I have a lot of respect for smalltown daily newspaper reporters, most of which extends from having worked closely with them in my newspapering days. They are, as a group, generally intelligent, witty, and patient. You’ve gotta be patient to survive on a diet that includes school board meetings, parades, and stories about fantastic pets; there are only so many hurricanes, Province House explosions and general elections to being you to the top of your game.
When Jim Day from the Guardian phoned me on Thursday to interview me about the U.S. election, his original reason for calling was because his Managing Editor, Gary MacDougall, had read some of my blog posts about various election-related topics.
Jim, however, didn’t really know what a weblog was — he initially described it as “a chat room sort of thing” — and so as we were talking, he kept having to interrupt me when I offhandly used words like “blogger” and “blogging” and “posted.” I tried my best to describe what a weblog is, but I don’t really think I did it justice.
I came away from the experience thinking “wow, is he out of touch!?”
Upon reconsideration, though, I’ve come around to thinking this says more about how self-referrential and closed the “blogosphere” is. Sure there are millions of blogs written by millions of people. But I think if you drew a giant Venn diagram of the system, you would find that the world of blogs mostly intersects with itself, and doesn’t overlap with regular everyday reality all that much.
In other words, if you remove bloggers themselves, along with their immediate family and friends, from the readership, there are far fewer “civilians” left over than we all assume. We are, by and large, talking to ourselves.
That doesn’t bother me, and I don’t think it invalidates the medium at all. But it is important to remember, especially when we get irrational heady thoughts about our blogs as the new media’s new media, that we’re more like monks illuminating manuscripts for the church than scrappy New Journalists shouting out to the general public.