If you've noticed hot wind blowing recently, maybe it's coming from the internet, where some of the so-called "A-list bloggers" are puffing up with self-importance over, well, their self-importance. I was alerted to this when a friend sent me a link that mentions a blogger who links to a blogger who reports that a blogger has hired on with a politician -- and now, apparently, there's much hand-wringing and finger-waggling to be done.
Let's start with (another) boo-hoo Booman post, this time posted on the Kos factory, complaining about his (Booman's) lack of money (a long-running theme for any frog-pond members who've been around for a while):
There has been a lot of recent controversy over bloggers that take on different roles. For example, bonddad, Chris Bowers, and thereisnospoon have recently launched a consulting firm called NetRoots Research, Strategy & Analysis. Peter Daou has taken a job with Hillary Clinton. Obviously, Jerome Armstrong's role within the Warner campaign has been a hot topic recently. The cold hard reality of political blogging is that it doesn't pay very well. Only Duncan Black and Markos Moulitsas make what I would consider a decent living off their websites. The rest of us struggle to pay the rent. (This is a reminder that you can help me pay my bills by visiting the Booman Tribune store).Hold that thought a minute while we cut to a background post on this Peter Daou thing. Cenk Uyger speculates in the Huffington Post over the effect of Peter Daou's signing on with the Hillary Clinton campaign:
There are three possibilities:
1. Hillary will actually listen to what Peter has to say and adjust her views and actions.
2. They will not be able to see eye to eye and Peter will be ignored and then will eventually leave the job.
3. Peter will become an apologist for Hillary's current stances on things like Iraq, which are hideous and morally repugnant.Personally I feel only a Pollyanna would even put item 1 on the list. Don't get me wrong: I've liked Peter Daou's posts, and on occasion he's liked mine, too. But let's get real here. Pundits don't set policy. It seems pretty clear that Clinton is trying to be all things to all people. The result, for me, is that I don't believe anything she says any more. She's the electoral cipher -- perfect DLC material. I'm sorry to see Daou go, but it's his life. I hope he at least enjoys his work there.
From Booman's post, though, it seems we're supposed to believe that Daou's foray back into the political advisor game is due to need of cash, and not that maybe he just wanted to do it. (After all, he's done it before, for Kerry.)
If we want bloggers, particularly community bloggers, to maintain their independence we need to make sure they can make a living. When I was down in DC for the Take America Back 2006 conference, I was talking to Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla about our financial woes. We started brainstorming ways that smaller bloggers can increase their income, and we came up with the kernel of an idea.To prevent other bloggers from, um, losing "independence," Booman wants to "create a monthly e-zine of some of the more popular bloggers where bloggers can contribute exclusive material not available at their own websites."
We could create a kind of co-operative, where the contributors would make an equal share of the proceeds each month from the proceeds of subscriptions and advertisements.
The Kosnik comments are a touch skeptical. After all, what makes the A-list circle jerk so special? And why should everyone else bow at their feet with offerings of cash and/or free content? (My feeling is that you don't ask permission of others to start up a venture -- you just do it and prove it.)
Step in Steve Gilliard, to, you know, straighten us all out:
Folks, this is a discussion where most of you don't know what you're talking about.Ah. Thank you! Please fill us in with your superior intellect.
Booman wants to make a living so he can give YOU a better product. I can take money and buy books and pay for services like Times Select, so you don't have to. I can support other bloggers. I can buy equipment. But I am still far from paying for reporting.
I've been very lucky, but y'all need to get over the idea that this can be done for free. Slashdot is a profit making enterprise for a reason. It costs money.
So does blogging. Because it takes time to actually research topics, go places and the like.
Reporting is expensive. It cost money to go places and the more people who can do this full time, the better the work you'll get.
If you want punditry forever, this is a perfect system. But if you want real reporting, from trained people, it isn't going to be cheap and you need to realize that now.
Funny how this sounds so much like the plaintive op-ed pieces we've seen in newspapers over the past few years, in complaints about bloggers like Gilliard. The disruptors have become the New Establishment, and now want their due. Pecking order must be established.
As far as building the site, the man is asking for help, and the people who jumped on him should be ashamed. How many of you work this hard at anything, including a blog? Why should he have to take a vow of poverty to keep you informed, because you can't make extra money when you have a blog to keep up, no side jobs and blogging. You can't exactly work, blog and freelance.
Yeah, we're all a bunch of lazy assholes who don't work nearly as hard as Gilliard, who sweats over the keyboard every day quoting entire posts from elsewhere. He's a working man! See the calluses on his fingertips!
(How ironic that, on his own blog, Gilliard links to a complaint about how the DNC passes the hat. Apparently some self-important whining and begging rates higher than others.)
This isn't about the model, although I think a real publication by bloggers could blow Salon and TNR out of the water given the quality of the work here, but about the idea.
And instead of ripping it apart while you sip Starbucks at work, why not think of a way to make it happen?
Yes, you people who aren't important, sitting there doing shit like working for a living, why don't you shut up and consider the plight of the would-be career blogger?
Here's a News Flash: If you're "blogging" as a well-financed reporter for a company or organization, then you're a reporter just like the rest of the reporters. There's no special gloss you get for calling yourself a "blogger". Having a blog doesn't mean your shit don't stink. You want to be a reporter? That's great! You want to start an online magazine? Wonderful! Just don't try to sell me that you're somehow entitled to it, or that by having been a blogger you're any different -- let alone better -- than the folks on the Romanesko list (many of whom are deserving much more respect than most high-nosed bloggers).
The whole idea behind citizen journalism is that the reporting is decentralized. The accretion of power and finances by A-list bloggers does nothing for citizen journalism, because all they're doing is centralizing their small corner of the decentralized blogging media.
If Booman thinks he's onto something, then maybe he should just do it. It doesn't take rocket science to start up a commercial enterprise, but it does take a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit and -- yes, Steve -- hard work. It's not like you have to reinvent the wheel.
But let's not kid ourselves: An e-zine is an e-zine, and as soon as your dollar depends upon what you write, you're in the same game as the New York Times, just on a smaller scale.
In, um, reporting on this fluff-up of the un-fluffed needing fluffers, J.S. Paine offers a sarcastic rejoinder:
I'm passing this along by way of self-justification. I've been offered a job by the Al Franken campaign, to supply online fast-response satire, to goose up his race for the thousand-lakes Senate seat.
Now I understand I'm no better than second choice here -- I've been informed by the men themselves that both Alan Smithee and J. Alva Scruggs have already turned the job down. But they can afford to -- they're both independently funny.
Now I'm prepared to recieve counter-offers from you all, to stay the course here and help father Smiff, that veritable Franciscan of the fourth estate, but here's the bottom line: you'll need to kick in.
Me, I'll just keep working for a living, and save my blogging here for what it has always been: Words and thoughts offered as-is, with no warranty, whining or demand for endorsement, stroking or pity. I suppose this attitude keeps me off of the A-list. So be it. Too many peacock feathers there, anyway. Makes me sneeze.