What I’m reading and writing, June 29

• I haven’t waded in on the controversy over David Weigel’s departure as the conservative beat writer at the Washington Post for comments he made on a private journalists’ listserv. Jeff Jarvis sums it all up quite nicely here (although I don’t agree with him on McChrystal), with Weigel commenting that “I am not an opinion blogger. I’m a reporter with opinions.”

But I did want to point out Andrew Sullivan’s post today on how bloggers like Weigel will remain in the vanguard. Their approach is an appropriate guide to those in my profession who need to transform themselves and their work if they are to remain relevant at all:

“In ten years of doing this, I have certainly learned the amazing professional advantages and personal costs of this model. For the readers, though, I think it’s almost all positive. The truth is: reporters are human beings, and I think that being more candid about who we are and where we come from allows readers more lee-way to judge our work. They can see for themselves if they think we’re off-base. They can note that Dave’s personality and biases obviously affect his writing – and make allowances. In a blog, this helps give the blogger ore credibility and durability and interest. But squeezed into a corporate journalist model without the kind of cool, hands-off stewardship of, say, James Bennet, this can clash with previous models. Wapo’s failure was in not sticking with this and in not being prepared to allow the new model to work alongside the old – through the inevitable bumps and skids on the journey.”

Sullivan’s excellent “Why I Blog” piece from late 2008 remains a must-read for all journalists, no matter their station. He’s made the trek himself and pens a long, exhaustive magnum opus that’s worth the read. If you want a briefer summary, I blogged about it all at Ink-Drained Kvetch, and it did me a world of good. At the time, I was still a nervous, overly self-conscious blogger not entirely comfortable with unwinding like this.

• But that’s not the case any longer, as evidenced by my post last week at Blue Star Basketball about Title IX. This doesn’t replace the work of reporting, analysis and critical examination, but rather brings all of those elements alive and ties them together in what Sullivan calls a “distinctive voice.” In my experience, I’ve found that readers are much more sophisticated and discerning than they’re given credit for being if they’re invited to add theirs.

Skillful bloggers who can harness the conversation and community that grows around their blogs will thrive in the new journalistic world order.

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