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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Posts Tagged ‘Seattle Mariners’

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.

     Peace,

                                         Jim McPherson

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Media literacy, Personal, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

2008 Election: the biggest TV night in four years, and why I’ll miss it

Posted by James McPherson on November 4, 2008

Considering the name of this blog, obviously election night is bigger for me than the Super Bowl and the World Series combined (and not just because I cheer for two Seattle pro sports teams that have never won a single championship). Normally tonight I might be at an election party, or hunkered down with my wife in front of the television from mid-afternoon on, sometimes yelling at the screen (much like I do during Mariner and Seahawk games), making occasional derogatory remarks about the comments coming from various spin rooms.

But as much as we love/hate election night television, my wife and I both have chosen in recent elections to be more involved in the process. We voted early by mail; as with most years, I voted for mostly Democrats and a couple of Republicans. She is volunteering with a get-out-the-vote effort that runs through the afternoon, then will be watching the election night coverage on her own or with a friend. She and most of you will know results before I will. (If you want some good tips on how to watch the coverage, check out Thomas Edsall’s Huffington Post piece.)

For my part, a bunch of my Whitworth University students and I (along with students and a few faculty from Gonzaga and Eastern Washington University) will be immersed in a small part of the electoral media process, a part in which no other universities in the nation outside of New York can participate.

Here in Spokane County, we’ll be working for the Associated Press keeping track of results of every race in 31 states. Those of us working in downtown Spokane will be the first to hear the results from Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, among others. If you hear the networks make a call for one of those key states, they’ll do so largely based on the numbers from here, which will be updated via computer and sent to major news organizations every 30 seconds. (Incidentally, the Associated Press may have been the only news organization not make a faulty projection call during the 2000 election.)

Those of us in the call center, though, will hear the results one county at a time, and will be immersed in keeping track of numbers given to us over the phone for individual races. We won’t have time to check out who is winning overall, or to listen to the talking heads on the various networks. I will videotape the coverage, though with my home technology it will have to be from one of the major networks–I don’t have TIVO and my old machine can’t record from our CNN, MSNBC or Fox News stations.

I’ll tape coverage on the local ABC affiliate, KXLY, mostly because one of my Whitworth colleagues (academic vice president and political science professor Michael Le Roy) will do election night commentary for that network and I know that he is very good at it. KXLY has also invested quite a bit in technology for this election. You can see a preview of it at the station’s Web site. Le Roy has done the KXLY gig for years, though I did get the opportunity to fill in for him when he had to be out of town during the 2006 election.

I won’t be on television tonight, but if you’re in the Spokane area you can catch me on AM 790 radio with local journalist Rebecca Mack from 8 to 10 p.m. I’ll take a break from the AP call center and walk a block to the studio for the two-hour live show, then hustle back afterward to rejoin the call center.

I’ll get home in the wee hours of the morning, check out CNN, Fox and MSNBC before I go to bed, then teach three classes tomorrow morning. Since several students from the various classes will be with me at the call center, I assume they won’t expect me to be particularly coherent in class. Assuming, of course, they ever do.

I hope you, too, have found meaningful ways to be involved in this historic election. The American electoral system has numerous flaws, and the past two presidential elections have cause many to become cynical about the process. For that reason alone, we’d probably all benefit more from a Barack Obama landslide (which even Karl Rove predicts) than from a narrow John McCain victory (though even if Obama wins Virginia and Pennsylvania, indicating a landslide is in the offing, don’t expect an early McCain concession speech–both parties learned in 1980 how Jimmy Carter’s early concession affected other races in the West).

Frankly, unless you’re in a “swing state,” your individual vote for president won’t matter much. But you have a much greater chance of affecting local races, so take a bit of time to study the issues and local candidates, or to discuss them with trusted and more knowledgeable friends. Regardless of your favored candidates, you’ll probably feel better if you vote–and it might actually make a difference in the outcome. As Sarah Palin and I would agree about whether voting matters: You betcha.

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »