Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Blogging Will Devour Your Life, If You Let It

And here it is, Wednesday already, and I still haven't found time to explain why Mike won the last Friday Challenge, much less to dive into any of the topics I'd planned for this week. Specifically, having temporarily suspended the no politics rule, I really wanted to begin a thorough discussion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law and the threatened resurrection of the Orwellianly misnamed "Fairness Doctrine."

But here it is, Wednesday already. The ideas keep coming in fast and furious, but the time available to develop them seems shorter every day. Meanwhile, out in the Real World, I have three projects coming up to deadlines in the next three weeks, and every remaining spare minute is given over to preparations for a joyous "Render Unto Caesar" day celebration next Tuesday.

So blogging takes the back burner. Yet blogging can't take the back burner, can it? I mean, ya gotta keep those clicks coming! My readership drops off exponentially every day I don't post a new and substantial article, but only rebuilds linearly when I resume posting meaty, beefy, daily chunks. No wonder bloggers are committing karoshi at the keyboard, as described in this recent NY Times article, In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop.

I suppose it hadn't really occurred to me that we were moving towards a new era of the Digital Sweatshop. I mean, from time to time I get offers to write blogbits for someone else's site, and the discussions never make it past the point at which we talk about money, which is when I find I must laugh politely and say, "No, thanks," before I become rude. If I'm being asked to write what they want for chump change, I may as well go the rest of the distance and write what I want for free.

As a trained professional journalist, though, I can't see the "will work for links / will pay for clicks" model as being anything resembling good, though. This can only exacerbate the tendancy to rush into publication with half-baked innuedoes, half-formed rumors, and half-honest stories planted by someone with an axe to grind. After all, what matters is being first! Getting the scoop! If it bleeds, it leads! And all those other 1940s film noir clich├ęs about headline-grabbing editors and bottom-feeding reporters that we've all come to know so well from 40 years of reading Spider-Man.

Rosenberg sent me a link to an interesting site last week. It purports to be a consumer reporting and advocacy site, but as I dug into it further, I discovered that for a modest annual fee, your business could become a "corporate sponsor" of the organization, and then in return they would fact-check their stories and give your company a chance to respond before they posted the story. Otherwise, under the guise of their 1st Amendment rights, they claimed an absolute right to publish any rumor about any company, with absolutely no sourcing or substantiation. (Never mind being sued libel; how they avoid being prosecuted for extortion is beyond me.)

But since the Internet operates at the speed of rumor in a vacuum, what's the answer? A resurrection of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, as Candidate Clinton has called for? Some sort of Internet censorship and blogging accreditation board, as First Lady Clinton was calling for right about the time Matt Drudge was waving the blue dress? Enforcement of certain court decisions regarding McCain-Feingold as it applies to bloggers and web sites, which remain on the books but are thus far unenforced? Or some sort of Truth Corps, as Candidate Obama no doubt has in mind, as he seems to have a Corps for everything else.

What do you think?