Trying “Medium” and Failing Hard

You’re probably aware that one of the guys who brought you twitter has now brought forth “Medium.” It’s a blogging service dedicated to quality, longform reads and other things that readers/media junkies like, such as photojournalism and editorial cartoons.

It should be paradise for me. I love the large, gorgeous font you compose posts with; the headings, subheadings, and subtitles make everything look like its from the New Yorker or Atlantic or something. The notes feature is great for commenting as you read. You don’t even have to read the whole piece to engage the author thoughtfully. For a while, Medium paid professional writers to get their community started at a certain quality. The lure of having someone educated, media savvy, and appreciative critique and read your work is not a small one.

So here’s my first piece for Medium: Blogging Emily Dickinson. Those of you who’ve been with this blog for a while know this may sound like a list of posts with an abrupt, weird tangent at the end if read too quickly. You also know that it is the culmination of 8 years of wrestling with Dickinson and wondering why her thought matters. It’s a lot of experiences, thoughts, and fumbling turned into a compact read so that way someone can get a glimpse of something genuinely different. Of course, the only person who has recommended this piece on Medium is me.

It’s not a “Top 5 ways to destress” listicle or “The Secret to Viral Content” marketing spam, you know, the junk that cluttered blogging at its inception and is cluttering Medium. It isn’t something that has immediate value in the sense of value defined by people who have absolutely no imagination.

Yeah, I’m pissed. I’ve been blogging a long time, and more importantly, I’ve watched new media blossom. You can talk to anyone who wrote a piece you like on Twitter; you can see how events are covered in a way that wasn’t possible before. The openness coincides with a remarkable breadth of coverage. The nytimes is running a philosophy blog, as you all know; video game journalism is some of the most serious and thoughtful writing on the web. And sports journalism has a new life and large objects. Deadspin’s appeal, to take one example, is that it is a tabloid. Its real significance is that it might actually precipitate a cultural change that ends the NCAA.

To put it bluntly, we live in a golden age of journalism, and because we do, my voice counts less. The criticism where one carefully examines the nuts and bolts of reading, of the assumptions one brings to the text, doesn’t count for anything. What matters is telling a story where problems are complicated at most because people have differing interests and won’t/shouldn’t back down. Ours is a purposely unreflective media. We can get the details and the biases logged. To try and make sense of it all, that’s for pundits, all of whom have convenient and profitable ideologies.

That lack of reflection is like a snowball going downhill when we consider the consequences. It’s just taken for granted that you should write and put on the air stories that get eyeballs, no matter what consequence they are. The crass materialism underlying nearly everything we do in society – whether we’re talking about fine artists using “art” to promote a brand, education being more about unions and corporations than creating independent thinkers, people even thinking that God is a way to get stuff – is almost completely unchallenged. Again, we’ve got better writing, better coverage, smooth speech and terrific technical capabilities. And we’re incapable of taking a few sentences by someone and really thinking about what they could mean, really trying to appreciate another opinion in its fullness. I’m not perfect, not by a long shot. But I try to know my faults.

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