A frenzied air-guitar riff can be heard across the South-African blogosphere. Enough to make your mother come up to your room and tell you to shut the hell up, she can’t hear herself think so stop-that-racket-immediately!
Sunday Times columnist David Bullard recently went off on bloggers:
“Most blog sites are the air guitars of journalism. They’re cobbled together by people who wouldn’t stand a hope in hell of getting a job in journalism, mainly because they have very little to say. It’s rather sad how many people think the tedious minutiae of their lives will be of any interest to anyone else.
… The content of their sites is so moronic that even their best friends would disown them if they knew they were the authors. As with most things in life, something that costs nothing is usually worth nothing …“
Bullard’s full article is flawed and myopic but it struck the chord he intended. South-African bloggers got out their picks and started chang-cha-chang-ing like crazy. I got annoyed too at the wild generalizations, the ridiculous comparison between bloggers the world over and the Virginia Tech shooter (of all people). I won’t reiterate what many have already said — read what Vincent Maher had to say for a succinct, well-crafted response — but I feel I can add this.
I am the kind of blogger Bullard belly aches about. The mommy kind who goes on about her teething offspring and the fabulous pad thai her husband whipped up on the weekend. Who posts pictures of her garden and family road trips, and goes off about politics when she is hardly qualified to do so.
I maintain a blog because I can. The Internet is open-mic night at the local coffee shop and I can get up there and strut my stuff. I don’t have to be a professional and I don’t have to be any good at it. I am not a journalist.
I also maintain a blog because my family are spread across the globe: Canada, England, South Africa and New Zealand. I see my parents once every five years, my only brother once a decade if I am lucky. This is the best way I know to share our lives with them.
And yes, I maintain a blog that touches on politics because we have lived in South Africa, Canada and the US long enough to have opinions on important issues. Opinions that count because they represent the measured thoughts of ordinary people who have the liberty to present them. And isn’t that what the great democracy of the Internet is all about?
In my late twenties I returned to college and double-majored in Writing and English at a Canadian university known for its Writing Program. I was good enough at it to win a few scholarships and a national fiction-writing contest nogal, and as a mature student, I topped many of my journalism and poli-sci classes. But when the time came to make a living at it, I chose technical writing over journalism because I relish the hands-on work of documenting technology — that and I realized that I could make good money at it and didn’t have to work nights and weekends.
Sure tech writing gets dry at times and I don’t always have the zip left at the end of the day to write the thorough and incisive posts I might if I were a practiced journalist. Instead, I mommy blog for pleasure and don’t care much who reads it. I blog so that with the click of a mouse, my ninety-one-year-old granny in Durban gets a kick out of seeing her great grandson run after his ball on a beach in San Diego. David Bullard misses the point. The vast majority of bloggers don’t give a fig about journalism and don’t aspire to steal his job. They blog for very different and personal reasons.
And finally, I understand that guys like Bullard are all about vitriol and controversy, but if you’re going to throw stones in the blogosphere, you’d better not live in a big old glass house. No sooner had the bloggers cried foul than he launched, guess what? His very own WordPress blog. And about his blog? I’m not about to return insult with ad hominem insult but if you’re going to accuse bloggers of being of awful hack air guitarists, you’d better pull off a decent rendition of Stairway to Heaven yourself.