by Scott McLemee on September 17, 2006

Watching established news organizations set up homesteads in the blogosphere is a pastime of great interest to me, both as a professional writer and an amateur social psychologist. Few phenomena better illustrate the role that anxiety plays in the life of large institutions.

In some few cases, the internal culture of a magazine or newspaper will encourage (or at least tolerate) a degree of initiative on the part of the writing staff. But most places are just too inflexible for that. And it shows, at all levels.

The habits fostered by an entrenched bureaucracy combine with hazy notions of “our audience” (often treated with an overblown deference finally indistinguishable from condescension) to yield a rigidity embodying pure terror. There is a clutching at reliable formulas, and a deep fear of the interesting, let alone the unusual. A compulsive avoidance of experimentation sometimes alternates (in an almost cyclothymic way) with joylessly frantic, top-down efforts at renewal.

“Be spontaneous!” comes the directive from on high. “Just not too spontaneous!”

And you see the spastic consequence in the blogs, which should probably be called Unclear on the Concept or Lipstick on the Corpse or Watching Grandma Dance the Frug.
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Road trip highlights

by Eszter Hargittai on September 17, 2006

I wrote a summary of my drive West for friends and family. Given the interest some people around here seem to have in highways and that part of the country, I thought I’d post a copy of it here.

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