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November 18, 2005

Reflections on Blogging to the Millionth Degree

-- by Dave Johnson

If I had a dollar for every time someone has visited Seeing the Forest… I’d have a MILLION DOLLARS!

But I’m a Progressive blogger, so instead of being rich I have a day job. I once said that blogging really got going when so many people were laid off after the dot.crash. There's a lot of truth to that. Back then almost every blogger I was in contact with was unemployed. It's what gave ME time to get started. (Remember Odd Todd? He wasn't a blogger, but his excellent work is another example of what I am talking about.)

Every time you get one or more bloggers (or Progressives) together the talk turns to how people can’t make a living supporting the Progressive cause. Now there are a few bloggers making a living from ads, but those are rare exceptions. Blogging is done out of an inner need – more like a desperate drive – to say what we say. I know bloggers who are sacrificing a good income just to keep blogging and otherwise working for Progressive candidates or issues, but they are single and most don't have kids or health costs and have some way to keep going. But most people have families or other costs and responsibilities and it is a shame that the culture of Progressives does not include making a decent living from a commitment to helping.

The subject of pay for Progressives is an important subject about which I plan to be writing much more, but one comment now: One reason the Right is so successful is they understand that people naturally have priorities and one of those is making a living. From the Introduction to The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law,

This web of right-wing organizations funds and supports many other voices that speak on behalf of tort reform and other issues. The people who write the books are funded. The people who write the op-ed pieces are funded. The people who speak on radio and cable TV shows are funded. The people speaking to public interest organizations are funded. Even the people who initially write many of the templates for letters to the editor are funded. In addition to funding these individuals, the right-wing organizations provide them with institutional bases and access to publishers and media.
In fact, there are a number of (most?) very good writers, lawyers, politicians, operatives, etc. who working for the Right solely BECAUSE of the pay. This doesn't say good things about the content of their character, but they are smart and talented and the Right benefits -- the rest of society suffers the results. In contrast to this, Progressive organizations, when they can pay at all, are only able to offer about 1/3 of what I make in the "private sector." This is a problem that we have to solve. As I said, more on this subject later...

Focus
I have learned that it is very, very hard to have more than one main focus. Your main focus ought to be your main forcus. I’ve been blogging for more than three years, writing several posts most days, and many of those much more substantial (see "best of" in left column) than just dashed-off stuff about my dog or blogging from a car. (Though I did make history as the first person ever to post a picture of his dog (and here) from a National Political Convention and they can't ever take that away from me. Heh.) Newspaper columnists write a couple of columns per week, and get paid a lot. I still try to write several posts each morning before I have to attend to my other main focus but I know that my blogging - and thinking - has suffered since I took the tech job. (Vice President’n is hard work. It’s haaardd.)

ANYway ... here is what I would do with a million dollars…

I would blog full-time with more substantive posts. I would do more research, write more reports, do more to advocate building a Progressive Infrastructure to counter the Right. Along those lines I would give Commonweal Institute a bunch of money for general operating expenses, so they can launch their mission to bring to the broad general public positive information about the benefits of Progressive values and a Progressive approach to issues. The hope is that this - along with the same from many other organizations - will begin to counter the long-term propaganda campaign from the Right that has been relentlessly promoting conservatism, right-wing values and right-wing candidates. Over time this will bring back the public consensus that government is good, public schools are good, it's good to help the poor, war is wrong, it is a good idea to protect the environment, etc.

Of course I would give a lot of money to other organizations, as well as help out bloggers. I'd help them buy blog ads, for one thing, to announce things that people need to know about.

What would YOU do to help the Progressive cause, if you had a million dollars? Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at November 18, 2005 2:50 PM

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Comments

This is a really major problem, from many angles. I wonder whether someone like Corzine, during his successful run for governor of NJ, paid many people on his staff? Aside from the expensive PR people he hired, that is. He's a multi-billionaire, and if anyone could, he could. Do billionaire progressives tend to run for public office themselves, instead of funding progressive workers and institutions? I'd really like to know.

Is it possible that progressive organizations feel that progressives ought to be willing to make sacrifices and volunteer? What's different about the attitudes of those rich bastards who keep themselves in the background while heavily funding all those right wing think tanks?

Posted by: MJ at November 18, 2005 4:04 PM

This progressive/liberal proclivity to underpay its own has been going on for a long time. When I was the medical director of a large Planned Parenthood affiliate about 25 years ago, I waged a long battle (finally successful) to get the medical assistants, counselors, and staffers a wage comparable to what they would get if working for businesses in the same community. These workers may have believed in the mission of Planned Parenthood, but they were also working to support themselves and their families.

You're right, Dave--there's very much the attitude that people who work in progressive nonprofits and in the progressive political arena should do the work for little or nothing, just because they care about the cause. This is similar to the prevalent attitude about caregivers and wives--they should give of themselves out of love (and notice that it's mainly women who are expected to give in this way). Many progressives are up in arms about WalMart, with a business model predicated in part on coercing low-paid workers to work overtime for free. But doesn't that sound a bit familiar?

In a capitalistic society (which ours is, like it or not), it's respectful to recognize that paying someone well for the good work they do is acknowledging their worth and the value of their contribution.

Posted by: Kate Forrest at November 18, 2005 5:47 PM

Funding bloggers like Susie Madrak and Melanie Mattson hardly seems fair when they slave away day and night to entertain, inform and activate us for free if they can manage to ignore their own problems with jobs and money and medical problems. They aren't alone either.

I am aware of several other bloggers who plug away day and night despite some pretty nasty obstacles. Jim Rittenhouse, Pharyngula, Cuppa Joe...

I think you are correct that "Blogging is done out of an inner need – more like a desperate drive – to say what we say." and that so many people are doing it, but I do see the irong Gods laugh when people who spend their days and nights fighting for opportunity and decency need to rattle their virtual cups to get their occasional sustenance.

I wish that I had some ideas about changing that, but the most I can do is say thank-you to all the bloggers and readers who are doing everything they can to turn this shipwreck around.

Posted by: grannyinsanity [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 18, 2005 5:57 PM

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