curbed network. Choire Sicha of The Awl also notes the importance of original content. Specifically, he referenced the flyaway success of their newest property, The Hairpin, which he credits to its editor, Edith Zimmerman.
“She’s not aggregating blog posts about the thing that just came down the wire. She’s making things, and I think one of the mistakes that a lot of blogs make that kind of dead-end them as blogs is covering the same thing that everyone’s covering instead of like creating things and stopping to make stuff,” Mr. Sicha said.
To recap, pro bloggers (or those who make money from their efforts) are no longer writing personal journals while dressed in pajamas. Whatever their beat, pro bloggers have a distinct point of view, create a mountain of content every day and the best of the best don’t just write things, they make things.