Blogs, Censorship and Conflict

This little post is inspired by the comment by Mr. Mentzer and also by the little brouhaha over at Citizen Wausau.

First let me say that there is no animosity, or really, feelings of any kind about the start up of Citizen Wausau. I have said many, many times that there is always room for more voices about anything and everything and another take on Wausau is a good thing. So, rock on guys and have fun with it.

I will go even a step further and say that everyone should have a blog or something like it. Writing is a tremendously valuable skill and one that is simply not exercised enough by most people. For years I have seen all the wonderful things that the library puts out encouraging reading (Readers are Leaders and so on) and have always thought, “Reading is great, but you need to be able to DO stuff too.” And one thing everyone should DO is write.

Back when Ken Burns’s first big war pic came out (about the oxymoronic Civil War — how can any war be civil?) I, like many people were amazed at the poetic beauty of the letters and diary entries that he found — written by ordinary people. Even allowing for the fact that over time only the best of such things survived and the he had the liberty to edit the heck out of them, the use of the language by ordinary people was quite striking. They obviously spent a lot of time both reading and writing. We don’t — but we should.

I am reminded of one of my favorite snarks, although I forget now who said it. At the time of the quote the various TV networks had various promos to encourage reading. I believe CBS had a thing after many programs telling people how they could “read more about it.” Which lead to this acid response: “Having a TV network combatting illiteracy is like a chocolate eclair manufacturer fighting obesity.” But I digress.

So, everyone should have a blog. Expressing yourself in writing often organizes your thoughts and gives you a very nice mental work out. I am not talking about spreading information here, though that might be useful — just expressing your thoughts on “paper.” It is a good thing for everyone.

Beyond that, more discussion of our town is good and more information is good. Citizen Wausau is a good thing. And so will whatever the next blog about Wausau be. I have always said, and certainly stand by the idea — “the more the merrier.”

I will say, however, that I sit here with a bit of bemusement at the brouhaha over at Citizen Wausau. Perhaps it was not intended, but there were some comments in the CP when the Wausaublog was going black (not permanently, apparently) that this new blog would be more wide open than this blog had been. I was perplexed by the comment at the time, hoping that perhaps it was a misquote or something.

Over the year or so that the Wausaublog limped along, there was exactly one post that I sort of declined to run. The author said it was satire, but it just sounded like an attack to me. I sat on it a long time and finally said, “Sorry, I am not going ‘print’ that.” The person apparently got their feelings hurt and never contributed again. Which is OK. There was one other time when I was sent a contribution and I asked the author whether they really wanted it out there in the form in which they sent it to me. I pointed out that maybe they might not get nice comments on it, and the author said not to run it.

And speaking of comments, I had one instance where I felt forced to cut off comments on an article. Some group from Texas found the blog because of a post that mentioned a band that used the Confederate battle flag as their symbol — and these guys from Texas wanted to post dissertation length comments on how the aforementioned oxymoronic Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. I just wasn’t in the mood for a flame war over a 4 month old post, so I closed the comments for a while. It was the only time I deleted comments.

I did also get into a bit of hot water when I tried to moderate a comment thread that had gotten a bit out of hand. One of the contributors felt that in doing so, I was taking sides and eventually declined to participate as a contributor any longer. Which is also fine.

But all that being said, I do feel for the guys over at CW. No matter what you are doing on a public blog that represents something (even if it only yourself) such as your city, your business or whatever, it is probably impossible, especially on the internet, to have completely free speech. If you did, your blog would be covered in spam comments leading to porn sites.

And, as I have said before, editors have value. Not posting something because it is not good enough or is way off topic or vile or whatever, is fair game for the owner of a blog. That is what an editor is for. The Herald (for example) is under no obligation to publish anything and everything that comes over the transom, and the same is true of CW and the Wausaublog.

So, here is where I can tie things together. If you want every word you write to be “published,” get your own blog. You can get a free one here on WordPress.com in about five minutes. I encourage you to do that. Writing is good for you. Everyone should do it.

The last thing I wil say is that to be a blogger of any kind on the net requires a bit of both thickness of skin and skull. Anyone in the world can post anonymous comments on your thoughts and opinions. Registration doesn’t stop that, only makes people more creative. So, you can’t take yourself too seriously and for the most part you can’t take the comments from others all that seriously, either. Unless it involves a spellchecker. I know from first hand experience that a copy editor is even more important than an editor.

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4 responses to “Blogs, Censorship and Conflict

  1. Bill, that was a great post. Citizen Wausau is definitely a new experience for all involved, and so the fact that we’re have growing pains (already??) doesn’t really come as a surprise. We just have to find our voice.

    Marcus and I wholeheartedly agree that everybody should have a blog. WordPress.com is an excellent option for that, but we’re also working on personal blogs as an extension of Citizen Wausau itself, a feature we hope to launch very soon.

  2. THe fact that people are actually READING your blogs and caring enough about what you say should really be considered a form of flattery. It’s great for you! How many blogs are out there that nobody reads, much less care about? You have a good thing going here. I only wish I could get more readers and comments going on my blog. http://www.packerland.blogspot.com

  3. Great post. I posted some thoughts on Citizen Wausau, blogs and “censorship” this morning here.

  4. Hi there Mr. Packerland. 🙂 I would say that patience is the key with a local blog, but so is keeping expectations reasonable. At its peak, the Wausaublog was getting maybe 150 hits a day on average. At first I thought maybe that might mean that 400 or 500 people were reading it. I was thinking that maybe people were looking at it maybe every 3 or 4 days or so.

    Not being much of a blog reader, I now feel I missed the mark by several orders of magnitude. Instead of having several hundred readers looking occaisionally, I am now pretty sure I only had a handful of readers, each of whom checked back numerous times a day. That is to say, maybe 25 people each of whom were checking back 5 times a day.

    Perhaps that is flattering too, you can be the judge. But I guess people have a lot of down time on their hands in their offices and homes, amazing as that may seem.

    And as to comments, the situation is even worse, I am afraid. The number of actual people who commented here on the blog is probably in the handful range. Not even the full 25 🙂 At first I was a bit bummed about that, I was hoping (like you are as well) for more of a conversation, but it just doesn’t seem to develop like that. But on the other hand, lookng at the Herald’s blogs, which I assume get many, many more hits than this ever did, there are not a lot of comments there either. A few, but not tons, often times none.

    Maybe people are just getting comfortable with their mice and later they will get around to using the keyboard. Or maybe they are used to the one way “conversation” brought to you by TV and radio, I don’t know.

    But believe me, a few people do read and they do care. You will know if they really care when they start another blog. That is really the kind of “flattery” to look for.

    This is supposed to be a DIY kind of medium, and I am thrilled to see that you have a blog of your hometown. I hope that many more spring up both there in Packerland and here in the center of the universe. 🙂

    But in the meantime, I have an important aerodynamical experiment to carry out before the rain moves back in.

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