Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Matthew’s Lament

Creative Minority Report may be one of the best things to happen to the Catholic blogosphere in recent years. The brainchild of two brothers, Matthew and Patrick Archbold, joined by an architect identified only as "D Mac," CMR broke significant ground when bloggers with no prior credentials in the Catholic media, not only published a weblog, but did it (and continue to do it) well enough to gain a sizable audience. Having won "Best New Catholic Blog" in the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards, they press on with continual reports on news and features, and excellent writing -- be it on the issues of our time, or the "slice of life" variety -- with a distinctively Catholic perspective. They are not the first to do this, but they are among the few to do it consistently well. Their Creative Minority Reader is a unique supplemental page aimed at highlighting promising writers in the blogosphere -- and when it's a slow news day, yours truly.

The mainstream Catholic press still doesn't give them their due, continuing to limit their focus to authors already established in print, usually by their own publishers. But Catholics with an internet connection know who the staff of CMR are, are tuned into them -- or at least they should be. Alas, such work of distinction may not be enough for Matthew Archbold lately, as he addressed the aspersions cast upon writers who are be dismissed merely as "bloggers":

I don't know why this ticked me off but it did and I just had to write about it...oh wait...I mean blog about it.

His concern is understandable. In fact, it's consistent with what we here at mwbh have been saying for years. I'll give you an example.

Take a guy who writes something really great, something every Catholic with a pulse should read at some point their lifetime, and posts it on his weblog. One of the "big guys" gets wind of it, and provides a link, accompanied by some clever witticism that took all of ten seconds to conjure up. Whose comment box gets filled? Not the guy who wrote the piece, but the internet gadfly who linked to it. His stats take another spike, and he makes one more appeal for the "tin cup" that is his Paypal account. You can bet your boots that the guy responsible for the attention won't see a dime of it.

Some of us may remember a guy who, four years ago, started a blog with a very clever title, that was poorly laid out, and that took forever to load as the artwork was ill-prepared. He did more linking and image uploading than any serious writing. He got two million visitors in three years. Then one day he discovered that fidelity to Church teaching wasn't the weekend picnic he thought it would be, and let that difficulty be known. Within a couple of months, he was gone from the blogrolls, and then from the blogosphere altogether.

So much for all the accolades, all the buzz. He learned his lesson. Fine. Did anyone else???

Good writing is hard. Good writing actually takes time. Good writing requires the ability to assemble coherent thoughts into a line of thought, thus posing something worth pondering for a larger audience. That audience must be adept at more than clever slogans that fit neatly into 140-character-or-less "tweets." People who can do this can have weblogs and be called a "writer" because they actually... er, uh, WRITE. The guy who does little other than get a lion's share of attention from linking everybody else, is not a writer; he is a "blogger."

So there, Matthew, now you know the difference. You also know one more reason why your mother told you that "life isn't fair." Keep writing anyway. The world needs to hear from you and your cohorts. They just don't know it yet.


Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

Well said!

LarryD said...

Ditto what Paul said.

CMR is the first blog I check each morning (after mine, of course) and am impressed with the consistent writing quality, humor and analysis.

And having the occasional "CMR spike" when they link to one of my pieces is always nice, too!

BTW, I'm adding you to my catablogue. You have a nice blog.

m.z. said...

Hmm... I'm not a fan of the professionalization of blogging. CMR's writing is poor in opinion, but you and I are allowed to disagree. I consider CMR to be closer to Closed Cafeteria, pornography. Of course, the blogosphere as a whole might just be considered pornography. I can't think of a single thing I've read on a blog in the past 3 months that wasn't a crude appeal to the visceral.

Just as pornographers make money, some bloggers make money. It doesn't make it respectable. The whole begging for money thing is a pretty contemptible thing in my book. Of course, I read a bunch of Form 990s for various Catholic organizations recently (primarily media), so I already felt like I needed a shower.