Weblogging Writing

Wincing words

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

There are certain words and phrases popular among webloggers that I’ve grown to dislike over time. Well some I disliked from the start; others I’ve come to dislike only after many repetitions. Whether people continue to use these phrases or not, I don’t care–to each their own. But if we are ever to meet someday and you use one of these words and I wince, you’ll at least know it’s because of the word, not your bad breath or the spinach stuck in your teeth.

The first is blogosphere. What kind of word is blogosphere? Haven’t we done enough damage with ‘blog’ that we have to tag on ‘osphere’?

To me, blogosphere implies that those who weblog live within a bubble isolated from the rest of the known universe. Every time I hear the term, I get a mental image of a huge beach ball floating on the water at the beach: drifting without purpose and soon to be lost. Except that in my visualization, there are millions of tiny little faces looking out at me from within the ball.

Brrrr! Gives me the cauld grue.

If we sail, do we use sailosphere? If we volunteer to help at the library, do we use the term bookosphere in reference to our activities in this environment? Why, then, blogosphere?

The second word isn’t a word, it’s an acronym: MSM. In case you don’t know the term–and goodness sake, how can you not know this term, it litters our pages like candy-shelled chocolate spilled from a bag–it means mainstream media.

First, what is MSM? Seemingly it has to do with professional journalism, but I look around at the people who use it, disparagingly, and notice that many of them are professional journalists–a contradiction leaving me going, “Well, huh.” Do we differentiate between us and this MSM by whether we get paid or not for our efforts? If I remember correctly, some of the more popular webloggers make a great deal of money from their weblogs.

If MSM is specifically professional journalism done by people who don’t blog, do we include all forms of journalism in this classification? If so, then if a newspaper gets a blog, does it stop being MSM? Or is it now, MSM…but with a blog?

How about movies? Are these MSM? They are media. They are main stream. Since most people who use the term MSM do so with a sneer, we have to assume that the ultimate hope is to replace this MSM. Are we saying that today there are podcasts to replace radio; tomorrow there will be vidcasts to replace movies? Look out Tom Cruise, move aside Cameron Diaz: here comes Adam Curry and Dave Winer starring in that blogosphere favorite, “The Odd Couple”?

It’s an Us and Them word, and Us and Them words never lead to anything useful. Besides, every time I hear MSM, I get hungry for Chinese food.

Blogosphere makes me wince, MSM gives me gas, but the phrase I dislike most of all is citizen journalist. I’ll apologize upfront to all of you who love this phrase, but I think it’s the most pretentious piece of twaddle to ever spill out of our brains.

If we’re citizen journalists, does this mean that the reporters down at my local paper aren’t citizens? Do I need to call the Department of Homeland Security on them? Could be fun, true; but I think I’ll pass.

Additionally, how is having a weblog so different from a ‘journalistic’ perspective that we need to have such specialized terms? After all, in this country at least, there’s long been a tradition of personal publications: flyers, underground newspapers, letters exchanged between a network of writers, even Joe the Wacko giving out his mimeographed opinions, printed on bright pink paper. A weblog is just medium, really. Less finger cramping than writing; not as pretty, though, as the bright pink mimeographed sheets.

Some would say that this form of journalism is different, because weblogging gives us a much broader audience. As to this, anyone with a box and a street corner can broadcast. Writing a letter to an editor is broadcasting. Joe the Wacko standing out in front of City Hall is broadcasting. It’s the will to have an opinion and make it heard that’s essential to broadcasting. And who is to say which broadcasting approach has more and lasting influence?

Listen to the phrase, too: citizen journalist. It’s a spooky phrase, and should make your spine tingle in warning. Replace ‘journalist’ with ‘copjustice’ and you have vigilantes; replace ‘citizen’ with ‘patriot’ and you have fascism. Replace both with ‘weblogger’, and you have me.

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