June 13, 2005

Daily Davenport Politics blog gets write up in Dispatch/Argus

Congratulations to "Fly-on-the-Wall" and "QuadCityImages", both frequent posters here, as well as Brian Krans, a Dispatch/Argus writer, for a well-done piece appearing in that paper.

"Fly" is the creator of "Daily Davenport Politics", a very well done blog covering politics and issues in Davenport and the Iowa side of the ditch. "Quad City Images" is a frequent contributor to the blog and along with "Colonel Davenport", the three of them have formed a sort of team blog with excellent results.

As I posted previously, "Daily Davenport Politics" gained notoriety after being banned from Davenport city computers, and there has been some heated debate on the blog recently. It also examines the recent decision to no longer allow comments at their blog, at least for now, due to having to deal with the kind of tripe which I've had to deal with before deciding to drop unregistered comments.

Trying to manage the beast known as anonymous comments is one of the biggest issues which bloggers have to wrestle with. Unfortunately, it appears that at least in this area, people simply can't handle being given the opportunity to post anonymously, and take it as an invitation to display their mindless drivel and invective.

The article details the blog's effect on politics on the Iowa side of the river and includes a lot of straight quotes. The piece is well done and avoids making any editorial judgments.

A free-lance writer contacted The Dope not long ago. He was going to do a piece on local blogs for a local publication, but unfortunately only contacted me a couple days before his deadline and I wasn't able to reply in time to contribute to the piece. But it resulted in my exchanging further e-mails with him in which I expressed my views and observations on running a blog in the area. He then expressed a desire to do a fuller piece focusing more specifically on myself and this blog.

Unfortunately, this writer was more intent on finding out my identity and making negative judgments about my anonymity than playing it straight and actually reporting on the blog.

Having had a few ugly experiences with the press in the past, I responded on the condition that nothing was to be published without my prior approval. He was kind enough to send me a draft of the piece, and, not surprisingly, there were a few things that I couldn't allow to be published. I made some friendly suggestions for changes and sent it back.

I explained my objection to what I believed to be his unfair judgment of anonymous bloggers, myself specifically, when he made the implication that anyone running a blog anonymously must be cowardly. The only evidence he cited to back this up was stating that "Most national bloggers I talk with" felt it was better to put your name out there. (Ironically, these "national bloggers" he spoke to remained unnamed in the piece, thus anonymous.) And he went so far as to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As he wrote in his concluding paragraph, "Whoever he or she may be, the Dope fears that the possible personal attacks associated with an outing may change the tenor of the blog, and fear too often trumps courage. Most national bloggers I talk with say otherwise. Eventually, they say, someone discovers who they are. There may be a short bit of fury, but the courageous keep with it, because the ideas are more important than the person who writes them. To paraphrase Dr. King, "They are ultimately judged by the content of their weblog and not by the identity of the author."

A bit too lofty for what I do here. HA! I had no idea I was doing something as profound as all that. "Eventually, they say, someone discovers who they are...", he writes. Hmmmmm. Maybe like people that actually take the time and effort to try to expose someone against their wishes, such as the himself?

And I'm not sure being "courageous" has anything to do with it. As far as whether my "... ideas are more important than the person who writes them," I'd beg to differ. I'm not sure what my ideas are worth. That's pretty much up to the people who read them.

I certainly don't think they're as important or "revolutionary" as those put forward in the Federalist Papers, that oft cited early "blog" about the future of democracy in America, which, by the way, was written by a group of anonymous writers widely accepted now as being some of our most prominent founding fathers.

But I wouldn't go so far as to say my ideas are more important than my being able to avoid any possible static in my life away from the blog because of them. You simply can not write about politics without pissing somebody off. It's impossible. And until someone's willing to pay me enough to make it worthwhile, I think I'll retain my privacy. Thanks anyway.

My "ideas" as it were, are all here for anyone to see. I'm not hiding from them, as there's more than enough opportunity here to respond to anything I write and to call me to account for anything a reader might object to. Hell, I encourage it. I don't think that could fairly be called cowardice.

I pointed out to the author that in citing these supposed national bloggers he talks with, he was comparing two wildly different situations. If you're doing a blog that's national in scope, even if you do put your name out there, for all intents and purposes you're anonymous anyway. And what are the chances of some national figure coming down on you for negative opinions or stories? Zero. What are the chances that you'll have to socialize with the national figures you cover? Zero. What are the chances that they'll shun you or otherwise try to exact revenge? Zero.

But of course, in a small pond like this, that is exactly the case, which apparently this writer didn't quite grasp. I have no idea if this writer has any particular political convictions or opinions. I imagine he may. But I'm not aware of him publishing anything of that nature. But if he does have his own political opinions, apparently he has thought better of publishing them. One might wonder why he doesn't just let it all hang and take the lumps from those who may disagree with him. After all, he believes his ideas should be more important than himself.

When I reminded him that I'd specified that nothing be published without my approval and said further changes would have to be made before giving it, he rather petulantly decided to drop the piece entirely. I sent a friendly reply expressing regret that he was giving up on it, and told him that with a few changes, the piece was fine, but that ended up being a moot point as I never got the courtesy of a reply and haven't heard from him since. But at least he was honorable enough not to turn around and burn me.

I'm pleased to see a straight, non-opinionated, informative and well reported story about local bloggers. No judgment passed on the anonymity of the bloggers, no attempt to ferret out the identity of people and violate their privacy against their wishes. As a matter of fact, the Dispatch writer never even questions the blogger's anonymity, while the writer I dealt with had gone to the lengths of compiling a list of "likely suspects" who he felt I may be and was systematically calling each of them to ask them point blank whether they ran this blog. (What other means did he employ to try to find my identity?)

So a big tip of the hat to "Fly-on-the-Wall" as well as "Quad City Images" and "Colonel Davenport", and to Dispatch writer Brian Krans for providing insight into the local blogosphere.

My favorite bit from the piece:
[The blog] ... has a few simple rules: Be civil, no vulgarity and, most importantly, "the Fly is king" -- at least at the blog.
Well said!

Read the article here.


At 6/14/2005 6:41 AM, Blogger illinoisone said...

Dope, how do we know you aren't some famous writer on the national scale now?

Without giving yourself away, have you ever been published?

At 6/14/2005 6:45 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Too bad Dope the Dispatch won't let me read it without my giving them some money to subscribe.

I guess I can get it because I have the rights via money as a subscriber. How about the rest of your readers? Can you cut and paste it for them then??

At 6/14/2005 7:20 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Maybe... you raise a problem that has been vexing me ever since I cranked up this thing.

Most of my sources end up being in the Dispatch/Argus, but I hate to be providing so many links to a site that is a pay site.

I normally try to include enough nuggets of the story to give even those that can't access the entire article the gist of what it says.

But I've got two reasons for not simply cutting and pasteing the entire articles.

One is simply a matter of space and readability. I already have a problem keeping posts short and sweet, which is my goal (though rarely achieved) and if I posted entire articles, the site would balloon. I'm grateful that long posts don't appear to put you off, and you're willing and able to digest long posts, but I'm aware that most readers like to skim things and don't have the attention span to read long pieces.
(and actually, a blog really doesn't lend itself to long posts)

The other reason I don't simply copy and post the entire articles is that I think the publications might have a problem with that due to copyright issues. If you copy or post parts of an article, you're covered under "fair use" doctrine, but I think I'd be getting into iffy territory if I simply posted entire columns and articles.

BUT... in your case, and hopefully others, if you are a subscriber to the print edition of the Dispatch, Argus, or Leader, you can have free access to the online version.
All you have to do is register on their site, provide your account/subscriber number, pick a user name and password and you're set.

At 6/14/2005 9:12 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Illinoisone... How do you know I'm not a nationally published writer now? Easy, just look at the drek I post here! ha!

Actually, I did do a weekly thing where I'd review Sunday political talk shows for one of the first national progressive political web sites, American Politics Journal.

As their business profile states: "American Politics Journal is the longest continually running political publication on the net with more than 21 million readers annually." My pieces also went out to a mailing list with over 14,000 subsribers.

I wrote pretty much every week from about May of 2001 until July of 2003 when I just plain got burnt out on it. I'd have to tape programs, then haul myself up in the morning and try to crank out a review which often went to 1000 words or more, and send it off to the editors in NYC by like 10 a.m.

It was very tough, and with that tight a deadline, it was often pretty sloppy, as there was little if any time to proof-read.

And not only that, but I never got a dime for any of it!

But I got a lot of attention and mail from readers around the country which was very interesting and gratifying. One insisted that I come to NYC to visit her (never did), and I still am in touch with a few readers, despite the fact I haven't written for the site for a couple years now.

Some readers, (including two college English profs and a High School English teacher) urged me to write for print publication or even to write a book. But I had a hard time believing their praises, and I never pursued it.

At 6/14/2005 11:27 AM, Blogger Fly-on-the-wall said...

Dope, I give you a lot of credit for being able to do that for 2+ years. I can't seem to keep cranking out daily entries even after only a few months of my blog. With that in mind, I almost feel guilty about the amount of press my blog's gotten lately.

And your experience with print journalists is just night and day from mine with the Leader. I feel incredibly lucky!

At 6/15/2005 12:56 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Fly, thanks for the kind remarks. And I don't know if you're lucky, or I'm simply unlucky. ha!

I did end up dreading Sunday mornings, as no matter how I felt, I knew I had to sit and review, minute by minute, these maddeningly stupid pundits. I'd have to spend hours transcribing dialog and quotes and trying to tie it all together in a somewhat coherant fashion. But my biggest problem was that I'd get so pissed at some of the things that were said by these Bozos that my rants would often end up going on forever! It was a constant struggle to try to keep things from turning into a novel.

And then I'd have to try to figure out an ending, and if I was lucky, take a little time to read it over quickly and try to patch up all the run on sentences, horrid grammar, and disjointed stuff into something people might read without too much mental effort.

But at least it was once a week, not daily.

I got the gig totally by accident. I'd never done any writing before at all, and never had even considered it. I'd subscribed to their mailing list, and happened to catch a little sentence where they said they were looking for new writers to do their "Pundit Pap" feature.
I happened to have recorded Meet the Press that week and thought what the hell. So I wrote up a couple pages on it and sent it in. I forgot all about it and didn't exepect any response, let alone their liking my stuff. But they did reply, said they loved it, and asked me to do it every week.
I was scared as hell and tried to ask the editor a lot of questions to try to figure out if I was doing things right or not, but he was little help. As a matter of fact, during the years I did this, he never gave me a single word of guidance or suggestions, so I was pretty much flying solo.

But judging by the volume of positive mail both AmPol and I recieved, I guess I did ok.

Towards the end I'd end up skipping a week here and there, and I was always sure to recieve many e-mails wondering what happened. It was nice to know that people looked forward to reading my stuff every week and were upset when it wasn't there.

As to the abortive piece on the blog, yes, that was very disappointing to me. The bulk of the draft piece he sent me was very well done, and I was excited and pleased that it might see print.

I do realize that there is a limit to how much editorial control a writer can give a subject, but I just couldn't go along with the paragraph I quoted in the post. That was a deal breaker as I not only disagreed with his assessment, but felt it was unfair to boot.

But while that experience didn't turn out as I'd hoped, there will no doubt be other opportunities.


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