Andrew Sullivan Explains the Blog

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Andrew Sullivan's online column is, by his own estimation, the "most popular one man political blog site in the world" — which, if it isn't true, is near enough. Which is why you should read his lengthy essay in the Atlantic, "Why I Blog." It says a lot of things that you already know (especially if you are unlucky enough to be a blogger yourself), but he explains it in a well-considered way that lends credit to a medium that most people think is slapdash and easy. "Blogging — even to an audience of a few hundred in the early days — was intoxicatingly free in comparison," Sullivan writes of his first forays into the genre. "Like taking a narcotic." Ooh! The kind that makes you want to stay in bed all day? That's the kind of drug it feels like to us. From the essay:

As Matt Drudge told me when I sought advice from the master in 2001, the key to understanding a blog is to realize that it’s a broadcast, not a publication. If it stops moving, it dies. If it stops paddling, it sinks.


To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at arm’s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while, and to let others, as Montaigne did, pivot you toward relative truth. A blogger will notice this almost immediately upon starting. Some e-mailers, unsurprisingly, know more about a subject than the blogger does. They will send links, stories, and facts, challenging the blogger’s view of the world, sometimes outright refuting it, but more frequently adding context and nuance and complexity to an idea. The role of a blogger is not to defend against this but to embrace it. He is similar in this way to the host of a dinner party. He can provoke discussion or take a position, even passionately, but he also must create an atmosphere in which others want to participate.


Like when you guys kick our asses in pulling apart episodes of Gossip Girl! And more:

The wise panic that can paralyze a writer — the fear that he will be exposed, undone, humiliated — is not available to a blogger. You can’t have blogger’s block. You have to express yourself now, while your emotions roil, while your temper flares, while your humor lasts. You can try to hide yourself from real scrutiny, and the exposure it demands, but it’s hard. And that’s what makes blogging as a form stand out: it is rich in personality. The faux intimacy of the Web experience, the closeness of the e-mail and the instant message, seeps through. You feel as if you know bloggers as they go through their lives, experience the same things you are experiencing, and share the moment. When readers of my blog bump into me in person, they invariably address me as Andrew. Print readers don’t do that. It’s Mr. Sullivan to them.


This last part is something we've put some thought in to. There are a handful of sites out there that are a lot like Daily Intel. Gawker, for example, the Observer news feed, and Radar's Fresh Intelligence column. Of late, CityFile's DailyFile has joined the group, seemingly setting out to cover the exact same ground we do. But there's no doubt that here at Intel, Jessica and Chris have a different personality from, say, Hamilton and Big Gay Richard over at Gawker, or Alex Balk and Choire Sicha at Radar. If we were all in print, we'd have the same headlines and readers would have to choose between subscribing to one of us or the other. And you ever-more-brilliant readers and commenters wouldn't have any chance at all to help shape what you read. Wouldn't that be a bummer?

Why I Blog [Atlantic]