Finding the eye in the storm

It was one of those moments of self-doubt, when you think, “Is it possible I’m not as smart as I think I am?”

Immersed in the Sunday New York Times this weekend, I read Matt Richtel’s piece with interest and, as is the custom these days, thoughts on how I’d like to blog about it. I thought it was of sufficient quality to give the reader pause as to how blogging fits into the greater picture of our everyday lives. No, I didn’t find it to be particularly groundbreaking or crack investigative reporting but not every article will be.

I expected ample comments from the blogging world but anticipated it would trend more towards another discussion of the treadmill on which we’ve put ourselves, how to keep pace, etc etc, ad infinitum. Instead, the reaction was swift and unanimous: Wimps! The insta-comments on FriendFeed told me precisely where this meme was headed: desperate, old-school media attacks successful new genre; alcoholic and/or divorced reporters are commonplace; sensationalist and crappy. The consensus seemed to be that plenty of professions carry high levels of stress and it all comes down to individual life management. So shut up, old media, and get with the new way of journalism.

Play Madlibs with Richtel’s piece and the end result is the same. Replace “blogging” and “bloggers” with virtually any industry and worker – software engineer, ER nurse, daytrader, coal miner – and the fact remains that if you don’t work toward and achieve a healthy work/life balance, you’re putting your health at risk. Vaunted blogger/journalist/new media mentor Doc Searls said as much, advising the young turks to calm down and not worry so much about breaking news. I think that was the gist of Richtel’s article, really; once you wade past the hysteria and three-makes-a-trend journalism, he’s tackling an age-old problem with a modern twist.

Here’s what I’m trying to figure out: did I react positively to this piece because I don’t know good journalism or because some of it hit close to home? It could very well be the former. I’m confident in my writing abilities and knowledge but a good writer and a good journalist are two very different things. (Now there’s a post for another day…) But I can’t imagine that I’m alone in the latter. Is no one else thinking, “methinks thou doth protest too much…”?

Anyone keeping tabs on the blogosphere knows we had some exciting times last week. A situation was foisted upon us that needed response and reaction but also merited measured thought and strategizing. What happened of course is that my first thoughts weren’t of team meetings to talk strategy but of blogging. We needed a post from Chris and we needed it yesterday. We had to insert our immediate thoughts into the conversation or be damned. It was a perfect-storm encapsulation of the state of emerging tech and Internet communities. Looking back, I don’t necessarily think that was a bad thing. But it can’t be denied that the instapundit culture in which we’re now ensconced has changed business from all angles, including journalism but also planning, strategy, marketing and everything in between.

What matters after all the chaos, though, is how each of us handled it. Did we toss and turn at night, wrestling with the stress of the day? Did we finish off that bottle of wine we didn’t intend to? Or did we go for a run, take some deep breaths and write it off as another day at the office? I admit I tended toward the first two, with some quality time with the kids thrown in to offset.

Eleanor Clift said something in a recent interview, ironically in the Sunday NYT, that has stuck with me: Work is therapy for home and home is therapy for work. If you’re lucky enough to have fulfillment on both fronts, allow them to offset the other. Blog to your heart’s content during the day, then shut ‘er down and breathe at night. No matter your profession – and no matter the opinions of the maddening crowd – the balance is entirely yours to achieve and sustain in the end.

2 Comments »

  1. I’m tired today. Very tired, and this post hit just at the right time. I just saw another author breaking a story get completely overlooked by Techmeme, even though every single blog that repeated the story linked back to it.

    The NYT piece was horrible journalism, and I can’t believe the Grey Lady ran with it. I would have been even more horrified had I known it was front-page because it was absolutely atrocious, and the “journalist” should be embarrassed. He went into a story with a pre-conceived idea. Ignored people whose quotes would have disproved his story (who have since blogged about it). This is stuff *I* learned in COMM/J 101.

  2. Hi Carla,

    It is obvious that the concept of balance is important – whatever the profession may be. But the NYT article stretched the truth a bit when it extended the argument to all types of bloggers. Here is my quick response to the article FWIW

    http://blog.lifebeyondcode.com/2008/04/06/nytimes-story-on-blogging-blog-till-you-drop-my-take/

    Have a great afternoon there.

    Best,
    Raj

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