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March 13, 2005
Blogosphere Created, Women & Minorities Hardest Hit

An old joke about media bias has the New York Times running a headline on the last day of time that reads, "World Ends: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit". Somehow that joke immediately came to mind when I read Steven Levy's truly clueless piece for tomorrow's Newsweek that claims the blogosphere is a club for white men only:

At a recent Harvard conference on bloggers and the media, the most pungent statement came from cyberspace. Rebecca MacKinnon, writing about the conference as it happened, got a response on the "comments" space of her blog from someone concerned that if the voices of bloggers overwhelm those of traditional media, "we will throw out some of the best ... journalism of the 21st century." The comment was from Keith Jenkins, an African-American blogger who is also an editor at The Washington Post Magazine [a sister publication of NEWSWEEK]. "It has taken 'mainstream media' a very long time to get to [the] point of inclusion," Jenkins wrote. "My fear is that the overwhelmingly white and male American blogosphere ... will return us to a day where the dialogue about issues was a predominantly white-only one." ...

Does the blogosphere have a diversity problem?

In an endeavor where everyone works for themselves -- no hiring barriers, no potentially discriminatory prerequisites -- this has to be one of the dumbest premises I've yet read about the blogosphere. Anyone with access to the Internet, including the local library, can start a blog, for free. The value of the blog gets determined by two governing mechanisms, neither of which has anything to do with race or gender. Primarily, the quality and timeliness of the writing gives most of the value, and what's left can generally be chalked up to marketing.

Every successful blog I know outside of those written by established authors (ie, Michelle Malkin), including mine, started with one reader. In my first month, I sent e-mails out to a number of bloggers asking for reciprocal links, most of which went ignored. After that, I started paying more attention to what the other bloggers wrote, extended the conversation by linking back to them and providing a substantial response, and more bloggers got interested. I posted comments on their sites to get better known. I got a couple of huge breaks, especially from the guys at Power Line and Hugh Hewitt after that, which made it much easier to break out of the pack. I wrote lots of e-mails to a number of other bloggers, not just saying "Read this!", but explaining why my post might be interesting. I spent time learning what might interest one blogger and not another, I learned not to send broadcast e-mails, and as my readership increased, I found out who read me and didn't need to get e-mails from me.

In short, I took the time to learn my market and adapt accordingly. I haven't stopped marketing the blog, either, and don't plan to anytime soon.

Anyone who wants to be successful at blogging can achieve it, as long as they're willing to write well and often and market themselves effectively. Even established authors don't automatically transfer their success to the blogosphere. Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt have because they understand the blog market -- literally, Hugh wrote the book on it -- and are willing to put effort into building networks of friends and collaborators. La Shawn Barber got me interested by sending me a couple of well-reasoned and persuasive e-mails, not just her URL and a request for a link back.

Now we have Keith Jenkins, who might have a legitimate gripe about corporate media, complaining that an all-volunteer effort somehow lacks diversity. All Jenkins needs to do to address that is to start his own blog and plan for its success and encourage others to do the same. Even siller is the suggestion for established bloggers to link to non-English-language sites in order to promote diversity. If I can't read it, why would I link to it?

Right or left, WASP or not, no barriers exist for entrants except for quality and desire. The solution to a perceived lack of diversity isn't charity links, but for simply more bloggers to start writing about what interests them in an interesting way and to make themselves known in the blogging community. E-mail knows no race and good writing knows no cultural or gender boundaries.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 13, 2005 9:11 PM

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