Vulnerability: Why journalists should blog

Stephen Baker

Vulnerability. It's a good thing. It's what people need to establish healthy relationships, and it's why journalists (among others) should blog.

This thought occurred to me when I was talking to Technorati's David Sifry six weeks ago. He said that he tended to place more trust in journalists who blog. Why was this? They're representing themselves in an open forum. They appear more vulnerable. I certainly felt the sharp end of this when I misquoted B.L. Ochman in an article a year ago. (I felt miserable, of course, but it was also something of a relief to be able to blog a correction and an apology immediately, and not have to wait for the magazine to respond.)

What's so great about vulnerability? To be vulnerable is to have your defenses down. Whether this is in a relationship or at work, it usually leads to better communication. Often you find that you didn't need the defenses in the first place. They just got in the way. (Just to be clear, I'm talking about human communication here. This is not true for soldiers.)

Many journalists view the blog world as threatening. To a certain degree, they're right. It's virtually lawless and has plenty of flamers, spammers, wingnuts and MSM loathers. In other words, it's much like the outside world. But I'd say that journalists who don't venture into this world are more vulnerable, not less. If they get into trouble, they have few allies outside their own guild. And if they're not blogging, good chance they won't hear the angry voices til they grow into a storm.

Some personal stuff under the fold...

I promised a week ago to blog from the Great Midwest. I then proceeded to drive with my family from New Jersey to Marion, Ohio, and from there to Madison, Wis., and then back. Two thousand miles in seven days, and I'm sorry to say I didn't once get this laptop into a WiFi hot spot. I was otherwise engaged.

One thing I wanted to blog about, but didn't. Crossing Indiana, we were getting hungry and we drove down to the Amish town of Nappanee. Amish are famous for good food. But the only Amish place we found was Amish Acres, more of a tourist haven than I could stomach. Disappointed, we ended up at a fast-food Italian place. Turned out that the woman running the place was born and raised Amish. She sat down with us as we ate and told us about her life, her marriage, her decision after having four children to leave the church--and how she is now officially "shunned" by the community, including much of her family. The result: We learned more about Amish life in this Italian restaurant than we would have at Amish Acres.