Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Joel Achenbach on blogging

From Achenblog.

The Internet is not a medium well suited to those who like to polish their prose and contemplate at leisure the nuances of political discourse. It's a medium for spewing.

This is its worst attribute, and, simultaneously, its great virtue. Much of what runs on the Internet is just chatter. Facts are outnumbed by assertions -- it's almost talk radio. But there's also some charm in that. The writing on the Net tends to be conversational, honest, direct. Like food, journalism is fresher when it's not heavily processed. There's no time for journalism-by-committee.

When online writing is effective, it creates the sense of being at a dinner party with a lot of smart, loud, opinionated people who are still several drinks away from being completely soused.

I have a system: Start writing in my attic around 7:00 A.M., pause to make breakfast and school lunches, write some more, and then, around 9:00 A.M., abandon the column and call Tracy at the office, telling her that I have no ideas and nothing to say and should probably quit writing 'Rough Draft" and return to real journalism.

Tracy invariably will respond by saying that I can have an extra fifteen minutes to file but no more.

I drive to the office, enter my pod, and ask David Von Drehle, the reporter next to me, what I should write. He tells me. I type real fast for two hours and file at noon.

Tracy and Mary [Hadar] edit the column, taking out the stuff that will get us sued and destroy the reputation of one of the greatest news organizations on the planet. The column then zooms electronically across the river to the editors at With astonishing speed they review, copy-edit, and format the piece and somehow, through a digital miracle, publish it on the Web site at 1:00 P.M.

By about 1:15 P.M. I get the first e-mail saying that I am scum, the lowliest slime on the planet, a detestable putrescence.

The process has a beautiful, natural rhythm, culminating at about 6:00 P.M. when suddenly I can't remember what I wrote that morning.

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