“Never Worry About the Readers”: A Discussion About Blogging

Tom Scocca: So there doesn’t seem to be a better way to begin this than just in the middle of things.

Choire Sicha: Which things are we in the middle of?

TS: It seems I am Web logging.

CS: Oh, mazel tov! How do the early ‘00s feel to you?

TS: Very cutting-edge.

CS: So, I have many questions, but first among them surely must be: What are you going to be logging on your Web?

TS: That’s why I am dragging a veteran Web logger into this.

CS: Ooh, I get to tell you what to log about? I recommend an odd mixture of commentary on articles and books no one has read and suspicious analysis of political operators. Plus, “invective.” Also baby pictures, I suppose. Oh, and baseball gripes! Also maybe you could read the funny pages for us. Also what about ladies’ clothing? Could you sometimes log that?

TS: I went out to hail a cab this morning at 9 a.m. in the blazing sunshine, and I passed a woman wearing a full-on little black nightclubbing dress, black stockings-the works. She seemed to be freshly dressed for the day, rather than still working last night’s outfit.

CS: Huh! That’s the sort of thing you only see in the great cities of the world.

TS: Yesterday, in the shopping mall downstairs from this hotel apartment, it was a man with rooster hair, a white t-shirt, a sort of goth-lace-net version of a kaffiyeh as shawl, and pants completely covered with silver spangles. Big silver spangles. Around half past noon.

CS: Oh, it doesn’t get better than that.

TS: What else does one write about, on the Internet? We were reading those two things yesterday, one an essay by Maureen Tkacik about making a career in contemporary media, and the other a statement by Campbell Brown about bailing out of contemporary media, and they did seem to share a concern.

CS: They did! You know, I wanted to address that, but I found the Web was too busy for me to log it.

TS: Now we can log it late! Or early.

CS: You know, I tried to Google up her statement when she quit her job, and I found a news aggregation site that covered it. Their coverage goes like this:

“Campbell Brown ‘No Bias, No Bull’ persona leaves CNN, primarily for one and only one reason, she is not getting desirable number of watchers. In a statement made by the former NBC News reporter, who is well known for her straight news and analysis programs with concentration on politics and not personalities, exemplifying No Bias, No […]”

TS: Which aggregator said that?

CS: The Daily Break News . Which is run by the Machines, but I feel as if the Machines in this instance did hit upon something.

TS: That the self to which she was seeking to be true by resigning had also been packaged into its own branding statement?

CS: Yes!

TS: Well, what does it mean to do something sincerely? You were a little bit appalled by the part of the Tkacik essay in which she appeared to be trying to cop to having done feminism for the LULZ.

CS: Yeah, and I feel I wasn’t empathetic enough towards her. I didn’t really express that I understood what it’s like to be tossed into the public Web to log constantly in a very personal way, because the way people respond to that (and to be any kind of public figure) is by either protecting or commodifying themselves. Campbell Brown made herself a commodity and then found she wasn’t worth as much as she should have been (or as the markets thought she should have been). Moe, though, I think, was actually distancing and protecting herself by adopting something of a persona. (Even while her persona was about being ever-more personal!)

TS: Well, you were right that there were multiple essays in that essay, struggling to get out. Tkacik is a nuanced writer, and sometimes so nuanced she gets evasive.

CS: Oh, I find it charming. Better too much than too little: That’s my motto!

TS: That is probably why what was supposed to be a brisk and accessible introduction has gotten so long and esoteric. Are we boring the poor Slate readers to death?

CS: Oh, I have advice! Never worry about the readers. The readers will read what they want and they will blow right past what they don’t want. It’s great.

TS: So what else should I throw at them?

CS: Well, let me ask you this. Did you bring up the currently contentious issue of persona because you’re worried either that you need one, that you have one, or that you don’t have one?

TS: Not exactly? Though Slate is putting this thing up with just my name on it. But Brown and Tkacik did both express a sort of existential horror at what is involved in attaching your personal identity to something in contemporary media.

CS: The horror is reasonable! I think it’s a natural horror in the animal brain. On the Internet, it’s only a matter of time before someone calls you a slut or a racist.

TS: I guess we can start the countdown now.

CS: RACIST! There, that’s out of the way.

TS: I’m sort of disappointed you didn’t go with slut .

CS: Only women get called sluts. The Internet is very traditional in this respect. But I do wonder what having to log on the Webs will do to you. Will you become an oversharer? Will you become … disgruntled? Though really you are too old to change your spots, so I suspect everyone should just lay back and enjoy the show. I think I just mashed five metaphors!

TS: That’s OK; it’s just a blog.

CS: That’s an excellent point! Right now people think blogs are the beginning and end of everything!

TS: When, in fact, they are just the middle.

CS: The long, thick, fatty middle.

TS: Look, I just repeated middle from up top. Sloppy! I can feel my standards lowering.

CS: Just pretend it was a callback.

TS: If it was a callback, we would have stopped back there.


TS: Is this a post?

CS: One does really find in the practice of regular Web logging that one must embrace mistakes and imperfection. SURE!

TS: Because I need to wrap it up and go down to the mall and get another strong cup of Hong Kong tea.


TS: Thank you. For the question marks.

CS: Hahaha. Oh don’t let a little blog worry you. It’ll be FINE. It’ll be fun even sometimes. It’ll be remunerative even!

TS: Yes! Money! This is what professional journalism looks like in 2010.

CS: That’s what my brand is all about. Though I just blew deadline to do this chat. So much for the money!

TS: You did it for the persona.

CS: Everything I did, I did for my persona. I hope it sleeps weel.

Well even.

TS: Typos. Nobody ever believes we just copy-paste these things . Well, we do. Hello, Slate !

Choire Sicha has edited Web sites including Gawker, Sploid, and the New York Observer ‘s Daily Transom. He is now a co-proprietor of The Awl , in which Tom Scocca owns a 1 percent stake.