Blogging Leads to Better Books

I enjoy the Economist’s award winning blog Democracy in America, which I’ve only just recently stumbled across. It’s somewhat annoying that, like the magazine, authors are anonymous, but even in the Internet age looks like the folks at the Economist are sticking to tradition. So, with that caveat, a ‘New York’ blog author writes that blogging has actually helped him/her to write a better book, thanks to the instantaneous fact checking that happens on the Web. He/she/it writes:

The single biggest insight I have from blogging has directly affected my book. If I say something stupid or wrong, I can expect that I will be humiliated for it, quickly and viciously. I will write a better book as a result. I’ll still make errors of course, at least of interpretation or judgment and possibly small ones of fact. But If I wrote what I plan to write before blogs, I could take some dusty volume of research off the shelf and misquote it or misinterpret it, safely. Who would catch me? An annoyed letter-writer, who would send his observations in response to a review in (say) the New York Times? Who would see it? Who would care for longer than a day? The temptation not to worry about that level of error would be strong, bordering on overwhelming. As is, I don’t want to screw anything up, lest my name be made mud on a good blog (or blogs) that will have more heft and half-life than any old small, cranky review in a middle-circulation journal.

Yes, indeed, lest your name be dragged through the mud.

In any case, Fact checking on the Internet is something we’ve written about here before, especially related to tea parties and the Santelli Rant. During the Internet & Politics conference here at Harvard I heard this same observation from journalists and campaign officials. Instead of taking a campaign spot or the media’s analysis of a speech as fact, users can now go online to investigate suspicious claims or watch an entire speech for themselves; the frequently download 30-minute Obama speech on race being one obvious example of where this happened. So why haven’t we heard this claim more often related to journalism more generally? I’d argue it’s because, as Clay Shirky best summarized, the journalism profession has spent more time complaining about the Internet’s impact on newspaper sales, and not enough time using it to improve the profession.

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One Response to “Blogging Leads to Better Books”

  1. Internet & Democracy Blog » Blogging Leads to Better Books Says:

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