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March 31, 2005

Fourteen New Voices: A Reply to Halley's Comment

In deciding how to respond to a public challenge from blogger, writer and big league conferencer Halley Suitt ("Ten New Voices," March 7) I had to identify my options. I figured I could...

In deciding how to respond to a public challenge from blogger, writer and big league conferencer Halley Suitt (“Ten New Voices,” March 7) I had to identify my options. I figured I could…

Let’s recall what was called for. Myself and others attending this conference at Harvard were taken to task for “not promoting enough diverse talent in the blogosphere.”

In other words, we have a circle of bloggers we refer to and we link to and this can put them on the map and it’s all too often — white, male, American bloggers — who get our attention.

I understood that Halley’s challenge was not directed at me, personally, but to Rosen as part of a group of bloggers with a bigger platform who tend to have seats at the table when Big Wigs get together for the latest Blogging Meets Journalism or New Media on the March conference.

If the people with the “biggest” platforms invite only each other onto them that’s definitely a problem because we were supposed to have graduated from high school, and moved on with our lives. Halley wrote:

So I’m throwing down a month-long challenge in March, to promote TEN NEW VOICES. I‘m asking all the bloggers in the room at Harvard (Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, David Weinberger, Rebecca MacKinnon, Susan Mernit, Shayne Bowman, Ana Marie Cox, Lisa Stone, Chris Willis, Craig Newmark, Bill Gannon) to find TEN NEW VOICES and promote them by writing a post about each as an introduction and blogrolling them.

(Ana Marie Cox was not in the room, by the way.) This would have been challenge enough, in my view. “Here are the rules,” Halley said.

1. They can’t be male if they are white;
2. You must have five women and five men;
3. You must have at least three non-Americans.

If I missed anything, please let me know.

(Which is a very funny line.) And we had a deadline, which was today, March 31. For other responses, see this. For a little dust-up see this. For an objection (National Review) see this.

There followed a mini-explosion of posts and comments at those posts about “Ten New Voices,” and its premises— the renewal of a discusssion that’s been rising up and subsiding for a while, and in which people are passionately engaged. Some people. See Burningbird, Guys Don’t Link. Stephen Levy of Newsweek did a piece about it: “Blogging Beyond the Men’s Club.”

An immediate good following from Halley’s post was that writer and blogger Jude Nagourney Campbell (See The Rational Liberal) put together this cruisable list of women political bloggers, which in turn raises questions about who the “political” bloggers really are. And Rebecca Blood wrote an intriguing post about that, which was also a reply to Stephen Levy.

Another big dividend from Halley’s post was that Web journalist Lisa Stone, who was named in the challenge, decided on “compliance, plus” when she and a colleague, Elisa Camahort, unveiled their idea for “Bloghercon,” a Blogger conference specifically for women. (Sylvia Paull: “It’s a way for women who blog to connect, not a way to disconnect with men who blog.”) The conference is a great idea. Done right, it will be fascinating and memorable for those who can come.

I met Lisa, who blogs as Surfette, at BloggerConIII in Palo Alto, and she subsequently became a contributor to PressThink. I asked her for help in thinking through “Ten New Voices” and finding bloggers who perhaps ought to be in the PressThink orbit but aren’t.

She very graciously collaborated with me on this post, picking her own top ten, and doing capsule reviews, to which I have added (scroll down for our list). Stone has also thought a lot about who we run into online. She’s tried, in various journalism jobs, to “surf the ’ sphere” and found it circling around to the same sites. I figured: she’s extra qualified for this search. And we discussed, as well, what PressThink should do, among the options 1 to 5 that I began with. I considered them all.

We decided to look for:

Take it away, Surfette…

A linking meritocracy of your own
by Lisa Stone

Did we really love “Lucy”? Or did we just watch her because that’s all that was on TV?

My money’s on the latter. That’s why I’m happy to participate in Halley Suitt’s challenge to promote ten voices. It’s time the most-trafficked blogs in the ‘sphere launched a couple hundred or so blog-cable channels with content and links that beef up the programming mix.

Why do I have this opinion? Because in the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time surfing the long tail of the blogosphere, first for the Los Angeles Times, then for and most recently for Knight Ridder Digital. In each case, my assignment was to assess and report back on a diverse cross-section of blogs on the subjects of politics, law and NASCAR.

This was a bigger challenge than I originally anticipated, because I was limited by the quality of my search techniques and the time I had to invest in those searches on deadline. I found I could rely on services such as Technorati, Feedster and Truth Laid Bear, but only to a certain extent.


Because the same bloggers kept popping up on my searches. I found it surprisingly challenging to extend my appreciation of the blogosphere beyond a list of the usual suspects in any subject or category—even when I scoured blogrolls.

My time paid off. And, yes, on the way I discovered the dregs, the blogging equivalents of QVC and Falcon Crest re-runs I won’t even watch with Spanish voiceovers. I hit paydirt too, stumbling across Baldilocks and Carolyn Elefant and Kathy’s Pit Stop.

But it was work—and what about the blogs I missed? What about the casual user who isn’t paid to be, well, a surfette? This experience is why I find questions by Suitt and Jeneane Sessums so important. This experience is why it was easier than it should have been for Kevin Drum to miss the kazillions of bloghers who have since chewed his, er, lunch.

Why do I value this push for diversity in blogrolls? It’s purely selfish: I have to be able to find quality blogs in order to read them and to link them—not just for my day job, but to feed my own brain. The better (read: more diverse) your blogroll, the smarter and happier this reader is. That’s why my first response to Halley’s comment at Harvard was to out the brainstorm I’d already begun with Elisa Camahort to hold a Bloghercon-ference.

I’m also happy to recommend the ten bloggers I review below—one more way to support other bloggers and help you feed a meritocracy of your own. Because the media we consume can only be as good as the media we demand. In Blogworld, the media we demand is the media we’re willing to hunt down and link.

So while sometimes I still do love Lucy, I’ll never be a one-woman blogger. I need to learn from the entire blogosphere. And as bloggerdom evolves, si Dios quiere, so will what I read—and recommend.

Personally, I’m not going to be satisfied with less than the whole picture. Otherwise, I’d still be parked in front of my TV.

So here’s our interpretation of #5 from above. Here are 14 capsule reviews of bloggers you may not know, but should.
Body and Soul
Good Reputation Sleeping
Jordon Cooper
Jenny D.
Kathy’s Pit Stop
Ranting Profs
Regret the error
The Sassy Lawyer’s Journal
Sepia Mutiny

Tiffany B. Brown and friends deliver a singular blog with Not only do Brown et al. dish on how blacks are portrayed in mainstream American media, these women also dig into how blacks are portrayed in black media. Smart and funny, Brown and her colleagues evaluate stories on the Rap News Network, live-blog C-SPAN’s coverage of The State of the Black Union and review The Namibian as they talk about gender and sexuality, politics and economics, health, beauty & well-being, and a whole host of other topics. Extra points to the authors for raising the standard of communication in the blogosphere, too. Witness this post on Bishop Eddie Long’s decision to sit down with the Bush administration—proof that even when Brown and her colleagues don’t like what you say or do, you can still expect them to say why in a voice that everyone in the audience can hear. Next time someone tells you they aren’t a feminist, and don’t see any value in a discussion of how race and gender intersect, please, send them here. — Lisa Stone
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Blogger Sokari says she lives in Spain under the “guise” of being an organic farmer, but her heart belongs to Africa. The result, Black looks, delivers media commentary and news infused with an expat’s love and longing for home. Joining Sokari with occasional guest posts is Ike Okunta, a contributor to Nigerian daily newspaper This Day. For people used to skimming foreign news shorts on page A-29 about legalizing prostitution, child slavery and the ongoing use of rape as torture, Sokari’s black looks do what news reports should: Put preventable human horror front and center, where it disturbs and compels. Sokari, for example, doesn’t just write about backalley abortion in Africa, but follows up with a request for help to readers on behalf of a woman in Addis Ababba whose “time is running out.” This blog is one of the most compelling cases for citizen journalism I think I’ve ever read. Bonus blog: Afrotecnik, Sokari’s one-woman attempt to evangelize technology at the grassroots level in Africa and bridge the digital divide. Update: After writing this review, I found this excellent write-up and interview of Sokari Ekine by Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices. — Lisa Stone
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Body and Soul is one of the best written blogs on the Internet, but don’t take my word for it. There are thousands of bloggers—pick a fan, or even one of her (occasional) critics—you could ask about Jeanne d’Arc’s articulate, well-researched commentary. Better yet, especially if you’re a journalist, read her yourself. You could start with her July, 2004 review of The Christian Science Monitor’s eyebrow-raising piece on prospects for Iraq’s future, or observe her pressure The New York Times’ Bob Herbert for better reporting on voter intimidation. Next, read as she first examines her own motivations and then turns to America’s. Some of her best work happens when she gets logical with policies that attempt to invoke faith – a subject to which she is committed. Whether I find myself agreeing with this woman or not, in a blogosphere increasingly rife with accusations and temper tantrums, snark and spite, I find myself continually returning to the tempered steel of Body and Soul. — Lisa Stone
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Give me quality of writing over quantity of posts any day. That’s one of the reasons I recommend a four-month-old blog on the New Yorker that oozes good stuff. You don’t have to be a refugee from John McPhee’s three-part series on geology to enjoy blogger Emily Gordon’s lovely touch with the language, as she alternately strokes and skewers the masthead. To wit: “Sniff,” wherein Gordon reviews Chandler Burr’s recent piece on creating a new perfume for Hermes, and then addresses the issue of what to do when, well, the magazine smells: “Fantasy odors and posy smells pretty much sums up most fashion magazines, or The New Yorker during the Dark Ages of Tina,” Gordon writes. Upon learning subscribers may request scent-free magazines, she adds, “Hey, may I request my issues without the beastly whiff of Caitlin Flanagan or poems by John Updike?” Recommend serving with bonus blog-like substance: The New Yorker Inane Ad of the Week, by R.L. Callahan. — Lisa Stone
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“What can you learn by keeping an open mind; what can you learn from someone different?” asks blogger Keith Jenkins. “Will it be something that can change the world, or will it be something that will change the way you look at the world? Either way, this is how we all get better, by taking our own experiences, coupling them with those of others and then learning new ways to perceive and act.” Jenkins, a leading photojournalist by day, doesn’t flinch on his blog—whether he’s looking through his camera, someone else’s, or tackling the third rail of diversity in media (here, here and here). The result is Good Reputation Sleeping, a blog that evolves the conversation about journalism, in application and in theory, and introduces you-the-reader to the choices of a thinker who is very much awake. — Lisa Stone
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Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is where Jordon Cooper lives. He’s a (geek) pastor at Lakeland Church there. (“I decided to upgrade the church’s Flickr account to a Flickr Pro account. There was a lot more then ten megabytes of things God was doing at the church…”) Also a big sports fan and, in addition to his own blog, he is a co-founder of The Hockey Pundits. Cooper, man of God, is also a student of post-modernism, which knows no gods unworthy of suspicion. He tries to “engage in conversation with people around the globe about the gospel and a changing postmodern culture.” (See, for example, his resource page on it.) His weblog, is a mix of everything that interests him, plus what happens in his Saskatchewan world, physically and meta-physically. I consider that kind of blogging to be the hardest style to master, but Jordon is an expert at it, and of many other things Web. Spend some time as his site (like this page of interviews) and you will see why I say that. Simple device of his that I love: A recurrent post called contextless links. — Jay Rosen
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The Jenny of Jenny D. was a journalist for 15 years. Now she’s getting a PhD in Education at Michigan State and she’s a mother, which is a PhD in something. Her weblog is a diary of her puzzles and discoveries as she learns a new field (including its language, edu-eese) and compares it to fields she had earlier mastered— life as a parent, life as a journalist, life as a citizen of these states, life on earth. “Education, public policy and politics, middle-aged moms, life in the Midwest, life in the academy,” says her description of her blog’s contents; and that’s accurate enough. I see it as much more. Jenny used to be a journalist. She’s somewhere else now, and her commitments are totally different. When she looks back it’s always interesting. After all, Journalism is her ex, and she’s “over” him, er… it. Read this post to the end and you’ll see what I mean. — Jay Rosen
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Disclosure #1: When I recommended this woman to blog motorsports for Knight Ridder’s dedicated NASCAR Web site, I could tell from her AOL Journal that she was a true-blue motorsports fan. Disclosure #2: What I couldn’t have predicted was whether Kathy of Kathy’s Pit Stop, with her straightforward writing, would blossom or bomb. She didn’t bomb. The fans—and there are at least 100 people watching TV for every single person at the track on any given weekend—listened up. To date Kathy has racked up a lion’s share of community comments, which I attribute partly to the five-second therapy she regularly delivers to media coverage of racing (e.g., here and here). Honorable mention: Janelle Ramon’s NASCAR blog for the Arizona Daily Star is so good that her boss should let her really enter the blogosphere by adding comments, trackbacks and a blogroll. — Lisa Stone
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For an example of how a professional journalist can be humanized by a weblog, check into MeMo by Kyrie O’Connor. She is deputy managing editor for features at the Houston Chronicle; her blog started as a memo to her staff, “but it simply grew and got its own peculiar voice,” she says. MeMo is not about the Chronicle or the problems of journalism. (The problems of Kyrie, yes.) First, it’s funny. (See her note on the death of a goldfish.) Sometimes ha ha funny, but more times witty. She’s an accomplished linker and finds stuff of the sort that might come across the desk of a “lifestyles and trends” editor. She doesn’t ignore hard news, but takes it on the way a Keith Olbermann might. O’Connor says she is “a recent Houston transplant, homeowner, dog and cat owner, hapless traveler, bad-TV-commercial addict” (and a mom.) If I were struggling freelancer, I would start my day with her links and commentary. And if I ran the Houston Chronicle I’d get her some better digs. (Kyrie e-mails: “I know some changes are in the works to make the blog less velveteen — trackback, posted comments and the like.”) — Jay Rosen
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Cori Dauber, an academic, writes Ranting Profs (Media Coverage of the War on Terror.) It’s a very newsy blog. First she’s taking apart a Washington Post headline, then she’s puncturing a windbag like Chris Matthews, now she’s breaking down the numbers in a Wall Street Journal poll, or tracking a phony controversy through the news pages, and sometimes relaying the hilariously dumb thing that just got said on CNN, or (her specialty) explaining how terrorism works in the media age. Cori Dauber just isn’t going to tell you what other people have told. Part of the reason is her background: scholarly training in rhetoric is just about the best tool you can have to study news and politics with. She is dogged in her pursuit of understandings things for herself, and gifted enough to share that pursuit with readers. Way closer to Bush than to Kerry, a supporter of the War in Iraq, and certainly a critic of “bias” in the media, she is utterly unformulaic in her writing, which is why I prize her weblog. Also, an expert linker and document finder. Find her, professor Cori Dauber, at Ranting Profs. — Jay Rosen
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Ever wonder why Americans get angry with the media? Speaking for myself, Regret the Error is both the answer and the cure. This daily blog “on corrections, retractions, clarifications and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in the media,” is a testament to the cleansing business of owning your mistakes. Canadian writer Craig Silverman takes a facts-only approach to media errors, linking 70-plus corrections pages from his blogroll and summarizing the lead stories, where his headlines inject subtle, wry humor. Silverman’s good (see here, here and here), so I always start amused, but end rather nauseated, depending upon the scope of mistakes he’s unearthed. And, yes, he’s human too—the difference is that this journalist is not afraid to admit it. It only adds to Silverman’s legitimacy that he’s no hypocrite: Don’t miss “We Crunked,” the blog’s own dedicated corrections page. — Lisa Stone
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Every time I update Legal Blog Watch, it’s an excuse to read this blogger. “Sassy” as she signs her posts, (and I am going to respect her privacy and withhold her name), is a self-described Filipina attorney, wife and mother who writes five blogs from her home in the Philippines. Of the amazing number of selections on this blogshelf, my favorite is The Sassy Lawyer’s Journal, in which Sassy regularly applies her legal scholarship and incisive logic to demands for fairness and accuracy in the media—among many other things. She’s an unflinching factchecker who reviles propaganda and innuendo masquerading as facts. Read Sassy whether you’re a lawyer, a journalist or someone who consumes both—she’ll make you smarter. — Lisa Stone
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Quick - roll your eyes and tell a very smart joke in English and Urdu. You just recreated the tongue-in-cheek, insider-y tone used by seven South Asian bloggers who write Sepia Mutiny. For those of you who are behind on (or, let’s be real, who were never taught) Asian history, “sepia” and “mutiny” are a blogplay-on-words rooted in India’s brown uprising. The blog’s FAQ explains all, including the blog’s origins as a site aimed at desis—homeboys from the South Asian diaspora—although pardesis (foreigners) are welcome. And it’s one online cocktail party you don’t want to miss. A central theme is (re)interpreting news reports from the desi perspective, particularly the influx of Western culture, Bollywood, politics, war, careers and gender, in a thriving, smart community. Particularly recommended for the cinephile or xenophobe on your email list. — Lisa Stone
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Got a teenager in your focus group—or living room? If so, you could learn a lot from reading Anastasia Goodstein’s blog Ypulse. Goodstein covers media by, about and for teens and ‘tweens. Working with a growing staff of teen editors (see bottom of page), Goodstein’s blog is the only one Seventeen editor Atoosa Rubenstein says she reads every day. While Ypulse is aimed at marketing and media professionals, it has tapped into a huge secondary market of parents and teachers who want to learn more about the teenagers in their lives. This blog delivers on its big-umbrella agenda: In addition to traditional categories on newspapers, magazines, radio and television, Goodstein et al. invest the time necessary to cover more than a dozen other hot categories, including digital graffiti, ‘Tweens, youth media and Christian teen media. Hard to imagine who else would point users to SNAG—see what I mean? — Lisa Stone
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After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…

Sandhill Trek: 10 New Voices - Wrapping it up here.

Chris Nolan, in a vigorous and entertaining response to Kevin Drum called The League of Extraordinarily Stupid Gentlemen, says to Mr. Washington Monthly: “Pick an argument once a week with a woman writer. Boost her traffic, get her noticed.” I like the way she thinks. Who we pick an argument with, or don’t, and why we do or don’t— this says a lot about us.

The site is called Watching America: “Discover What the World Thinks About U.S.

Great place to start discovering blogs: Deep Blog. Portal page with a human touch— and categories.

Dave Winer at Scripting News (April 1, 2004):

On this day in 1997 I did my first weblog post at 8 years is a long run for a weblog. Scripting News was the inspiration for many of the mainstays of the blogging world, and they in turn inspired others, and on and on. This has been the template for growth, and it’s a good one. Every new blog begets more new blogs. That mine was the root for so many is the accomplishment I’m most proud of.

Happy Birthday, Scripting. I’ve certainly learned how to do blogging from it.

Now this is the kind of “diversity” discussion I like, where there is some feel for paradox. Rebecca Blood, during an exchange in comments, explains why the Web “will, by it’s very nature, make it nearly impossible for anyone to realize how exclusive their linking and reading habits actually are.”

It’s like entering a room in which the walls are entirely covered with doors. You open some of the doors, enter new rooms, all of which are covered with doors. you walk through them, and eventually you find that many of them lead you to the same rooms over and over again. Still, there are more doors and more rooms than you would ever have time to explore.

What you don’t know—what you can’t know—is that there are other sections of the building, unconnected to this one. The section you are in is so vast that it seems it must represent the majority of the space. Additionally, since so many of the doors lead to the same places, it is easy to assume that these must be the most important rooms in the building.

People in other sections of the building, unconnected to yours, are drawing the same conclusion about a different set of rooms.

Tim Schmoyer responds to the discussion in comments: “Let’s talk about inbound links, outbound links, traffic (visits and page views) and what a Blogiverse Portal and Awareness Tool might look like for a minute, shall we?”

Jenny D. one of the bloggers reviewed here, gives her take on the political economy of linking: Journalism and the culture of power.

But everyone who’s not a fish…we can see the water. We can see who’s in it, and we can see that we’re not. In my business, the water could be called the “culture of power.” Those who are in it can’t see it because it is part of their being. But everyone else can.

The discussion continues with comments by Halley Suitt, Rebecca Blood, Billy the Blogging Poet, Jenny D and others.

Posted by Jay Rosen and Lisa Stone at March 31, 2005 10:52 PM