October 2, 2004

Anatomy of a Decision
Bush reacts to Kerry

Kerry presents his case during first Presidential Debate while Bush
looks on.

At 7:30 yesterday morning I was riding the subway to work when were delayed by a dead train at the stop ahead of us. I was tired. I had stayed up late to watch the Presidential Debate and the ensuing analysis and spin.

Yesterday I woke up early and immediately went for the morning paper, again interested in the pundits’ reaction. But, as luck would have it, the paper never arrived. Instead I sat down with my oatmeal and watched my taped PBS version of the debate.

As we sat on the track, I decided to write a piece about the differences I had discovered between the various networks’ telecasts. And by the time I arrived at work I had a 500 word essay. I had used my time very well.

My initial thought was to publish the piece on this blog. But then I wondered if the Washington Post might be interested in it for their Op-Ed page. When I spoke with them they said their normal procedures were to notify a writer within 2-3 days —and only if they wanted to print it. However, the woman told me that if I emailed it to her immediately she might be able to let me know by the afternoon. Thoughts of a large circulation swirled in my head. I sent it off.

I was hopeful. It was timely. The debate had ended less than eight hours before. And I hadn’t heard anyone on the news speak to the issues I had written about. But as the afternoon turned to evening, and still with no word from them, I began to question my decision. And this morning I adjusted my plan. The news shows and even the Post had begun to talk about the reaction shots of the President. I had lost my small but initial advantage. And there was a lesson to be learned.

Despite the large number of people who might see my piece if it was printed in the newspaper, the immediacy of the idea was more important. The Post’s vetting policy is too slow. They couldn’t react fast enough for me. I had a more direct and quicker way of getting my idea out to the public.

I should have known better. I’ve been a proponent of Web-based publishing for years, both as an artist and a writer. It cuts the middleman and committees down to one person’s decision: mine. And I have crafted my own vetting process that insures a level of professionalism and good writing. Posting daily isn’t a requirement. I only write on subjects important to me. I edit and re-edit and often sit on pieces for a day just to make sure they are written as well as possible. I have my standards.

After the recent CBS debacle over memos about Bush’s military service we learned that, while not journalism in the traditional sense, blogging can present ideas, question, and even reveal in the ways old-world journalism also aspires. And much more quickly. As we rely more and more on the immediacy of the Net, traditional media will have to make major adjustments or they will lose their value.

A niche audience reads my writing. If I’m lucky I have 1000 readers. Even so, next time I will rely on my own publishing empire.

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