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And you are?

Blogs fill need for people who pine to opine Mary Schmich, over at the Trib, writes a send up of blogs and their bloggers. According to Mary, bloggers are basically shut-ins who can’t bear to keep their opinions to themselves. So why do journalists seem to have such problems with blogging? Mary Schmich isn’t the only one. Camille Paglia deems blogs nothing but “Bad prose, endless reams of bad prose!” (of course, in the next breath, she also declares that she was the very first blogger)

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I don’t want to be too defensive here – because Mary’s got a point. It would probably be healthier to go outside, take a long walk with a friend, and discuss the issues of the world face-to-face. No one’s saying that wouldn’t be a nice thing. The thing is, I don’t think blogging excludes that experience – or any other experience, by the way. I talk to my friends plenty. I go out a lot. I work hard at a full-time job, I take classes, I play a couple musical instruments. I also blog. I blog about things I read, I blog about TV shows I watch, concerts I attend, experiences I have.

It’s true. I express my opinions on a lot of topics – and, horror of horrors, I don’t have an editor. I own my errata. Typos, usage mishaps, factual confusion – all mine. If I had an editor maybe she’d catch my mistakes before I hit the ‘publish’ button. Maybe she’d tell me that sometimes I sound a little apoplectic, and sometimes I point out things I’ve noticed without really saying much at all, and sometimes, I’m snarky just to be snarky. Maybe an editor would force this blog into compliance with better journalism standards. But here’s the thing – I’m not a journalist. This isn’t a newspaper. It’s a blog. You don’t have to pay for it, you shouldn’t get your news from it, you don’t have to agree with it, and you certainly don’t have to read it.

Blogging isn’t competing with journalism anymore than conversations are competing with radio. Blogging is just another way to express yourself, reach out to other people, keep in touch with friends, pass the time, procrastinate, teach yourself about web design, try to write better, and share something of yourself. You can blog *and* live a complex, rich, “off-line” life full of people and projects and problems. Arguably, the only way to blog well *is* to live a rich and complex life away from your computer. I’d submit, however, that blogging has helped me do just that. Through the loose community (conglomeration, conflagration, whatever you want to call it) of Chicago bloggers, I’ve learned about what other people in the city are doing. I can get a peek at what it’s like to work in different parts of the city, in different industries. I can find out about new bands. I can find out about great events like the DIY Trunk Show. I can “see” Chicago beyond what my own home and work life provide. I don’t have to meet any other bloggers in order to do that. Blogging isn’t a substitute for personal interaction or a desperate cry for new friends. I admit, however, that I’d probably like to meet some other bloggers. A lot of them seem like fun, smart, interesting, active people.

So, if blogging helps me feel like I’m participating in a community, gives me something to think about, keeps me active, and introduces me to new people and ideas, why are journalists like Mary Schmich so quick to dismiss it as a haven for the insular and shallow-minded? Maybe I’m being too hard on Mary. Maybe she was just working against deadline and had to come up with a punchy, simple column to submit to her editor. Blogs are an easy target, so why not? Easy to mock, easy to dismiss, easy to sum up with a cutesy Michael Jackson joke. On to the next column.

As a blogger, I know what I expect from blogs – it’s what I expect from people: diversity, complexity, and surprise. Is it out-of-line to expect at least the same from so-called “real” journalists?

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