EDITOR OF REDSTATE
Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Several media outlets have run stories about a rumored gathering of conservative bloggers, writers, and others last week. You can find pictures on Facebook. You can find a list of names. The words “off the record” seemingly have little value. Much of the information came from invitees.
I started blogging in October of 2003. In July of 2004, I started blogging at RedState. Along the way I’ve done some really stupid things I’m not proud of and some really cool things I am very proud of. Some of what I’ve done others have questioned, but I have never held myself out to be a reporter. I’m a conservative activist. Though I often report on what the conservative movement is doing, my primary goal is to affect what the conservative movement does.
One of the fascinating things to me as my career at RedState and elsewhere has advanced is the number of conservative voices going into traditional media forms who originated at conservative blogs and online sites. It seems most of the newer voices and faces on the left have come from traditional left-wing print publications and moved into television and radio. Though there are a few exceptions, I think more conservatives have moved into television and radio directly from blogs and new media websites than the left.
While I do not claim to be a traditional journalist or reporter, many of the traditional rules of the media have always applied to blogs since I started and even now as I and others move on to television and radio. Off the record means off the record. If some breach the trust, others should not. One of the only significant times I can think of in which I deviated from that was the off the record meeting of evangelicals in Texas earlier this year. The attendees themselves had already designated one of the attendees to talk to the media. In my one post on the matter, I explained what happened without using names and only did so, with thanks from the attendees, after several others had run to traditional news outlets to give less than honest descriptions of the meeting. Even in that post, I left out names, major details, and asked for permission before I even did it.
There is no rule book for blogging, but there are best practices and the individual ethics of bloggers. Those practices have evolved over time.
Here now nine years after I started blogging, let me tell you something I have noticed. The people who are the loudest haphazard voices and bitterest voices among the longest serving crop of bloggers on left and right are the ones who never grew up. They hold proudly to the standards and cavalier attitude many of us possessed when we first got started and are angry when they see their peers doing more and having more influence and impact than they are. They wonder why they don’t get invited to meetings, conventions, and the like when others do and instead of realizing it is them, they conclude everyone else is selling out.
Peter Pan never grew up. Bloggers must.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a dear friend on radio all of you know. Obviously a great many people were more than skeptical of me, a conservative blogger, signing on with CNN. His advice really solidified my wake up and grow up moment online — have fun, don’t go along to get along, but be respectful and reasonable. If your opinion isn’t what most would consider reasonable, at least explain why your unreasonable opinion is reasonable to you and, above all else, try always to stay on offense.
Most humorously, at CNN a polar opposite of this friend gave me identical advice.
As I’ve grown up online, I’m one of the uncommon few who has moved on to both television and radio. I have been blessed. Along the way, I find others who are making the transition too, but still others who have been toiling away in the blogosphere for years who have refused to make the transition, or been unable to despite their hopes, and they may look at me and others like me and think we’ve sold out or decided to go along to get along. But I look at them and think what a waste of talent and energy. Some don’t want to transition, but have grown up and matured in their style and interpersonal relationships. They want to have an impact and they do. Hats off to them. But there are others who are dragging those folks down and the rest of us too.
Sadly for them and the rest of us who get invited to nice places to meet nice people off the record, as long as the rest of us keep humoring them and their antics, those invites won’t come for any of us.