Friday, January 30, 2015

Bloggers as "Curators" and the End of "The Dish"

In case you have not heard, Andrew Sullivan, the blogging genius behind "The Dish," is calling it quits.

Sullivan has been blogging for fifteen years. In the blogosphere fifteen years is an eternity. His blog has been hosted by Time, The Atlantic, and The Daily Beast.  Recently he decided to go independent, generating money through subscriptions.  Many consider him to be one of the best political writers of his generation.

Sullivan is a blogging machine.  He posts constantly.  For example, on January 27, 2015, he published twenty-three posts at The Dish.  According to the video below, he posts 250 times a week.   He has a staff and interns.

As I have said publicly and here at the The Way of Improvement Leads Home, I have modeled my blog after Sullivan's style at The Dish.  While I don't post as much as Sullivan (I have a day job, after all), I have always tried to use the blog to send off news, ideas, opinions, and links at a rapid rate. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't.  (My consistency or lack thereof depends on the demands of the whole "day job" thing).  But there are few academic blogs (or at least history blogs) that have taken this approach.

One of the best piecesI have read on Sullivan's retirement comes from Steven Waldman.  Some of you who read this blog know Waldman from his book Founding Faith.  I highly recommend it.

Over at the blog of the Columbia Journalism Review, Waldman lists seven ways that Sullivan has changed blogging.  According to Waldman, Sullivan has taught us to how change our mind in public, how to use a link, how to use readers as experts, how to be a "digital anchorman," how to mix serious topics with lighter ones, and how to engage in digital crusading.

At one point in the article, when Waldman discusses Sullivan's role as a "digital anchorman," he mentions the curating function of a blogger:

During the 2009 Iran election protests, Sullivan played Walter Cronkite in a way I hadn't seen before.  Instead of calling on correspondents in the field, he did something unheard of.  He sampled interesting bits of media from around the internet--a tweet from a civilian, a quote from a foreign journalist, pictures from websites, blogger analysis, etc...  This kind of curating function has since become a staple of modern digital media, but Sullivan was one of the first to understand its value.

The blogger as curator.  I like that.  I think it works well to describe a history blog like The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

Now if I can only get Sullivan to mention us just once before he retires!