Matt Richtel is on the front page of today’s Times with a piece about the tech blogosphere as a 24/7 sweatshop — one that might even be killing some of its (older) practitioners.
“It looks like a desk job, but for some bloggers it is more like a factory,” reads the pullquote.
The piece is, I think, reasonably accurate as a portrait of the tiny sliver of the blogging universe that the commercialized tech-news blog world represents. Where it goes awry is in suggesting that this represents the archetypal blogging experience.
This passage is the problem:
There are growing legions of online chroniclers, reporting on and reflecting about sports, politics, business, celebrities and every other conceivable niche. Some write for fun, but thousands write for Web publishers — as employees or as contractors — or have started their own online media outlets with profit in mind.
“Some write for fun.” I think, realistically, this might say, “Most write for fun.” The emphasis now suggests that “a limited number write for fun, but THOUSANDS write for publishers…” To me even “thousands” seems exaggerated — does the pro blogosphere really employ that many?
Leaving that aside, the “some/thousands” construction suggests that the majority of participants are in sweatshop mode, and that’s obviously wrong. This sentence should really read: “Millions write for fun, but thousands write for Web publishers…”
Achieving more clarity on this point might have made the piece somewhat less appealing to the page one editors, of course.
More: Matthew Ingram says the Times was just “trolling” for links. Doc Searls points out that “scoops are overrated.” And Marc Andreessen mocks the Times with some other headlines we can look forward to, including “The Bloggers have WMD.”
P.S. I will make $0.00 on this post! And I’m at least 8 hours late with my observations. Then again, I got to drink my coffee before I sat down to write.
LATER: Larry Dignan of ZDNet has some sensible observations similar to some of what I was thinking as I read the Times piece:
Letâ€™s put a little perspective on this blogging thing. You could be getting shot at in Iraq. You could be a single mom working three jobs to stay afloat (Happy Birthday mom). You could work in a coal mine. You could be in a life and death battle with Leukemia. You could be doing any one of thousands of high-stress jobs. Sure, the Web has a lot of stress but letâ€™s get real: If youâ€™re stressed out over 5,000 RSS feeds chances are good youâ€™d be stressed by any profession you chose.
And Dave Winer points out in a comment below that there’s an element of professional-journalistic defensiveness in the article’s premise:
Of course this piece is aimed at themselves and others like them. Look, weâ€™re being replaced by crazies who work for nothing, never sleep and die of heart attacks.
Itâ€™s like NAFTA for professional writers.
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