Thursday, March 14, 2013


Meta-post alert: There's a conversation going on in the Iowa political Twittersphere that needs just a little more than 140 characters from me.

Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post recently published the third edition of Best State Political Blogs. When the list was first published in 2009, I was hot off my strongest stretch of writing, the year and a half I was employed at Iowa Independent, so I earned a spot. When Cilizza announced an update for 2011, I'll admit I campaigned a little. I had been writing a bit less but I was especially proud of District Of The Day. I made the list again but I was a little less proud.

So when Cilizza announced an update for 2013, I let it slide. I figured if I deserved a spot, I would earn it without asking.

Last week the list came out and initially listed only TheIowaRepublican. They deserved the slot, but I'm really not in the same league as an operation which clearly has some money involved. Craig's at CPAC and that's great. But I can't afford to pay my own way or take the time off work to go to Netroots Nation. The amended Washington Post list also includes newcomers Iowa .GIF-t Shop; they do one thing and do it well, and a guy with a red beret can't bash anyone else for having a gimmick.

Congrats to both, and also to other sites like Bleeding Heartland and Caffeinated Thoughts and Blog For Iowa and others who coulda shoulda been listed but weren't.

I'm less proud of my work now. Other than the work at my own pace, scheduled in advance District Of The Day (which in my favorite trick from grad school I rewrote and republished twice), my output has never really recovered from the mass layoff at Iowa Independent right after the 2008 presidential election. My ability to respond, especially to breaking events, is less. I'm writing this over lunch. It's just plain harder to take time off the paying job to drive at your own expense to Davenport or Des Moines, to go to events, especially events of the other party, for what is essentially a hobby.

(Also, live Twittering has come to replace my old parlor trick, live blogging. Live blogging is soooo 2007. Why read one live blog when a hashtag gives you a whole bunch of live bloggers all at once?)

I missed a lot of the late 2011 caucus season while working a second, non-writing job; my finances never recovered from the Iowa Independent layoff either. I was able to quit the second job after a few months, but soon after that I took a three month near-hiatus from writing and attending political events while my day job boss went through, and lost, a primary challenge. Even after that was done, the strain of surviving a difficult seven month lame-duck period when the lame duck knew I'd supported the challenger, and, oh, just working in an auditor's office through presidential election season, meant I was writing less. And it shows: my traffic has slipped to about 2/3 of the daily page views I was at a couple years ago.

I'm not planning on giving up this decade-long habit any time soon, but I may scale back from time to time. Not as much as I did last spring, when I dropped to a mere eight posts in all of May. But more and more I see myself missing a day, sometimes even two.

One of the few things I remember from the class side of grad school before I dropped out is the idea of "an original contribution to knowledge." I love writing a lot more than I love reporting. If I have nothing to add, I may just retweet someone else. When I do have something to say, I want it to be unique and I want to say it well. Keep that in mind and thanks for reading. I hope I make you think once in a while.

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