Monday, February 20, 2006

Can a middle-aged woman succeed as a blogger? Not if everyone keeps insisting she doesn't exist.

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear the crash, did it really fall?

If a middle-aged woman blogs and everyone claims she can’t possibly be doing such a thing, will anyone hear what she’s saying?

Both questions have to do with the issue of perception vs. reality. The question about the tree may only be of interest to freshmen in college philosophy classes (and perhaps the tree). However, the question about the blogger is important to you, me and, believe it or not, even to the rest of the country.

That second question centers on the thorny issue of whether media -- big or small, traditional or new -- give us an accurate picture of the world. As of this moment, I respectfully submit that they don’t. (I know that’s not exactly a shock, but read on.)

Case in point: My apparent non-existence as a blogger. Not only does the greater Internet sometimes tend to ignore my modest blog, but now I’m getting edited out of newspaper stories. Witness today’s article on the state’s tiny political blogosphere in my old newspaper, The Wichita Eagle.

I had a great interview with reporter Alan Bjerga, yet when the article appeared, I was conspicuously absent.

After the article was published, I was curious about what had happened and e-mailed Bjerga. He replied that I was quoted in the original version of the story. However, he said, when the story was finally published my quote(s) vanished, apparently deleted by an editor. “I'm thinking this is a space issue,” Bjerga wrote. (He also forwarded my e-mail on to the editor. When I receive a reply, I’ll post it here.)

At 53 years of age, I can happily report that I’m a big kid now. Although I was a tad irritated this morning, my feelings weren’t hurt by the fact that I wasn’t in the story.

I worked for The Eagle from 1985 to 1990. I covered the Legislature, state government and a variety of things that blew up, beat up and washed out northeastern Kansas. I know how journalism works.

“Space issues” often cut great material out of stories. Decisions also have to be made quickly, and it’s only later that you realize you made a mistake. Of course, the good folks at The Eagle may not feel like editing me out was a mistake. When I was a mainstream journalist, though, I remember many times when I felt like my rush to meet the deadline had led me to goof.

The Eagle very kindly included a link to my blog with their list of Kansas political blogs. I sincerely appreciate that. So far, though, my traffic logs show that only two people have clicked on that rather buried link. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Nate Thames, whose Anti-Sam Brownback blog was the lead of the story, has reported receiving many new readers because of the story.

Please note that this post is not meant to bash The Eagle, the reporter or the editor. I mean that sincerely.

I wouldn’t even blog on this topic if it weren’t for the fact that the mainstream media and blogosphere continually argue that only men blog. That idea has recently morphed into the theory that only men are in the top tier of bloggers The full stereotype is that only twentysomething men blog successfully.

Many theories have been put forth to explain the supposed lack of women bloggers. It’s said we’re wimps and too afraid to get into the political fray. It’s claimed that we don’t write as well as the men, and so don’t draw readers. And of course, there’s the ever-popular idea that the topics we write about just aren’t of interest to general readers.

A variety of other theories have also been suggested. Chris Nolan has a great run-down of these theories in Ten Reasons For Too Few Women Bloggers.

I would like to humbly suggest that women bloggers are out there in the wilds of the Internet. We may well exist in great numbers. We may write just as well as the men, if not better. I suspect that our perspective would be a good one for people to read.

Yet people don’t visit us. Why?

Because they don’t see us. Why?

Because they don’t expect to see us. Why?

Because we’re seldom talked about or quoted. Why?

Well, you see, there was this space issue.

Three bloggers were quoted in the Wichita Eagle story. All are male. The oldest is 27.

Other women bloggers left out of the story included Just Cara and Revka, who received a link.

The twentysomething male I am closest to in the world is my son. He loves the Internet, he loves technology, yet he would never think of blogging.

His middle-aged mother, though, with her glasses, her plump figure and her sore feet loves to blog.

If a woman writes in the cyber-wilderness, will anyone see that she’s there?

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