To Blog or Not to Blog?
That has been the question for quite some time. Once, long ago on a planet far away, I was at the bleeding edge of technology. I moved from my hometown, Chicago, to New York in 1989 to begin a new job as New York Bureau Chief and Senior correspondent of the public television program Nightly Business Report. Among the many hats I wore I found myself reporting most of the stories about technology and trying to convince my bosses to employ as many of the new technologies as possible.
We created a “page” on America Online when AOL was the center of the online universe. That was before the Internet was opened up to commercial and general public use. I remember hosting a “live chat”, a novelty at the time, from Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, Washington. I had gone there interview Bill Gates and report on the release of Windows 95 with the first appearance of Microsoft’s web browser, Internet Explorer.
We created our own “NBR.com” web site about a year after the Internet was opened up. On the site we reported business and economic news and promoted our nightly PBS broadcast. This material migrated to the much larger “pbs.org” site several years later. At pbs.org we also hosted videos and we posted both new material and archives of the broadcasts.
Somewhere along the line my boss suggested I begin writing a column to provide original material for the site. “Column” was most definitely the term used, because blog, generally considered a contraction of “Web Log”, had not yet entered the lexicon.
The boss was not exactly sure what she wanted. She was very much afraid of commentary or opinion on the theory that a reporter had to keep his own views out of his writing, least the public lose confidence in the accuracy of his reporting.
That concern is hopelessly out-of-date today, since everyone writing, blogging and appearing as a talking head seems to have an opinion and no reticence about sharing it. But a few decades ago journalists kept editorials and opinion columns separated from reporting.
So I began writing “extra” observations about stories I covered, people I met and experiences I had. And foretelling the modern devaluation of journalism, I found myself unable to find the time during office hours to write and damn things. That meant working evenings and weekends to produce something I felt worthy of publishing. My salary stayed the same.
Still I did the work, fascinated by what was then a new phenomenon. The blog entries allowed for reader comments. And comment they did. Yes, we did occasionally get a phone call or snail-mail letter in response to a broadcast story. But these columns drew a much more engaged response. And when I was willing to devote some time to it, I found I could engage in an intelligent two-way interaction with my audience.
Much to the boss’s chagrin, the columns that drew the most interest were the most opinionated and controversial. So I ventured further in that direction, occasionally upsetting the boss in the process.
Today of course it seems anything goes in the opinion area. The more outrageous, the more “hits” and “click-through” and “links”. And that pleases the bosses, who know concern themselves with SEO and “audience engagement”.
My own blogging experience, and other things, came crashing to a halt halt a few years ago when PBS dropped support for Nightly Business Report. Corporate support for PBS underwriting had been falling for years. NBR wound up as part of CNBC, a for-profit business. The fifty or so employees, including yours truly, were let go as CNBC assigned its existing staff to the program.
In addition to the trauma of losing the job, I watched helplessly as pbs.org deleted 30 years of history overnight. CNBC created a new site to promote what is really a new program. But the entire archive of broadcast stories and web columns generated over decades by a very talented staff have vanished into the ether.
Which brings me to today’s question. Does it make any sense for me to resume writing a web column? I’m not sure. But I’ve decided to find out.
I have created a free-standing site at here at https://blog.scottgurvey.com where I have posted a few of my favorite columns from the pbs.org days. I have also posted links to work I have been doing for the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism and for The Network, Cisco’s Branded Technology News Site. But I haven’t written anything new for some time.
So here goes. To quote one George Washington’s famous dispatches to the Continental Congress, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?” I’m not going to limit myself to business and economics. The United States and the world are facing challenges as never before. And good people have to stand up and be heard. I’ll write. You respond. And get your friends to do it too. I’m also starting a Facebook “page”, which seems to be the “in” place for content providers these days.
Let the experiment begin.