James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Blogosphere of flying: Leaving cyberspace to become more grounded

Posted by James McPherson on April 21, 2009

Yesterday I gave some of the  reasons why I have enjoyed maintaining this blog, and what might tempt me to continue it (and the nice responses I’ve already had to that post make it even more tempting). I also noted that tomorrow’s post, to be mostly a list of previous favorites, may be my last. (Despite the fact that, as my brother reminded me, I said in passing back in December that I’d be blogging “as long as the power was on.” But hey, Bush and Cheney were still in the White House then; who knew we would  still have affordable energy four months later?)

Anyway, today I’ll explain why I’m at least partially leaving cyberspace. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the biggest reason is the time involved. I loved how one respondent put it yesterday: “the beast that is online journalism,” even though what I do usually isn’t quite journalism.

On some days I have spent hours crafting a blog post that very few people would ever read. Oddly, by far my most popular post (in one-day numbers, not overall) was a four-paragraph piece I wrote in about 15 minutes just before going to bed one night. I typically spend anywhere from five to 15 hours a week doing this. During the past year I’ve written more than 300 posts, and have probably produced more words than were in my first and second books combined.

That’s time that I can now spend doing other things, including other writing. During the past year I have managed to write chapters for the country’s leading journalism history textbook and a forthcoming book about popular culture, but have other more personal projects in mind (including the books of fiction I mentioned yesterday). I might try to rework my doctoral dissertation into a book, if I find a publisher interested in the story of Samuel Day Jr. (the publisher of the Progressive during the 1979 H-bomb case).

I also have at least three other books I’d like to write–one that combines history, politics and journalism (the three areas that I studied for my Ph.D. and which of course also led to my most recent book), and a couple that would be exercises in literary nonfiction. Chances are I’ll also write more letters to the editor of my local newspaper, assuming it survives, and will continue to contribute comments to other people’s blogs. Though I don’t expect it, perhaps I’ll get an “offer I can’t refuse” to write something yet unforeseen.

Aside from writing, I might also get more exercise, play more golf, do more camping and fishing, watch more Seattle Mariners games, or spend more time doing nothing while sitting by the small pond I built in my back yard–mostly things that have the extra benefit of giving me more time with my wife.

Other activities that we or I have barely tried, but have enjoyed and might pursue further, include learning Spanish, kayaking, chess, ballroom dancing, and  learning to play blues harmonica. In short, I won’t live long enough to run out of things to do, even if I suddenly stop finding new interests.

In terms of teaching and technology, I intend to keep learning about it for the sake of (and from) my students. In a comment on yesterday’s post, one outstanding student noted, “I’m interested to hear about the ways you will hope to continue to show that to students if you are not blogging.” (That’s something else I should have thought to mention yesterday about reasons for blogging–it helps keep me accountable to the people I’m working for.)

A year has been long enough to learn what I felt I needed to learn about intensive blogging, and I intend to keep finding new ways of learning along with new ways of teaching. That’s also why a few years ago I briefly hosted a radio program. I never expected to become either a radio celebrity or an Internet star, but I greatly enjoyed both, and in both cases the learning experience was a main point of the activity.

Among the possibilities I’m now exploring are public access television, another radio program, and ways that I might incorporate technology into the aforementioned literary nonfiction projects. In the classroom, I’m bringing in more multimedia, and am seeking funding for flipcams to use in my reporting class. I also would welcome suggestions from any of you for ways to continue to improve my (and my students’) skills.

I do think it is important to try to recognize what you’re trying to achieve with an endeavor, and then to move on to something else when you either get reach your goal or realize that you never will. Of course that’s the same thinking that went into my fighting to get to–and then to get away from–the Presidential Inauguration back in January, and why I strongly dislike the fact that politicians are accused of “flip-flopping” if they change strategies as circumstances change.

If I chose to keep with blogging, readership might have continued to rise. Over the past 12 weeks, I’m averaging more than 180 hits per day, but like most other bloggers I reached fewer readers in a year of blogging than I did in a week of newspaper writing. Yet despite the small readership, my natural competitiveness sometimes makes me take this too seriously. I admit that I check the daily traffic, and want it to keep increasing.

The positive aspect of my competitive streak  is that if I’m putting something “out there,” I want to be able to stand by it and take some pride in it. I’m more careful when writing an argument than when I engage in verbal exchanges. That awareness of “public vs. private” is also why I now make my reporting students post their work on a blog to be read by people other than just them and me.

And speaking of being more thoughtful: I’m a feminist male who was a teenager in the 1970s and who now teaches a “women and media” class, so yes, the Erica Jong reference in the title above was intentional. Those of you who are teaching or majoring in psychology, gender studies, or English lit can now feel free to start your analysis engines.

Besides having other things I want to do (and probably for the sake of continued growth, need to do), I also recognize that there’s already too much hastily written stuff whirling around cyberspace–and no shortage of people writing about the same topics I do. Many of them are idiots, of course–but many others are smarter than I am. Links to several of them can be found on this page, though I’d also encourage you to find some favorites of your own. I’d also remind you not to fully believe any of them.

I briefly considered trying to open the blog up to advertising as a further media experiment, but don’t want to feel obligated to write (even if I have been somewhat obsessive about doing so even without pay). Besides, despite the fact that for years it provided my salary, I hate most forms of advertising. I can’t imagine working hard enough at this to make a living at it, even if I didn’t already have a “real job” that I love.

I will keep the blog alive (as long as the power is on, brother Guy), and may occasionally feel moved to post something. I’ll keep using blogs as a part of my journalism classes, and will encourage students to create their own. I’ll keep reading and commenting on other people’s blogs, including those of professional journalists, academics, students and former students.

Of course if you enjoy my writing, I’d encourage you to read my books, especially the less-academic second one titled, The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right. Or just fire me off an note–if you care enough to find my email address (hint: check “About the blogger”) and send me something, I’ll answer it.

Even if I don’t write more posts, I’ll keep the blog so that I (and others) can keep using  some of the pieces I’ve written during the past year, and especially to provide easy access to the links I’ve put together. I’ll continue to add to those links from time to time as I encounter relevant sites in the ever-expanding blogosphere.

Thank you for joining me on part of my journey. I hope you enjoy your future travels in cyberspace, wherever they may take you.


                                         Jim McPherson

14 Responses to “Blogosphere of flying: Leaving cyberspace to become more grounded”

  1. As shocked as I was by your announcement yesterday, your reasoning is very solid. (I know I’d like to have time to sit by a pond, especially in this weather.) I’d still like to see you post occasionally, as I enjoy reading your posts (even though more often than not I severely disagree with them). In any case, I think your past year has been very inspiring, both for students and for the student newspaper.

  2. James McPherson said

    Thanks, Morgan, for the nice comments. The fact that we disagree politically about most things illustrates one of the things that can be most useful in blogging, and in life in general–people of varying views having honest discussions while treating one another with respect.

    And by the way, not only will I keep reading your blog, but I look forward to seeing next year’s Whitworthian under your leadership as editor-in-chief. And who knows, after a break, maybe I’ll feel moved to post occasionally.

  3. Mike Ingram said

    As Bob Hope would sing “Thanks for the Memories.” I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughtful posts, both when I agreed and disagreed with you (which was surprisingly more often than not). I’ve appreciated your invitation to dialogue with a range of people. May the newly found hours in your life away from the computer bring you happiness.
    Palin 2012

  4. Gabrielle said

    Dude, Morgan, you’re editor of the Whitworthian next year?!?! NICE! Congrats! You may not remember me, but we were on News beat together last fall semester 😀 I’M psyched, for sure.

    *cough* anyway. Yeah…really well-reasoned post, I can’t really argue with it 🙂 Particularly the fact that it’ll free up more time for you to spend with your wife. Cute. I’m sad to see you go (I know, you’re not going anywhere, really) but I know it’s for a good reason, and I definitely want to take a class from you before I leave Whitworth. I’m not planning on working for the Whitworthian again, primarily because I’ve basically taken over as the main Whitworth Forum writer, which satisfies my need to write publicly about issues affecting the campus, as well as do some mild journalism-esque posts (ex: things that require research and interviewing, rather than just ‘op/ed’ posts).

    “Palin 2012”

    *cries quietly*

  5. James McPherson said

    Thanks, Mike and Gabrielle. You may have seen I mentioned both of you (by just your first names) in my post of the previous day as regulars that I enjoyed hearing from.

    Mike, I assume the number you put behind Palin’s name is your prediction of how many ethics complaints she will end up facing. 🙂 (See here for the latest.)

    In truth, I remember you and I discussing her merits in your office over lunch, which led to my recommending her as McCain’s VP nominee on this blog back in June. I think the campaign used her badly and I no longer think she’s got a credible shot next time around, but who knows? 2012 is a long time away in American politics, and Richard Nixon came back from much further down than she is.

    Gabrielle, I’ll keep reading your work, and would welcome you in class. You might especially like the media criticism class I teach every spring and/or the “women and media” section of Core 350 that I’ll be doing both semesters next year.

  6. Gabrielle said

    Media Criticism it is, then 🙂 *writes it down on ‘classes I want to take’ list*

  7. zelda said

    See ya James……..be happy

    It’s been interesting!

  8. James McPherson said

    It has indeed, Zelda–thanks for your contributions. And Gabrielle, I’ll look forward to being able to hear your insights in class as well as reading them.

  9. […] now I’ll duck away from posting for yet another unknown period. But I’m proud to have recognition of some of my […]

  10. Sorry to see you go, James, but I completely understand your reasoning. Your comment about not living long enough to run out of things to do, even with adding no new interests hits home with me as well. I’ve got books piled onto books that I plan to get around to reading, but can only plow through them so fast because of time spent at the newspaper, or when I get home, working on my Web site, or writing, or playing guitar, or trying to give the wife and kid the attention they deserve while secretly wishing I was reading. I’ve enjoyed reading your stuff and wish you well in your other endeavors.

  11. Gabrielle said


    Thoughtful Comment!

    Very nice!

    As do I…my family/friends/boyfriend are important to me too…so is reading…xD so is wishing…

    “I’ve enjoyed reading your stuff and wish you well in your other endeavors.”

    precisement, mon ami ❤

  12. James McPherson said

    Thanks, both of you. I also hope to get more reading done–including of your blogs.

  13. […] at the bottom of a CNN story. That’s also more readers than I get most months, since I gave up blogging almost daily in April […]

  14. […] And perhaps I’ll write something here once in a while. I can’t seem to help myself, despite my best intentions. […]

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