Wednesday, May 09, 2007

2,000 Grits Posts And Counting

I've been so focused on legislative happenings I missed mentioning the milestone, but this post was the 2,000th published on Grits for Breakfast, which represents a lot of prose any way you look at it.

The 2,000-post mark comes at a time when Grits' traffic has increased dramatically as a result of the 80th Texas Legislature, and let me take this opportunity to say "thank you" and mention I hope all of y'all keep coming back after the Lege has left town.

Grits' newfound popularity stems in part from unhappy circumstances - in particular the Texas Youth Commission's highly public meltdown, in the wake of which many TYC employees began coming to Grits for news and to vent in the comments. Over the weekend I counted back two weeks and found just shy of 700 comments on Grits over that period, probably 75% of them on strings dominated by TYC employee discussions. Thanks, folks, for making yourselves at home here and sharing your first-hand perspectives. I know advocates are taking many of the things you say to heart.

The other reason Grits' traffic is up, of course, would be readers from the capitol itself - it fluctuates, but as of this morning more than 18% of Grits traffic comes from state employee IP addresses, according to SiteMeter, most of those from the capitol. To staffers: If you see something useful and want to follow up, don't hesitate to shoot me an email (@ shenson[at]austin.rr.com) - like any good writer, I often have more background and leads than I've written, and I've made quite a few new friends at the capitol this session who contacted me because they saw a blog post.

According to Technorati, 271 other blogs link to Grits for Breakfast, and to each of them I say thank you for sending me readers and for reading yourself. Blogger is just a fancy 21st century word for "writer," and writers tend to be interesting people so meeting other writers, even if only through online interactions, has been a great side-benefit to this Hobby Gone Mad.

Finally, as I mentioned on the occasion of Grits' 1,000th post, for me blogging is an experiment in alternative journalism. It's not "new" journalism because of the medium but because of the approach that merges editorial and reporting instead of insisting on a sharp distinction between opinion and fact, a schism that well predates the Internet. In the opening lines to a 1989 essay from Harpers (not online) titled "Journalism, Publicity and the Lost Art of Argument" that strongly influenced how I approach Grits for Breakfast, the late Christopher Lasch declared:
Let us begin with a simple proposition: What democracy requires is public debate, not information. Of course it needs information, too, but the kind of information it needs can be generated only by vigorous popular debate. We do not know what we need to know until we ask the right questions, and we can identify the right questions only by subjecting our own ideas about the world to the test of public controversy. Information, usually seen as the precondition of debate, is better understood as its by-product. When we get into arguments that focus and fully engage our attention, we become avid seekers of relevant information. Otherwise we take in information passively -- if we take it in at all.
In that quote, Lasch summed up entirely my goal for this blog, for any who are confused or unhappy when I'm not "objective." Journalists and legislators fret whether bloggers are journalists or journalists are bloggers - this is pedantry and silliness that history will in time make irrelevant. We are all writers, and IMO the craft of nonfiction writing is changing from the bottom up because of blogs.

The important thing for democracy, as Lasch understood, isn't to maximize the AMOUNT of information available on a topic, but to ask the right questions, followup on the answers, and vet ideas through "vigorous popular debate." I've chosen Texas' criminal justice arena as the area where this blog aims to contribute to the democratic process along those lines, but in a broader sense I think it's what all blogs do.

In any event, thanks for reading, and let me encourage you to bookmark Grits in your web browser, add the feed to your RSS reader or search engine home page, or if you've got your own blog and it's an appropriate fit, add Grits to your blogroll. I appreciate everybody coming by - your participation makes this volunteer project worth doing for me.

3 comments:

Proximo said...

Scott,

My hat's off to you. Even if I quit my day job, there's no way I could come close to your level of detail and prolific posting on such an oft-ignored but important topic. Keep it going.

All the best,
Proximo

hope said...

I'm glad you're still blogging, Scott. I feel a little less stupid about what is happening in Austin because of this blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Scott (Grits) for having this site. You are doing a great service to and for people. As part of the commenters on the TYC issues, I didn't always agree with what was said or how it was said, but I thank you in providing people the opportunity. Otherwise, TYC people would have been voiceless for themselves and others. Your site has allowed TYC staff who are sometimes hundreds of miles apart; not knowing who each other are, feel a connection in either their feelings, circumstances, ideas and have had a consequence-free way to "vent" when they may not have had that opportunity before. The lack of such before has been (in my opinion) a piece that led to TYC's downfall. Isolation does not encourage growth. TYC has always needed communication between and within its own employees to have some sort of unity and kinship. I hope the new administration finds a way to be more available to its employees and encourages more interaction between facilities. TYC is full of good, intelligent and strong people. This change will take time and I am doing a lot of praying that the right people wind up in the right places.
Thank you Grits for providing a way for people to be heard, ideas to be shared and making it easy for all to come to one place to discuss common ground.
Pinpoint