Why bloggers quit.
The average blog lasts about two months, the experts say, which makes me rather proud of our effort (mine and yours) to keep this one going since 2009. Why the remarkably high turnover, among the estimated 200 million blogs extant at any given time?
There's the non-existent pay (Star bloggers are not paid a dime extra for doing so, which means they're volunteers online; ditto my peers at other papers); the same back-breaking research in blogging is required as of traditional print and broadcast journalists if you're to be taken seriously; and there's the demoralizing effect of accumulating over two months a total audience of 9, including family and friends. (Most spouses and other partners wisely refuse to read them for reasons I expect are obvious.)
Then there's the feedback. This, actually, is what I believe to be representative online feedback to traditional print publication stories online, not blogs (and it's verbatim, I've not cleaned them up):
"Oh stop You Americans believe all the drivel about cammoron.
he lied & continues to lie to you pure & simple." –Daily Telegraph, Feb. 26. The reference here is to the austerity budget of British PM David Cameron, who in addition to being heartless is apparently a serial liar. A fellow commenter, identifying himself as a Yank, had dared defend the PM.
"I'll betcha over half of the 83 DPL employees who will be cut own or lease imported vehicles (you know, those 5 million vehicles dumped on our west-coast last year) and could care less regarding the TAX BASE that paid their salary." –Detroit Free Press, Feb. 27. This refers to major layoffs at the Detroit Public Library system. What kind of vehicle a librarian drives is apparently relevant to whether he or she deserves a job. Possibly a valid point, but only if said public servants - or the entire working population of Greater Detroit or, indeed, Michigan, were told on hiring that this was a condition of employment.
"Big government who feeds off unions and taxpayers - is the big problem. Corporations can only take your money when you give it to them." -Time, Feb. 27. Actually, big corporations suck billions from the state in corporate welfare - $6 billion for the profit-engorged U.S. oil industry alone last year - and you just don't hear about it. After all, K Street isn't overpopulated with lobyyists for NGOs, but for ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers. You don't hear so much about the corporate squandering of vast sums because, like families, they are accorded a privacy governments are denied. Governments do plenty we'd like to know more about - and deserve to as citizens and taxpayers - but as a 30-year business journalist I can tell you with some authority that business is vastly more opaque than government.
"Government takes your money in many many ways and it gets worse every year. Obama wants $1.65 trillion ($5500 per US citizen) this year alone - there is no valid reason for it except political corruption." –Chicago Tribune, Feb. 27. This in response to a story about the Wisconsin fight to protect collective-bargaining, which for the commenter segues into invariably corrupt pols and budgeting at a different level of government altogether. Economics 101 tells you a huge chunk of what Obama's budget seeks is merely for servicing the existing, pre-Obama debt. Which any president would be obliged to do, given that today's world bond markets fear America may someday renege on its increasingly unmanageable debt, as long as it keeps forsaking revenue it "gifts" to its wealthiest citizens.
"Be it federal, provincial or local, politicians and their boards are no better then organic goo. Our elected officals have already proven that we are only a democracy until they say were not. Things will get worse." –Toronto Star, Feb 27. The reference is to a local-government housing authority with governance woes - an opportunity to bash all things government. The reader, not well-traveled, has the sense that democracy in Canada is akin to that in Zimbabwe or pre-Mubarak Egypt.
These are some of today's milder, more logical comments. Publications of course have "screens" to block profanity and most forms of racial and other epithets. But not idiocy, alas.
One does want, at least sometimes, to respond to the more rabid comments. But in a one-person shop, there simply isn't time. As Lincoln said, "If I were to read, much less respond, to all the complaints I receive I would not have time to honor the chief obligations of my office."
I hope more publications adopt Politics Daily's recently posted "Approach to Comments":
In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily's readers that we expect of our writers - a 'civilogue', to use the term coined by PD's Jeffrey Weiss - we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around.
That's a lot of room for screeners with itchy fingers, but there's a helpful PD guideline section to ensure one's constructive comments, no matter how unorthodox, are heard in this public square.
Which brings me to why I've kept blogging past my May 2009 sell-by date. I may be negligent in not responding promptly to your commentary, but I absorb it and it influences what I write about and how I do so. And of course it's of immense benefit to all readers. So I appreciate the time you take to amplify, dispute, and correct "facts" that aren't facts at all!
The notion of "civilogue" doesn't apply to this blog, whose comments are something of an oasis of civility and common sense that is an exception among most of the scores of online publications I peruse. Thank you again for that. I did just want you to have your suspicions confirmed that one reason so many blogs are short-lived is that most bloggers take the hurtful comments seriously, and find after awhile it's just not worth the abuse.
In addition to, in my case, the constant harassment from Gus, who would prefer that this blog become wholly pictorial in nature.