Hey Scoble, Independent blog editorial policies rock!

Language warning: the last paragraph includes a word that may upset some readers.

What makes a blogger different from a journalist, beside formal training? The biggest difference broadly speaking is that journalists write about what they’re told to write, bloggers blog about what they are interested in, or have knowledge of.

As blogging matures, the top of the blogosphere is blending into the mianstream, and the line between blog and traditional news provider is difficult to spot online. I was interested to learn recently from a number of people across several blogs, that their blogging revolved around topics dictated to them from above. It’s not strange in a traditional news room sense, but it’s something that hasn’t traditionally been seen with blogs.

I’ve acted in a number of roles in blogging over the years. I never had paid staff at The Blog Herald, only the occasional guest writer, so I never really had cause to exert editorial control. At Weblog Empire, I hired people who knew what they were writing about, and although I may have occasionally forwarded a story idea, or made a suggestion about tone or frequency, I never regularly dictated what they wrote about. Same at b5media, although that would have been impossible to micro-manage. As a writer at TechCrunch I can say that for all his faults, Michael Arrington gave me nearly complete reign to write about what ever I felt like. He may have occasionally forwarded story ideas, or suggested that I don’t write about a company, but 95% of the time I did as I pleased….well, as long as what I did delivered Techmeme headlines. With that background, I’ve adopted the same policy at The Inquisitr. I do forward some things on, and occasionally ask for posts to be written up, particularly where I can’t do them myself, and we do talk about focus around big stories on occasion as well. But that aside, the team here at The Inquisitr has free reign to do as they please in terms of picking content.

So then Scoble wrote this on a Google Reader share on one of Steven Hodson’s posts

“Oh, Duncan is now saying “there’s worse to come.” Fear monger! I get it, he’s playing both sides. He gets his new author to attack me for being too negative, then he goes negative himself. That way he gets both audiences: the folks who want just positive news reported, and the folks who want the hard truth. Heheh, brilliant strategy. Me? I’m going to Zig to this Zag.”

I could spend an entire post covering why he’s wrong about the negative/ positive stuff, but I’ve already dedicated a number of posts to the subject (this one was posted BEFORE he made this comment), and yes, we are fence sitting to a degree, but overall we’re going to try and be more positive because I believe that our mix is better suited to good news.

The issue I have is the highlighted section. I emailed Scoble two days ago saying that I was disappointed with his comments and explaining our editorial policy. He didn’t respond, so lets make this public.

Independent blog editorial policies rock.

I didn’t ask Steven to do a hit post on Scoble, and trust me, if I was going to go after Scoble, I wouldn’t delegate the task, I’d do it myself. When we announced Steven joining the team, I noted in that post that I wouldn’t always agree with what he wrote…but that was the strength in the hire. Most of the debate in that post seemed to be more centered around the comments, but maybe I misread it. Either way, Steven writes what he believes, and that’s pretty much the end of the story.

You see, when people work with me, I trust their ability to pick stories. In fact, it’s the key factor that influenced my hiring of our key writers. I mean this as no disrespect to our writing team, but not one of them was the best qualified for the positions they have in terms of writing history of the low three figures we got in applications. There were some amazing applicants, some who had worked in the mainstream media and on leading blogs and similar websites. Other sites have probably since snapped them up, and I’m sure many of them are doing very well. But a great resume and way with words doesn’t always come with the ability to pick stories, and the ability to provide comment on those stories. Our main writers won their positions because I believed in their ability to be independent, to pick great stories, to provide their unique take on them, and to do their own thing. I believed that I could in the most part take a hands off editorial approach with them (in part due to geography, because I’m not online until mid-afternoon US time), and although I may forward the odd email, or talk about things we can do better, or story focus on big news days, 95% of the time I never exert any influence on their writing. I most certainly do not order hit posts on people like Scoble. Again, if I was going to come after someone, I’d do it myself.

I mean this as no disrespect either to my many friends, and associates, who work for blogs where content is dictated from the top down, because I know many of them are capable bloggers who are more than able to pick good stories. But when you’re in a blogging position where stories are dictated to you, you become something close to a journalist than just a blogger. There’s some irony there in the years old are bloggers journalists debate, and likewise I’m not belittling journalists either. But there is that distinction.

Bloggers tend to be passionate about what they write. The best bloggers are often passionate bloggers, one thing I’m sure Scoble might agree with me on. If you’re picking the posts you’re writing every day, chances are that some, if not all of them will be tied into passionate blogging. If you’re writing about stuff dictated, there may be some crossover, but the chance of the topic and post not being passionate are greater than if you’d picked the topic yourself.

Scoble, I’m sorry you feel the need to play up victimhood at the drop of the hat. This year, despite our rocky start (the first thing you ever said to me in person when I met you was “do you have any startups in Australia”…I’ll let our Australian readers explain what’s wrong with that statement…considering you were with Chris Saad tonight 🙂 ) I probably have gained more respect and understanding of you, and I very nearly included your shared items, and even your blog, as part of our mix on the front page with the new site. But if you’re going to cry like a little baby every time someone disagrees with you, and if you’re incapable of understanding that a multi-person blog has an independent editorial policy, and that there’s not a conspiracy from above to get you, you can get fucked. I’m not changing our editorial policy because you don’t like it. I believe in our bloggers on this site, and that respect includes faith in their ability to write what they please, even if I don’t always agree with it. I’d rather this then a team of bloggers who just churn stuff out. Passionate bloggers Scoble…remember?