Late Tuesday night, in what he labeled a “revelation,” New York Times’ visual op-ed columnist Charles M. Blow unleashed a disappointing insult to bloggers, comparing them to karaoke singers. Blow, whose work I admire greatly, and with whom I have publicly engaged, and publicly credited with bringing the civil rights abuses of New York City’s Police Department’s “stop and frisk” outrage to light, truly misunderstands blogging and the thousands of smart, credible, and passionate journalists who have chosen the blogging platform as their niche. Charles Blow owes not only his fellow bloggers at the New York Times — but more importantly, the hardworking and usually low-paid political, independent, professional blogging community — an apology.
Blow, Tuesday night, wrote via Twitter:
Revelation: karaoke is to singers what blogging is to writers
— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) August 15, 2012
I’m pretty certain most professional singers don’t hold karaoke singers in high regard, so this isn’t a case of projection. Professional singers may not dislike karaoke singers — they may even get gratification hearing them enjoy themselves — but there’s no question that professional singers overall don’t place karaoke singers at their level. Which is the point Blow was making: I’m better than bloggers. I’m a writer. There’s a difference. Perhaps seeing a few angry tweets, Blow that night appeared to attempt to backtrack, and responded to one angry follower, John S. Wilson, with, “heard an amazing karaoke sing tonight & thought wow: sometimes you just need a stage and a mic bc you want to sing w/o pressure,” and then attempted to explain it all away, writing, simply, “l blog.” Wilson, as his Twitter bio states, is a contributing writer for Black Enterprise, Mediaite, the Huffington Post, Politic 365, and the founder of Policy Diary, so perhaps Blow felt obligated to walk back his comments a bit. Here are Blow’s tweets, and my one-way response:
Blow truly has no idea what professional bloggers do. And while I have never liked the label “blogger,” apparently it fits the genre of my work, which, in November, will mark the beginning of my fifth year as a professional blogger.
Most professional bloggers I know, including me, work 12-18 hours a day, and often seven days a week. Practically not an hour goes by, if we’re awake, that we’re not working.
I publish on average 10-12 articles a day, and about four each weekend day. The vast majority average 500-750 words, though some are shorter, and a great many longer. I am blessed to have about 20 folks who contribute to our site, although 90% of the posts I write myself.
Bloggers break news. We’re often the “go-to” source for many readers. Bloggers have been known to take down politicians, expose wrongdoing and hypocrisy, and, frankly, tell truth to power in situations that even the New York Times wouldn’t.
On top of all this, we generally work alone. Usually for most of us, certainly for me, there’s no secretary, assistant, or even intern.
We deal with hundreds of emails a day, including requests for ad pricing from potential clients, requests from heavily funded non-profits for free ads, requests from publishers to review books, requests from distraught citizens for information or to highlight their unjust plight, demands for one-on-one debates from readers who have an opposing point of view, hate mail, and requests from every PR person imaginable to do a story on the client or product they get paid to rep that we wouldn’t get paid to write about. Of course, then there are the countless press releases…
Daily, bloggers are writers, editors, researchers, photographers and photo editors, reporters, graphic designers, advertising salespeople, social media directors, public relations directors, and accountants. We are, in fact, small business owners.
And we are obsessed with producing quality content that will interest readers and expand our audience.
But then, of course, there are the personal reasons we chose advocacy journalism and running a “blog” to begin with.
For me, I decided to start The New Civil Rights Movement within mere hours of California’s Prop 8 passing in 2008. If you’ve ever had a calling, if you’ve ever experienced a life-changing event, you’ll understand when I say, Prop 8 was mine.
And so, at the end of every day, which is usually after midnight, I often think about all the stories I wanted to write about that I just didn’t have time to cover.
For a writer, for a journalist, that’s a pretty tough thing to deal with on a daily basis, knowing there are good and important stories that don’t get told, and people I could help, issues I could expose, information I could share, that I just didn’t have time to because I can’t keep my eyes open any longer.
Meanwhile, working those 12+ hours every day nets most bloggers not a big income (despite the fact that here at The New Civil Rights Movement, we’re rapidly approaching one million hits a month, paying the rent isn’t easy.) Certainly not what we can all assume is the hefty six-figure salary with benefits, a 401(k), and possibly an assistant, that, say a New York Times op-ed writer earns — and, no doubt deserves.
So, Mr. Blow, when you disparage bloggers as karaoke singers, you’re disparaging people who work hard, are small business owners, and wear far more hats than you do at your job. Blogging isn’t “fun,” it’s not a way to express yourself, it’s hard work and it’s work that only pays when you publish. A day off means several day’s worth of lost ad revenue. There are no paid sick days. No paid vacations. No 401(k). No company-funded medical insurance (I pay about $700 a month on my plan.) No company car. No company cell phone. No company tech department to fix our computers. No water cooler talk.
We don’t have the luxuries you do, nor the resources you do, yet speaking for myself, I can’t imagine doing anything else, because my number one goal is to help my community, help people understand what we’re fighting for, and advance equality.
Blogging is hard work. Bloggers change hearts and minds. We help inform the public. And we have earned, and deserve, far more respect than Charles M. Blow, and others, give us.
Mr. Blow did not respond to an email requesting comment on this article.
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