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MeMe, Myself, and I, Blogging

July 2, 2011
Oreo with an IPhone

Oreo teams up with MeMe, the Iphone.

Oreo, my cat, seemed pleased today when I brought home my new Iphone, which I’ve named “MeMe.” My husband was pleased, too. If I were a better person, MeMe would become our new “We phone.” But I’m not and it won’t.

My husband wouldn’t pose with the phone but Oreo didn’t mind.

In a couple weeks, MeMe will be joined by my new Ipad. New Ipad probably won’t have a formal name because he’ll be my university’s property. I’m sure my husband also would like New Ipad to become New Wepad but that’s not going to happen.

Ipad Screen Shot.

I'm getting a white Ipad with a green cover. Screen shot from http://store.apple.com/us_edu_5004439/configure/MC985LL/A?mco=MjE0OTI0MTA

The saleswoman at the Verizon store today assured me that MeMe and New Ipad will work seamlessly with my home iMac, whom I’ve also neglected to name.

Aye, yai, yai, yai. Suddenly, my whole technological world has become all about me. I’ve envied my students for possessing the latest in phone gear, communication candy so addicting the students can’t resist pulling these devices out in class, even when I publicly humiliate these Facebook-checkers, confiscate their phones, and dock their grades.

Sweep me away in technological bliss, MeMe and New Ipad. Make me a believer. Allow me to forget for just a few moments what a clever marketing scheme it is that makes “you” a part of “me.”

The Journalist as Blogger 

This “I-world” also is at the heart of blogging. For a journalist, blogging can be about sharing the things you never before shared – what someone told you in the hallway that he might think was just between you and him, not really off the record, just kind of chitchat. Suddenly, you’re not only sharing this person’s thoughts with the world, but also what you think about his thoughts. To let readers know that journalists actually think and don’t just record and process what other people say is a revolutionary change in journalism. To report and reflect on the small moments and not just the game-changing news also is a new way to do journalism.

For professional journalists, blogging is a way to talk about the items that don’t make it into your main stories, a way to add insights that don’t really fit anywhere else. Blogging also is a way to break news after those first Tweets and before you file your main, more carefully focused story for the website proper – and for print.

Often, journalists’ blogs provide a spot for the writers to show a little attitude. For old-school journalists, this “I-writing” does not come easily.

Julie & Julia movie poster

Movie poster from "Julie & Julia," from Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1135503/.

The question always is, does anyone care? In the movie, “Julie & Julia,” Julie Powell blogs about her year of preparing every entrée in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Powell, too, questions whether anyone is out there reading her posts and if anyone cares.

Blogging paid off big time for Powell. She snagged book and movie deals. But is that what blogging mostly is about? Trying to advance the eternal me? Or is this view about blogging way  too cynical? When Powell shared her thoughts, hopes, and fears about cooking and her one-year cooking challenge, she was making a personal connection with others who enjoy cooking and who sometimes have been thwarted in their culinary pursuits. In some ways, then, if journalists share their inner selves through blogging, then blogging might become one of the most humane, caring things journalists do. And many veteran journalists just might toss a ripe tomato at that last sentence.

Journalism and Blogging: BFF?

In what ways are journalism and blogging compatible and incompatible? Or has journalism evolved so much in the recent past, is blogging so integrated into mainstream journalism, that this very question is now passé?

In “Blogging From the Labor Perspective: Lessons for Media Managers,” Brad Schultz and Mary Lou Sheffer point out that “Blogs challenge journalistic traditions because many are unedited and present the personal, subjective viewpoints of the author.” In “Newspaper Blogs: The Genuine Article or Poor Counterfeits?” Mary Gordon discusses how journalists’ blogs break down “[t]the old barriers between objective journalist and passive audience” and may lead to a “closer, more transparent relationship with readers[.]”

And there are plenty more articles on how blogging is transforming journalism, including Paul Bradshaw’s “When Journalists Blog: How It Changes What They Do,” in which Bradshaw demonstrates that journalistic bloggers rely less on both official sources and public relations sources than they did previously, while depending more on bloggers as sources. This decentralizing of the newsgathering process could be a very good thing.

The deconstructionists, post-Marxists and others have helped us see that journalism has always been a constructed reality, a collection of skewed and biased perspectives. Blogging, thus, should be a natural fit with journalism. But still…

Does blogging lead to a Tower of Babel of voices, where everyone is talking and no one is listening? What should be the role, if any, of the grumpy old gatekeeper/agenda-setter journalists? How hopelessly passé are these models, or what is it from our journalistic heritage that we should strive to preserve and enhance?

I try to instill in my students such journalistic virtues as telling the truth, being accurate, fair, and unbiased; trying to do the ethical thing. Does blogging undermine these values or is it just another route on the quest for what is true, good, just, and beautiful?

Another Way of Looking Through the Green Eyeshade

The truth is, (at least, my truth is) blogging is kind of fun. You can write your own opinions, design your own headlines, include your own art, and edit everything to your own specifications. You can talk about your cat. You might even wrestle up a few devoted followers. Isn’t blogging, then, every writer’s dream? And furthermore, the writer isn’t even burdened with the stigma of self-publishing.

Yet, has blogging, itself, become passé as we move on to the even smaller messages in Tweets and share even more personal information through Facebook and other social networking sites? And who can say what will come next?

Should one new motto for our age be, “I blog, therefore I am?” Should another be “Iphone, therefore I am?” And should the even more mundane, “Love me, love my cat” be right up there with the others? If the personal is the political, then when a journalist writes about her cat in a public forum, she could be leading the vanguard of communication change.

Since the dawn of man and woman, our lives have always been based on, “I speak, therefore I am.” We construct our identities by communicating with others. Is legacy journalism simply a temporary aberration that unsuccessfully tried to remove the “I” from human communication? Is blogging simply a return to our naturally narcissistic, yet also social roots?

I’m just an old-fashioned journalist. I used to get paid just to ask the questions. I don’t have the answers. Blogging doesn’t come easily to me. So, pardon me, but it’s time to run. I think I hear Oreo trying to wrestle MeMe into submission.

Margo Wilson
California University of Pennsylvania

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