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Jun 6 / King Kaufman

A response to my response: How writing is a conversation, not a performance

J.D Drew

J.D Drew

On Friday I posted a shoutout to a couple of baseball slideshows, one of them a review of the worst free-agent signings in Boston Red Sox history.

I couldn’t resist mentioning that I took issue with one of the players listed, J.D. Drew at No. 4, who, according to Fangraphs’ player valuation tool, has been worth just about exactly what he’s been paid over the course of his Red Sox contract.

Today the writer, Red Sox featured columnist Matt Strobl responded with another slideshow: J.D. Drew: Why he has been a bust with the Boston Red Sox.

Strobl told me in an email that he was “inspired” by my post to “go all Drew-crazy” with this new piece.

This second piece makes a great point about how writing in these times is a conversation, not a speech or a broadcast, which is the old-media model, and one that, in my experience, far too many people in so-called new media still live by.

The old model was: I write something, and maybe a few readers write me a letter in response, but what’s really happening here is that I, the writer, am broadcasting my views. When I finish writing, the process is over. Everything else is sort of like the applause or booing after a performance.

Today, the writer is just one participant in a conversation, and the written piece — or multimedia event or whatever it is — is one part of it. The comments and Twitter arguments and blog-post rebuttals and so on are not mere responses to the original piece, an audience applauding or booing. They’re all part of one organic whole.

Writers who get this, who engage in this type of back and forth with what press critic Jay Rosen refers to as the people formerly known as the audience, are giving those people a lot more than writers who don’t get it. And they’re getting more too. More engagement, more interesting dialog and likely more readers.

I still disagree with Strobl’s analysis of J.D. Drew, by the way. I’m thinking about writing a piece in response if I get time. If not, I’ll at least comment on his piece.

Don’t treat comments and tweets and Facebook or blog posts in response to what you write as afterthoughts or mere reaction. They’re as valuable as your piece, part of a conversation. We’re working on a web here, not a stage.

  • The Talking Giants Baseball Blog

    I like how both sides of the conversation is being mentioned on B/R. It makes B/R look like they take on a balanced discussion, which is something journalists should do — look at both sides. I am glad B/R writers are doing this.

  • Matt Strobl

    I wonder if we’re making J.D. feel special?

    I couldn’t agree more with King’s take. Debate is at the very core of fandom, and it’s a big part of why we follow and watch sports to begin with.

  • William Russo

    I must disagree, whether I am respectful or not, these sentences will show. For the most part, the audience (especially on B/R) are nice people who politely comment, but there is an element of response that is the knife in the dark.

    Writers put their names on their work. They are upfront, but the audience is not necessarily. Some may use what once was called “an alias” but now is called a handle or moniker. The reader is not engaged in conversation, but in anonymous character assassination. Until readers/responders can be as accountable as the writer, this is not a conversation. It is the faceless attack of cowards and bullies.

    Those few often poison the well for others, but how many nameless people respond from the great unknown of the Internet or Twitterverse to say in comments what they would never say to a writer’s face?

    I wish this were a perfect world of polite conversations, but the Internet and blogs have produced something else: a darker side.

    My view has been sports is a quaint diversion from hardships in life. Some readers are far more vehement and rabid (not passionate). Let’s have readers sign their real names to their comments, like the writers.

    Now, I will step down from the soap box and go back to the vaudeville circuit known as the blogging.