Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sullydish Bows Out

One of my favourite blogs has been Andrew Sullivan's "Daily Dish".  It's been running for years, mainly under the auspices of the different publications that Andrew Sullivan has written for - the Atlantic, the Daily Beast - and whichever publication has sponsored it it has always maintained a very individual approach.  And it was exhaustive.  Sullivan updated his thing many times a day; it was pretty exhausting keeping up if you wanted to be a regular reader, but he so often unearthed good stuff elsewhere on the web, or provided his own eloquent arguments and counter-arguments that he was a must-read, whether several times daily, daily, weekly, occasionally - never less than fascinating.

One of the early political bloggers to make a splash, he's finishing up now.  He's been running the Dish as an independent company for the past two years, and while the revenue's been healthy his "note to my readers" talks about the exhausting nature of blogging several times a day, responding, reading, staying abreast of everything......  Reading some of the professional blogger responses to his news,  they join with him in noting how all-consuming their immersion in the digital world has been. 

Is this important?  Well, if you read and rely on Sullivan's Dish then clearly yes.  If you've never come across it, obviously no.  But it has this.  Sullivan was an early pioneer of a digital conversation that grew to include huge numbers of people, who would never have been able to raise their voices in a public forum before and which in a way prefigured the enormous twittersphere and the advance of citizen media.  Sullivan was a journalist and professional writer, but his blog was produced in such a way as to give voice to many diverse readers who were not.  It also directed readers to a host of other articles and posts elsewhere on a rapidly expanding web.  Most of all it was a clear, distinctive voice in the national, and international conversation.

There was a point at which thousands of blogs were being set up daily, many unread except by their authors, many fading quickly into dis-use, because actually blogging requires discipline and commitment.  Many of us who blog do so largely for ourselves, pleased if we garner a handful of readers every so often, but adding more to the noise of the internet ether than to its elucidation and, whilst parading our of course centrally important viewpoints we are probably not extending them very far.  Sullivan's blog added to the noise, certainly, but it became a huge noise that drew people towards it and provoked myriad responses.  That was what blogging could be at its finest, a world which one commentator on the Dish's imminent demise (Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith as it happens) suggests is fast disappearing as new media alters and changes.

But as Sullivan, and several of his responders, notes, the digital life started to take over.  Ridiculously so.  And he has decided to head back into a real world of contemplative reading, responses that don't have to be instant, writing at length and over time, and relating to his human friends again.  In person.  Face to face sort of thing.

I've enjoyed Sullivan's blogging, really appreciated his brilliant and passionate advocacy of Obama's politics and presidency, enjoyed the many views from people's windows that he's published; but I'm looking forward to reading his next stuff, honed over time, and as I read his 'last post' I'm aware of just what a minnow an erratic and small-scale blog like this is (which is sort of humbling), but also how I could never have gone for it in the way he has.  But I'm glad he did.


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