Professional Blogging?

I began this week with a tongue-in-cheek oxymoron ( Intelligent Television?), so why not end on a similar note by mentioning the BlogNashville conference organized under the auspices of the Media Bloggers Association.A CNN report said the two-day event, which drew more than 300 bloggers, “was heavy on teaching techniques used by journalists … (such as) … how to access and analyze government statistics.” Attendees include political blogger Glenn ( Instapundit) Reynolds, citizen journalism activist JD ( Ourmedia) Lasica and tech guru Dave ( Scripting News) Winer, who apparently provoked a debate on the panel at which he spoke (shocking all who know of Dave — not). My reference to the oxymoronic overtones of “professional blogging” was not intended as a slap at the blogosphere — which would certainly be foolish given that it might offend an estimated 31.6 million bloggers. Instead I want to think about the various meanings of “professional.”
Sometimes we use the word to describe a standard of excellence, and the Nashville conference was intended to counter the condescension, prevalent in mainstream media, that bloggers are just opinionated blowhards with no respect for facts. (Though, honestly, with more than 30 million folks pounding keyboards as a hobby, you’re bound to find plenty of evidence of that.) But amidst that noise some blogs stand out by virtue of their very clarity, such as one I tripped over this morning, in which Elise Bauer writes: “What is a blog, anyway? It’s just a website. A website that is extremely easy to update with fresh content. A website that has built in capabilities – the ability to comment for example – for interacting with its readers. A website that has a personal voice.” As far as I’m concerned that’s a perfectly “professional” explanation. (FYI, you will find beaucoup information about the weblog tools market in one of her recent posts, and it was this entry, which popped up in a search, that allowed me to find her.) So in my mind, the difference between the professional and non-professional writer is not necessarily that one is better than the other, but that one gets paid and the other has a hobby. Both types are surely welcome in the blogosphere. This is, as we like to say, a free country. But so long as this is remains a hobby medium, where posters rely on day jobs (as do I, and as does Nashville conference organizer Bill Hobbs), then the blogosphere will represent what we might call the Blanche Dubois business model. You remember her parting line from Streetcar Named Desire: “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.”

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media