Feedback Through a Fire House

Posted on February 14, 2007

David Carr, a New York Times journalist who also blogs the Times' Carpetbagger blog, has written an interesting essay about blogs and journalism called 24-Hour Newspaper People.

In it Carr writes about comments, reader feedback and the obsessive nature of blogs. Carr even writes about using a little reader linkbait trick of his own:

Sometimes, I feel a little lonely on my Oscar blog. The solution: I take a rhetorical baseball bat to a fan favorite, "Borat," and hundreds of rabid commentators appear. Hey, I've got readers.

Despite what some bloggers may think about newspaper blogs Carr says many journalists are more in touch with their readers today.

Independent bloggers can laugh all they want about the imperious posture of the mainstream media, but I and others at The Times have never been more in touch with readers' every robustly communicated whim than we are today. Not only do I hear what people are saying, but I also care.

Sometimes I wonder whether I care to the point that I neglect other things, like, oh, my job. Tweaking the blog is seductive in a way that a print deadline never is. By the time I am done posting entries, moderating comments and making links, my, has the time flown. I probably should have made some phone calls about next week's column, but maybe I'll write about, ah, blogging instead.

Carr also writes about the addictive quality of blogging and how it can be difficult to pull away from the nearly continuous stream of comments and feedback.

There has always been a feedback loop in journalism - letters to the editor, the phone and more recently e-mail messages. But a blog provides feedback through a fire hose. The nice thing about putting out a newspaper was that, at some point, the story was set and the writer got to go home. Now I have become a day trader, jacked in to my computer and trading by the second in my most precious commodity: me. How do they like me now? What about ... now? Hmmmm ... Now?

Bloggers at the New York Times have a vastly different experience with feedback and comments than many bloggers because they deal with far more of it right from the start than most bloggers ever do. There are many bloggers than would love to have that kind of a readership. Every blogging journalist probably has a different reaction to what Carr calls "feedback through a fire hose." For example, Carr's take on journalism and the interactive nature of new media is quite different than Joel Stein's rant against reader feedback.

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