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Jun 27 / King Kaufman

Friday reading: Is blogging just a format, or something more?

Some Friday reading.

Can the New York Times kill its blogs without losing the soul of blogging in the process? by Mathew Ingram, GigaOm

Is the medium the message? Or more precisely, is the format the message? The New York Times is closing or merging many of its blogs, including the popular breaking news blog The Lede. Assistant Managing Editor Ian Fisher says the Times will still be doing “bloggy content,” just not in the reverse-chronological blog format.

Ingram is skeptical, arguing that blogging is not just a format, it’s also a sensibility, and the Times is in danger of losing that as it absorbs the “bloggy content” into the rest of the operation. A couple of people from the Times’ Upshot blog took exception to Ingram’s piece.

Blogging pioneer Dave Winer argues that what the Times does isn’t actually blogging anyway.

In praise of the passive voice by Roy Peter Clark,

Clark is one of my favorite writing teachers, and here he gets into some advanced-class stuff by pointing out that while the active voice is usually preferable to the passive voice, there are times when the passive voice works beautifully. In other words, the passive voice shouldn’t be taboo, just used smartly:

I often teach a passage from the journalist Thomas French, who wrote the story of an aging chimp named Herman, a charismatic creature who died violently at a Tampa zoo. We learn that as an infant, Herman “was taken from his mother…then sold in an orange crate for $25 and a thumbprint. He was carried across an ocean, installed inside a cage, taught to depend on the imperfect love of strangers.” These verbs (my italics) are vivid enough: taken, sold, carried, installed, taught. They describe Herman as an orphan, a captive, a victim. He is passive, not the verbs.

On the other hand, Clark also wrote a piece arguing for the Oxford comma, so he’s pretty much dead to me.

Here’s another defense of the passive voice, from 2012: The Pleasures and Perils of the Passive by Constance Hale, New York Times.

How to do Twitter research on a shoestring by Kelly Fincham,

Also on Poynter, Fincham writes about the search for the perfect Twitter search tool, something of a “Holy Grail,” she writes, for journalism professors, and for anyone else who has tried to find needles in the haystack of the Twitter firehose. I know that’s a mixed metaphor. I like mixed metaphors.

A spoiler: Fincham recommends looking into a freemium tool called ScraperWiki.