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blatchford on blogs

Globe columnist Christie Blatchford wrote an article about blogs … with the tiresome old complaint, “blogs are like little girls’ diaries” etc etc. and ended: “I do not blog, I have not blogged, I will not blog and, furthermore, I do not care to read blogs.”

So, being the old crank that I am, I sent her an email:

you probably have many emails from angry “bloggers” already, but i always bang my head against the table when i read things by writers who don’t read blogs explaining why blogs are bad. “blog” is a stupid word that defines this: a way to transfer text from one set of typing fingers to a number of eyeballs. some of that text is crap, some of it good, some of it extraordinary; but a text’s goodness or crappiness is not determined by the mode of transportation (ie blog vs newspaper vs book vs magazine).

goodness and crappiness are traits independent of the mode of transportation, and i will lay down a challenge to you: you provide 5 examples of excellent pieces of newspaper writing and I will provide 5 excellent pieces of blog writing, and we do a blind taste test on some famous smart people, and see which they pick as the better text. i suspect there will be no difference.


her response (which I was surprised to receive):

such a contest would be fair only if we confine the parameters…in other words, no fair if i offer five great bits of toronto writing, and you pick five from the web. let’s say five examples of good newspaper writing from Toronto writers and/or bloggers. what say you?

and my reresponse:

ha! well, that was a surprise.

so the problem with your premise is that you’re nixing one of the great distinctions between the web and print: while you are stuck with whatever the Star & Globe editors want to give you in their pages, I have the full universe of the net to choose from. score 1 for blogs. though I think it’s a big mistake to see these two means of transporting text in opposition. they aren’t, they are complementary (as are books, magazines and newspapers).

further, i don’t really read toronto web writers that i can think of. and since the globe is a national newspaper, how bout we limit the geography to canada? and i think we also have to further constrain things for fairness: no “hard news” articles … instead it should be commentary/columns/op-ed etc.

by the way, can i blog about this? including quoting your email?

no answer after a week, so i blogged about it anyway.


  1. Matt Matt 2007-11-09


    Though, if I wrote a letter to Blatchford every time she pissed me off, I wouldn’t have any time left to blog.

    I think you might still have won the challenge even on her skewed terms. Writers like Malcolm Gladwell (not from Toronto, but Kingston – I’m sure all her “writers” weren’t raised in the Annex either) have excellent blogs you could have used as fodder.

    One of the most dramatic things blogs have done, is to allow me to read opinions of a cross-section of intelligent Canadians – instead of forcing me to read the minority opinion of war-mongers like Blatchford every week.

  2. Hugh Hugh 2007-11-09

    re: pissed off at Blatchford columns … agreed.

    re: winning on skewed terms, i think her terms are an admission of defeat – or at least fear of defeat. if all “blogs” are drivel not worth reading, then geography shouldn’t matter one bit. if all blogs are *not* drivel, then I win, and blatchford’s decision not to read them has nothing to do with quality, but rather with some other thing that only blatchford knows.

    this is a waste of energy tho, I know … I remember getting all worked up about a librarian who sent me an email to LibriVox telling me to take down links to wikipedia because they were “bad for students.” i got in a long debate with her, and boris said, “forget about those people. they’ve lost. why bother?”

  3. zura zura 2007-11-09

    Sigh… I noted also her Facebook comments. Some people simply feel the need to negatively target a new technology as if it is personally out to get them in some way.

    “I have no Facebook friends. I want no Facebook friends. I have no online community… I do not care to read blogs…,” she says, proudly. Are we to applaud her rebellion? Well bully for her. It’s as ludicrous as like someone proudly proclaiming “I don’t read books, I will never read books.”

    It is this incessant, ignorant and tiresome lament that the internet is a Bad Place where people are “forced” to updated their ‘Book statuses and can only have half-real online romances. The internet is there as a grand resource. *You* choose how you wish to use it and gain from it. I wish people would just see it as yet another medium through which to meet people and exchange ideas, as humans are normally wont to do. And yes, those would be *real* people and *real ideas.

  4. Hugh Hugh 2007-11-09


  5. Steven Mansour Steven Mansour 2007-11-11

    Sigh… I noted also her Facebook comments.

    What? Why?

    If you want to target her for her choice of not reading blogs, fine. How is not being on Facebook – not being a mindless customer of a sterile, corporatized social product – comparable to isolating oneself and one’s knowledge by not reading books? Should I deride you for not being part of the community of people who drink Diet Pepsi?

    Let her choose not to use it and gain from it, and be done with it. If you want people to naively see the internet as ‘just another medium through which to meet people and exchange ideas’, you will wait a very long time.

  6. Hugh Hugh 2007-11-12

    ‘If you want people to naively see the internet as ‘just another medium through which to meet people and exchange ideas’, you will wait a very long time.

    er… isn’t it that already? (along with some other things)…

  7. Hugh Hugh 2007-11-15

    sorry, to clarify … that’s what it is for me. again, among other things.

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