Does the Blogosphere Need An Editor?
A thoughtful and no doubt well edited piece in Salon called Let us now praise editors raises a number of interesting and timely issues about the intersection of “online writing,” a quick and on-the-scene activity in a general sense, and editing, a slow and time-consuming and deliberative one.
In the olden days of yore, timeliness meant getting your copy to an editor under deadline so that he or she could edit you and get words to press for the daily edition. Today, there’s a nearly unlimited number of news and entertainment sources that publish around the clock and across the globe. So for every publisher from here until eternity comes, the deadline is right now, if not sooner!
Editing isn’t just slow; it’s expensive. A blogger working from home can pump out stories from morning until late at night on a scale that even a talented and motivated writer-editor combo cannot hope to compete with. And in the online world, more volume usually means more eyeballs and therefore more revenue. As Gary Kamiya notes in the Salon piece, editing is about winnowing down and refining, which in many ways runs counter to the “more is more” ethos of the blogosphere:
In any case, real editing is something different. It takes place before a piece ever sees the light of day — and it’s this kind of painstaking, word-by-word editing that so much online writing needs. If learning how to be edited is a form of growing up, much of the blogosphere still seems to be in adolescence, loudly affirming its identity and raging against authority. But teenagers eventually realize that authority is not as tyrannical and unhip as they once thought. It’s edited prose, with its points sharpened by another, that will ultimately stand the test of time. There is a place for mayfly commentary, which buzzes about and dies in a day. But we don’t want to get to the point where the mayflies and mosquitoes are so thick that we can’t breathe or think.
I spend a lot of time and energy defending the blogosphere and promoting its merits, but I find this to be a fair assessment. While there are plenty of blogs that feature some of the finest writing and sharpest thinking around, the vast majority could surely be improved by seasoned and judicious editing. Of course, that’s simply not feasible in most cases which leaves space for online publications capable of bridging this gap.
I also try not to make this space a commercial for Blogcritics (full disclosure: I’m exec producer) but I must contend ever so briefly that Blogcritics is in a highly unique position of meshing the “exuberant adolescence” of the blogosphere with the firm and authoritative hand of editors and online producers. Founded in 2002 by Eric Olsen, more than 1,800 bloggers are currently allied with this online magazine. Writers submit stories which are then funneled into an editing queue. Based on timeliness and currency and other factors, a volunteer force of editors from around the globe then painstakingly edits each piece prior to publication.
It’s a mostly unheralded gig performed by those who love being part of a great grassroots community and enjoy pushing wild flourishes of thought and opinion out into the great wide Internet void. And now that I’m on a roll, Blogcritics also connects editors with writers in a more personal way, providing mentorship, guidance, and writing instruction. This free service is something that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere.
That doesn’t mean that Blogcritics always has the best stuff around. The quality varies as you might expect. But one of the coolest things about it in my view is that it is a trailblazer in trying to connect the exuberant spirit that the blogosphere offers with some grounding in old school professionalism and spit-and-polish.