Friday, December 17, 2004

Blogosophy: Listening (but still with my Left ear)

In a thought provoking interview veteran technology columnist Dan Gillmor discusses his difficult decision to leave print newspapers and launch a new venture in citizen-journalism. You should read it for yourself, but one point caught my attention: we don't talk to each other enough. Here's the relevant part of the interview:
Your comparison of journalism-as-a-lecture model vs. journalism-as-conversation is fascinating. How would you like to implement this in your new media startup? [NB the interview was conducted after a talk by Gillmor at Harvard's Berkman Center where he made this comparison]

What I've been doing personally on the blog for some time now has been all about that. The only way you can have a conversation is if you listen. That's the first rule of conversation. And I've had a wonderful time listening, even when they attack me (laughter). I typically learn more from those who think I'm wrong than from people who think I'm right. Especially when they tell me why I'm wrong.

And then once you learn how to listen -- which is something journalists need to do better -- then we can then say that with the tools being created ... "Don't just respond to us but let's all talk together"...
This seems to me pretty good advice. The danger of speaking in an echo chamber is especially acute as progressives struggle with discouragement and a perception of living in a hostile environment (leading us to build a safe cocoon around ourselves). The left-right and blue state-red state formulation is a trap (and I say that as a committed person of the Left who intends to remain that way). We all spend a lot of time wondering why the "other side" doesn't "get it." We ought to spend some of our time asking ourselves just what it is we don't get. And clearly not everything we think is correct (sorry). So listening seems like a good idea.

Here's a modest start. There is a blog that frequently links to me, isemmelweis (for those who don't catch the reference, Semmelweis was a pioneering doctor who helped conquer childbed fever--"Doctors, wash your hands"). I have never linked to him/her (isn't it nice that on the internet we aren't burdened by knowing irrelevant things like a person's age, sex, race, class?), nor (until now) put the site on my blog roll. Some of this was laziness, but most of it was because the issues that seemed to exercise him/her seemed far from my own. More importantly, perhaps, in comments made here, isemmelweis early on self-dentified as a free marketeer and I have a reflexive distrust of "market forces" in public health and medicine. So I wasn't motivated to listen. I'm not sure my mind is open about this, but there's no harm in listening. And potentially some good. So toddle on over to isemmelweis and other medically oriented blogs and have a listen. Let me know what you hear and what you think about it. I'll do the same.