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March 20, 2013 4:27 PM Blame Benen

By Ed Kilgore

I first noticed this story at the blog of the Poynter Institute, a journalism education outfit, and figured they were reflecting special solicitude for the work-load of their charges:

The Washington Post’s arts and living section, Style, is looking for a blogger, an internal announcement reads. Whoever lands this position may want to invest in a serious coffee machine:
“This blogger should be able to identify trends, cutting through the noise of the Internet to bring context and perspective to a Washington audience. We envision at least a dozen pieces of content per day, with the knowledge that one great sentence can equal one great post.”
Elizabeth Flock resigned from her blogging position at the Post last year after failing to credit another news outlet in an aggregated piece. Patrick Pexton, then the paper’s ombudsman, warned against the high-volume, low-oversight blogging she and other Post bloggers told him she was required to do. Post bloggers, he wrote, “said that they felt as if they were out there alone in digital land, under high pressure to get Web hits, with no training, little guidance or mentoring and sparse editing.”

Now amazement at WaPo’s insane expectations seems to be spreading elsewhere in the blogosphere.

I can’t help but laugh—or maybe shudder—since 12 posts is the daily target at PA. We don’t do any “one-sentence posts” but I guess tracking down a music video and briefly presenting it each morning is light duty. And I get some respite from other posters, particularly when we are rolling out a new issue of the magazine.

But if this pace is now in danger of becoming the Gold Standard, even for “arts and living” bloggers, you know whom to blame: Brother Steve Benen, who started this madness and continues it to this day with consistent excellence. Anyone who thinks this level of volume necessarily produces a lot of inaccurate, superficial or sloppy content really hasn’t been paying attention to the Maddowblog, or to PA.

UPDATE: To commenter Sheila: yes, I have typos now and then (usually corrected quickly and sometimes, as in this case, in response to alert commenters), and I know it’s annoying, but in most cases they don’t inhibit reader comprehension, and I hope it is no one’s most important criterion for blog quality. I’ll try to approach perfection, but again, I don’t think typos were what the debate over WaPo’s expectations was really about.

To commenter anandine: Yes, you’re right, I shouldn’t talk about the work load, and I’ll try to stop that. But as my wife notes often, I am largely bereft of in-person social interaction during the day, so I’m inclined to talk to my friends about it, and you guys are it!

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • bdop4 on March 20, 2013 4:36 PM:

    Unfortunately, Ed, you and Steve are the exception, not the rule. That said, you've only done nine posts so far today and need three more to meet your quota (or there will be no gruel for you tonight)! Crack! (of the whip)

    :)

  • Sheila on March 20, 2013 4:38 PM:

    And yet there is a typo in your lede. Please do a quick spell check before writing, "Anyone who thinks this level of volume necessarily produces a lot of inaccurate, superficial or sloppy content really hasn’t been paying attention to the Maddowblog, or to PA."

  • anandine on March 20, 2013 4:39 PM:

    You talk about the volume of posts a lot, and it bothers me a little, because I like to pretend that the bloggers I read are just interested people, not employees hired to crank out so many posts a day. It's like pretending that actors are their characters, real people. I know about the business of blogging, but I like to forget about it while reading about politics and pretend that you just have something you want to get off your chest.

    I'd also like a pony.

  • bmcchgo on March 20, 2013 4:59 PM:

    Benen truly is the Michael Jordan of this here craft you call 'blogging'. Which makes you Ed, uh, Bill Russell?

  • troglodyte on March 20, 2013 5:12 PM:

    No, Brother Kilgore is Scotty Pippen.

  • Kordo on March 20, 2013 5:19 PM:

    I chew you out a lot, Mr. Kilgore, when I think you're wrong. So, it's only fair to yawp when I think you're right. Steve "Output" Benen fucked it up for everyone. This blogging thing used to be light-duty. Smoke a blunt, check out some sites for research, eat a sammich, look at porn, then maybe post your thoughts and look at some more porn. Now? Like the Bataan Death March. I get tired trying to read all the stuff he comes up with. The man does not sleep.

    You're doing a fine job, IMHO, even if I do bitch a lot.

  • pol on March 20, 2013 5:46 PM:

    I think you do a great job, Ed. I also like Steve Benen, Josh Marshall and his crew, and Kevin Drum. Yes, every now and then you make a typo or use a homonym for the word you've meant, but as far as journalism is concerned, I think you are all great.

    When I see an obvious typo, I email the author privately... I don't slam him in the blog thread. It just isn't that important. He/she's doing the quality of work that most "journalists" don't even approach.

    BTW, thanks, Ed, for your quality journalism. You do the country a great service.

  • Cybrguy on March 20, 2013 7:15 PM:

    Don't worry about it, Ed. You are doing a great job. And nobody is Benen but Benen, so in comparison to everyone else you are still doing great... ;)

  • arkie on March 20, 2013 10:32 PM:

    Benen is the Nate Silver of bloggers. And, Ed, you are a worth successor.

  • arkie on March 20, 2013 10:34 PM:

    A single two sentence entry is my only output for the day and I still screw it up.

    You, Ed, are his worthy successor.

  • James M on March 20, 2013 11:33 PM:

    I am frankly in awe of Steve, Ed, and the rest. I just obtained a domain and started a blog a few weeks ago. The first thing I realized was that there aren't nearly as many interesting, ready-made for blogging issues or stories as I thought. Finding something worthwhile to write about every day is quite challenging. Next, writing even a relatively short post (250-300 words) takes a lot of thought and preparation. You have to be accurate: If you say something happened 10 years ago it had better be 10 years and not 9 or 11. You have to spell people's names correctly and find reliable sources to be used as background references and links.

    Then, there are the typos. I realized my comments had lots of typos but I figured, "So what?". However, a public blog with typos is real bad. There is also, of course, the quality of the writing itself. It is fresh, interesting, neither too short nor overly wordy? Have you used the correct metaphors or expressions, etc.? I am worried about all of this and I am still averaging less than 1 post a day! The blog is still unknown so I am under no pressure to increase my output. The productivity and quality of high-profile bloggers like Steve and Ed never ceases to amaze me. If I become half as good as them I will be more than satisfied!

  • Jim Treacher on March 21, 2013 9:10 AM:

    "Anyone who thinks this level of volume necessarily produces a lot of inaccurate, superficial or sloppy content really hasn’t been paying attention to the Maddowblog, or to PA."

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on March 21, 2013 9:38 AM:

    Hats off to you and Benen!

    I have often pondered how in tarnation either of you could complete so many posts in one day. Of course, I'm using the reference point of my lazy ass college days when writing a 500-word essay took me nearly a week. I've committed myself to keeping a daily journal, and I can barely keep up with writing about my own damn life on a semi-daily basis!!! (Probably because I'm all up in the PA all damn day...)

    And, OMG!!! I don't know about any other readers, but it was one hellacious task to keep up with both Benen and Ed during the election season! My work definitely suffered...

  • low-tech cyclist on March 21, 2013 9:38 AM:

    I've said this a couple times before in comments here: Benen's a special case. Nobody else should expect themselves to maintain his pace.

    Ed, if your bosses at the WM expect Benen-like output from you, seriously, tell them to shove it. I'd rather see 7-8 thoughtful posts a day than a dozen hurried ones.

    Not to mention, blogging should be a basically enjoyable job. You really shouldn't feel like you're chained to the oars.

    Benen's the guy in the 99th percentile. Expecting 99th-percentile output from everyone is absurd.

  • cmdicely on March 21, 2013 11:01 AM:

    I can't help but laugh—or maybe shudder—since 12 posts is the daily target at PA.

    And since it became the target, the quality has dropped considerably. 12 posts a day barely leaves time to thoroughly read all the things being commented on, much less put much effort into analysis.

    More isn't better, its just more.

  • paul on March 21, 2013 11:55 AM:

    Add me to the list of people who would be happy if there were fewer posts with a little more oomph to each one. A lot of stuff in that dozen seems to be either filler or "So-and-so posted this, so I have to say something or else everyone will go over there."

  • Snoe on March 22, 2013 1:25 AM:

    Hey Treacher, I've always wondered - did you steal that drive-by asshole tactic from Steve Sailer, or vice versa?