Monday, August 14, 2006

The New Chess Journalism?

Reading the posts of bloggers attending this year's U.S. Open Chess Championship has made me reflect a bit on blogging generally, and to observe that quite a few bloggers write only for themselves (as they would in keeping a diary), with little thought that they might attract a wider audience or serve the role of journalists communicating facts and perspectives to readers. As one U.S. Open chess blogger wrote in the comments area of my blog: "Thanks for linking to my blog. I never thought anyone other than friends and family would want to read it...."

That many chess bloggers write for a similarly circumscribed imagined community is borne out by the large number of CT-ART enthusiasts in the chess blogosphere, who don't appear the least concerned that most readers (outside of themselves and their small circle of La Maza enthusiasts) probably couldn't care less about their current percentages against the damn machine....

These observations are not mine alone. According to the Pew Internet's report on "Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet's New Storytellers" (see PDF) released last month, over half of bloggers write mainly for themselves, with no regard for an audience, while only a third would call blogging a form of journalism (and many fewer actually act as though it were, by checking their facts or revising their prose). I wish I saw more of what I'd call "journalism" in the blogs I read.

As the U.S. Open chess bloggers demonstrated, there are quite a few readers out there who appreciate the nearly-immediate, first-hand perspectives that bloggers can offer. And with chess -- especially local chess -- receiving scant attention in the popular press, it seems that bloggers can do a lot to promote our game by stepping up to fill the void.

Of course, the best reporting always has the presence of the reporter. But it also tells the stories of other people, not that of the journalist alone. I'm not sure I can name more than a handful of chess bloggers who seem to have taken on that mission. Certainly The 64 Square Jungle. Maybe Sarah's Chess Journal (if we include history within the realm of journalism, which we should). Tough to say who else to add (myself included!) I think there is definitely room for more storytellers out there.

Chess players would welcome the most interesting stories from the world of chess, even if they had to be reported by "amateurs." Gens una sumus, after all. But they won't get those stories until chess bloggers start looking beyond their own experiences from time to time. Maybe more chess bloggers should ask themselves not "what do I feel like writing?" but "what stories do I know that are in need of telling?" The "internet's new storytellers" and their readers are going to get bored if too many of us just keep talking about ourselves all the time....

I think I'm going to try out some more journalistic writing in my blog in the coming year. Maybe more profiles of chessplayers, some interviews. We'll see where it leads. I hope others will be inspired to do the same.

6 comments:

Patrick said...

If I had to give up either my ChessLife subscription or access to the Kenilworthian blog, I don't think I'd miss all those borderless flourescent blue diagrams (in CL).

:)

Heather Swan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heather Swan said...

That was a thought provoking post. I learned many things while blogging about the US Open. First, while I made the blog for my friends and family, there were only 2 people in my family savvy enough with the computer to follow along. Second, I found a new (and more interested) audience than my family. I think when I blog about future US Opens I will try to include more storytelling. It will be hard though, I never realized how tiring a tournament like that is!

Michael Goeller said...

Thanks for the response, Heather. It occurred to me after writing that asking bloggers to be more like journalists might be asking them to give up some of the fun of what they do, which is mostly a form of self-expression. And it might make it seem more like work -- and hard work at that! Yes, a long tournament is tiring, and blogging on top of it is tough. I think the US Open bloggers like yourself, though, were really close to journalists in the end, especially when you posted pictures of other people at the event or wrote about what you saw.... I hoped to suggest that even though you might have begun with no sense of audience, you ended up closer to journalists than you might have imagined. And as you grew into the role of US Open blogger, you began posting less for yourself than for others.

Newvictorian said...

A thought-provoking post, Michael. Consider me inspired!

ChessMarkstheSpot said...

I maintain a very active journalistic blog on Chess.com where I am always reporting/relaying many things that happen in the chess world. I have also Live-Blogged the recent Candidates Matches and the 64th Russian Championships. The members find it very useful as it helps to condense the news on a specific subject in one area and each of my blogs, I do at least one a day, get from 500-700 even sometimes 1000 reads. I am a chess journalist but I am not professional at it, although I hope to be. I spend all day at a computer looking for news and helping out that site in any way I can. It has definitely changed my life for the better. -Mark