Ed Driscoll

"Blogosphere Created, Women & Minorities Hardest Hit"

Ed Morrissey skewers this Newsweek article calling for greater diversity in the Blogosphere. Morrissey writes:

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.

* * *

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.

That’s exactly right. I was a freelance journalist (and of course, very much still am) for about five years before I had a Weblog (it’s a sort of badge of honor that Glenn Reynolds linked to me before this site existed–heck, before I had even heard of his InstaPundit blog. (I found the link nine days before 9/11, via a Google vanity search.)

Prior to discovering InstaPundit, rightly or wrongly, I thought of Weblogs as being online diaries for teenagers to describe their latest trip to the shopping mall. It was only because Glenn used Blogger’s software at the time that it began to dawn on me that a Weblog could do much more than simply be a daily personal diary for the world to see. I think I had a reaction similar to a young Woody Allen seeing Mort Sahl for the first time, and realizing there was a different form of humor than just one-liners and shtick, or a young musician hearing Charlie Parker and thinking, “Wow–there really is more to jazz than swing…!”

But for a good year or so before InstaPundit, I was a daily reader of Reason; which at the time was edited by Virginia Postrel and included a link to her Dynamist site, which I read almost as often. But because there was no Blogger button, I just considered it a self-published e-zine. As much as I admired the form, in mid-2001, when I was just considering establishing my own site, I didn’t want to FTP up a new page every time I wrote something. (I think James Lileks still works that way with his Bleat. To this day, I don’t think he considers it a Weblog, even though he appears to have no problem with others viewing it that way.)

So when I was originally creating my Website in early 2002, I tried to combine the best elements of Glenn and Virginia’s sites. This Weblog was very much modeled after Glenn’s InstaPundit; the home page was modeled after Postrel’s. And the site originally used Blogger templates because it was a quick and dirty way for someone like myself with limited HTML skills to launch a Website.

Last year, I hired Stacy Tabb to redesign the site–not because of her gender, but because of her design skills: she designed so many of the top sites in the Blogosphere: Glenn’s, Steve Green’s VodkaPundit, Power Line, etc.

More Morrissey:

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.

Also spot-on. I didn’t–and don’t read Postrel’s site because of her sex; I read it because she’s a terrific writer and thinker. The same is true for Joanne Jacobs, Betsy Newmark, La Shawn Barber, Michelle Malkin, each of whom are daily–or nearly daily reads.

Since the early 1990s, newspapers have tried to promote diversity purely as a function of skin color and gender. But getting noticed in the Blogosphere isn’t a function of diversity–it’s a function of talent, perseverance, and marketing skills. And as Morrissey notes above, all of those skills are very much color–and gender–blind.

Whoever masters those skills will rise to the top, but the number of Weblogs can literally grow indefinitely. This is a remarkably different situation compared to newspapers, where several factors limit entry and success. One is politics: both mastery of office politics and having the same political worldview as your employer are needed.

The other is the need–or lack thereof–for newspapers to hire new employees. A field which is seeing the number of subscribers either leveling off or declining isn’t going to offer a newcomer the best chance for entry.

Contrast that with the Blogosphere, where there’s room in the long tail for literally anyone who wants to climb onboard.