Sunday, March 15, 2009

Joining BoingBoing

Well, I finally gave in and registered for an account on BoingBoing yesterday. You don't have to have an account to comment on the site, but it helps (basically, your comment gets put up faster).

What Prompted It?

The thing that incited my unexpected enlistment was a post about a story called What Will Replace Newspapers by Clay Shirky. In it, Shirky succinctly summarizes all of the things that newspapers did wrong in the last 10 or 15 years as their business model began to evaporate. My favorite sentence from the longish snip on BoingBoing was this: "When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry."

The comments that followed were thoughtful and extended Shirky's words -- which, in my experience of reading comment threads, is something you don't see much on the interweb, except on BoingBoing. One commenter mentioned a recent story by David Simon (creator of The Wire) from the Washington Post, about the devolution of the Baltimore Sun, so I went and read that. It's a great, man-on-street/reporter-in-the-police-precinct counterpoint to Shirky's meta analysis.

The comment I wanted to make, and which provoked me to sign up, was primarily composed of a quote from Simon's article:

There is a lot of talk nowadays about what will replace the dinosaur that is the daily newspaper. So-called citizen journalists and bloggers and media pundits have lined up to tell us that newspapers are dying but that the news business will endure, that this moment is less tragic than it is transformational.

Well, sorry, but I didn't trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick's identity and performance history [explained in Simon's full story]. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn't anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.
And then I agreed with Simon's point (as I have written before) that beat reporting is the thing that will suffer most unless there's a way to train and pay people to do it.

About BoingBoing

BoingBoing (A Directory of Wonderful Things) has been around since January 2000, so I am clearly a Janey-come-lately to the party. I've only been reading it regularly since early 2008 or so. Regular readers of Daughter Number Three will not be surprised to hear that I've referred to BoingBoing 25 times since starting this blog.

BoingBoing is a fine example of how serendipity can be preserved in an age without newspapers.

I generally read or at least skim anything posted by science fiction writer Cory Doctorow (author of the excellent young adult novel Little Brother) or Mark Frauenfelder (creator of Make magazine). Just as I skip the sports in the daily papers, I completely ignore the recurring BoingBoing Gadgets posts, the constant barrage of Off World updates, and most of the videos.

One of my favorite things about BoingBoing is the great work posted by the guest bloggers, who each write whatever they want for a week or so -- lately, Dan Gillmor, Paul Spinrad, Steven Johnson, Gareth Branwyn and Charles Platt, Susie Bright, and a little while earlier, Clay Shirky.

If only I could find a local version of it. Hmmm... now there's an idea.

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