It was ten years ago this week that I was writing test posts and putting final touches on the site that would officially launch as PressThink on September 1, 2003. It started with this introduction. The key lines:
I am a press critic, an observer of journalism’s habits, and also a writer trying to make sense of the world. I am interested in the ideas about journalism that journalists work within, and those they feel they can work without. I try to discover the consequences in the world that result from having the kind of press we do.
I call this blog PressThink because that’s the kind of work I do. The title points to forms of thought that identify “journalism” to itself— but also to the habit of not thinking about certain things. The subatomic force that holds the pack of reporters together as they swarm around a story, there’s an example of pressthink. Without it there could be no pack; the pieces would come flying apart.
So that’s who I am, and what I do, and what interests me. But who are you and what do you do and what interests you enough to show up here occasionally and read these posts? I am borrowing this idea from the excellent science blogger, Ed Yong, who once a year asks readers of his site to de-lurk— that is, introduce themselves, and perhaps say a bit about why the come back. So if you’re willing, hit the comment button and de-lurk yourself.
Meanwhile, over the next few days I am going to post some reflections on ten years of blogging as they occur to me, which means I will also be able to answer questions posted in the comments if you have them. The first one is below:
1. How has doing this blog affected your career? Last night on Twitter, after I mentioned it had been ten years, Joey Baker asked me how blogging has affected my academic and writing careers. I had never asked myself that, though I always knew that starting PressThink was a huge, life-changing plus. But once Joey asked me of course I started thinking about it.
The biggest effect comes down to the language I find myself within. Everyone is shaped by the language they habitually speak; but with writers it is a lot more so. Blogging forced me to find a language — a writing style — that would include (meaning: not repel) any of the following because blogging showed me that all of the following were possibly interested.
* Working journalists, any kind. (Like, say, Janine Gibson, but there are many more)
* Peers in the press commentary game. (Like, say, Margaret Sullivan, but there are many more…)
* Bloggers whose blogging verges on journalism or comments on the news. (Like Marcy Wheeler)
* Academics interested in the press and its behavior, whatever their discipline. (Like Brad Delong)
* Journalism students or others hoping to make a career of it. (Like Peter Sterne)
* Non-journalists who have to deal with the press as part of their job. (Like Shel Israel)
* People deeply engaged in politics who have to contend with the power of the media. (Like Anne Marie Slaughter)
* Heavy users of journalism, simultaneously fascinated and dissatisfied with the product. (Like Stuart Zechman)
* Ordinary readers who sense that something is amiss. (Like… you!)
* The denizens of digital culture — geeks — who recognize what is shifting in news production. (Like Jillian York)
* Publishers, any kind. (Like Tim O’Reilly)
* Office-holders who have occasion to reflect on the powers of the press (like Tom Watson)
* People in other countries who feel their press is influenced by the American press (Like Mark Colvin.)
All of those people follow me on Twitter, by the way, and vice versa.
Blogging forced me to speak in a language that would always include all of them and never repel any of them. But at the same time, a blog is “the unedited voice of a person,” as Dave Winer, a huge influence on me, once said. The demands of trying to include, not necessarily “everyone,” but certainly everyone on the above list, and at the same time express myself, in an unedited (uncensored) way, the discovery of a language — an intellectual style — that could accomplish all of those things: that is how blogging affected my career, Joey Baker. It forced me to find my way within the limits of a vernacular, which meant keeping in touch with what matters about the press to all of the people in the categories I have listed.
2. Did you know this blog has a theme song? Here it is. That song, more than any other totem I can find, expresses the attitude I try to write with. I’m not saying that my posts are equal to it, only that they are influenced by it.
What about you? Who are you and what do you do and what interests you enough to show up here occasionally and read these posts? Hit the comment button and speak.