Two and a half weeks ago, a columnist for the Globe and Mail phoned to ask if I had any thoughts on Christmas trees. She said she’d call me back.
By the time she did, I had posted 700 words on Christmas trees. My internal grammar has been so refashioned by blogging that it is now hard for me to think about anything that does not then threaten to issue in bloggable form.
According to the old logic, the Christmas trees idea was hers, and I guess I should not have posted before she had filed her story. On the other hand, if you ask me to work for free (as she was effectively doing when she solicited my opinion), it seems to me you can hardly complain when I repurpose my gift to my advantage.
Anyhow, she asked me to take the thing down and I was happy to. Then something odd happened. My computer crashed and I now had no copy of my Christmas trees post. I phoned the columnist and asked her if she wouldn’t mind returning to me the email in which I had sent the post to her. I phoned her 4 times over a week, leaving a message in each case. She responded once in a vague way, and did not return the email.
Happily, I found a copy of my Christmas trees post in the MT archive. Bless you, Movable Type. And I posted it on the weekend. I still have not heard from the journalist. Were it not for the MT archive, my post would remain her captive. (It may be of course that she deleted the email in question. It may be her own computer crashed. A clarifying phone call would have been helpful.)
I can’t imagine what her motive was, and there might have been a miscommunication here. (Though I must say it is hard to imagine a journalist who ignores her answering machine…or permanently deletes her email.) I think its possible that she was happy that I had lost the email. Perhaps she imagined that this preserved the uniqueness of her piece. And if this is so, we may see her acting according to the old logic twice: first, when she asked me to take my piece down and again when she refused to give my post back (if this is indeed what she did, one can’t be sure).
What are the rules of the old logic? Is it that people who publish play a zero sum game? If blogging has done anything, it is to encourage a somewhat more collaborative, "creative commons" approach. In the blogging world, several takes on the same topic are welcome, if not the very name of the game.
But the real question: why would she be threatened (if she was) by a "little blog that could" like this one. It’s not like I have Tyler Cowen’s readership or anything. It’s not like any blog has a readership that can rival the numbers of the Globe and Mail (Canada’s newspaper of record).
My conclusion (and I do have one): that journalists in the mainstream are perhaps beginning to feel the heat, they can hear the typing, that they are now a little nervous about the thousands of bloggers who, many of them, produce in a day what the journalist labors (heroically and gainfully) to produce in a week.
Competition, it’s a wonderful thing.
p.s., some weeks later after this post appeared, the journalist in question sent me an absolute scorcher of a reply. Really it was something to behold. Darn near hysterical. You would think the critic had never been criticized before. And, come to think of it, chances are, she hasn’t. Scrutiny, it’s a wonderful thing.