It’s no surprise someone like me would choose blogging as a form of political and social engagement.
During the 2004 primary and general elections, with an accompanying increase in the importance of the internet, short-piece writing was a way to combat the effectiveness of conservative media while providing an outlet for creative impulses.
I wrote letters to the editors of newspapers and in 2007 started a blog.
In their book Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974, authors Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer wrote:
Seeing the success conservatives had had in the 1990s using innovative media forms like talk radio, the internet, and cable to challenge a Democratic administration, liberals tried to form the same sort of media resistance now that there was a Republican in the White House.
Among other things, the 2004 presidential election campaign gave rise to Air America Radio, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Daily Kos, and Talking Points Memo. During the second term of the Bush administration, localized, self-financed blogs began to appear in many states, such as Iowa’s John Deeth Blog, Blog for Iowa, and Bleeding Heartland.
Caucusing for John Kerry was the beginning of my return to politics after a long hiatus to pursue career-minded support for our family. My first blog posts were the text of a letter to the editor about John Edwards, a piece on Norman Mailer, a report on the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner, and a report on a fund raiser for county sheriff and board of supervisor candidates. My readership has been small but the creative outlet was important.
Posts on the Blogger platform served as an experiment in using the new format. I decided it would be viable and wrote on May 31, 2009:
During the last 560 posts on Big Grove News I have reflected what is going on in our world from the perspective of a small property in Big Grove Township. I was encouraged to write this blog by our daughter to bridge the distance between Iowa and the then far away Walt Disney World. It was never meant to be anything but a way to communicate with those closest to me. It is rooted in that English literature history of text and diary, and I attempted to make the language my own. It is that, rough and fractured at times, and in my view, a few times pretty good. I am glad for this gift of the internet and the way it has brought our family closer together.
And now we come to what modern social networking has become. Not only do we meet and discuss ideas with people. We engage in exposition with these same friends, acquaintances and strangers through social media on the internet. As I went through the time since my Nov. 10, 2007 post in Big Grove News, I have learned how to use the internet as a way to connect with people. Looking back on the Big Grove News posts, I can see that I began a journey out of the English literature tradition of text and diary into something else.
My friend Aletia Morgan encouraged me to join Facebook and it opened up a new world of communication that has replaced the printed newspaper that used to find its way to our mailbox. On Facebook I can publish links, photographs, notes and video clips and circulate them in a way that seemed impossible before. I can read about what my “friends” have posted and what ideas they are considering. When we get together in person, I find it has enriched our relationship. They say it is hard to manage more than 150 relationships with people in life and there is likely a limit to how many Facebook friends we can find meaningful. The thing is, we have to tend to these relationships by thinking before posting and making sure we purge inactive relationships and replace them with ones that have more hope. We are still exploring the world of Facebook and other social networking media.
There are other social media and they are each equally important. LinkedIn brings people into the network who do not want to use Facebook. Twitter is another blog feed that is better than conventional news media in keeping us informed about what’s going on. Flickr is a way to post photographs and make them visible to a wider audience. Figuring out how to use all of this has been a process, one that will continue as the social networking media develops. It is so much easier to stay in touch with people using these tools.
After that, I moved to WordPress.
Fast-forward to 2019 and I’ve been able to develop a readership based partly on this blog, but also on other social media. I continue to write posts because they are being read by a broader audience. Last Thursday at a political fund raiser, several people remarked about my writing and that type of recognition also keeps me going.
I’m also getting better at writing posts that get broader circulation. This year the number of views on this site hit a new record high. This is attributable to posting about things few others are covering.
My coverage of the November Solon School Board election drove new records. No one in other media was covering the race and there was a significant interest in selecting two of six candidates running for election. While people were posting comments about the race in other social media, no one was writing stories analyzing the race. The combination of unique content and ability to post in social media brought a record number of viewers to my site.
My posts about Democratic presidential candidates were also top viewed posts, including those about Julián Castro, Marianne Williamson and Pete Buttigieg. At the time, few were covering these candidates and my succinct and timely reports from local events drove viewership.
There was also the news that Congressman Dave Loebsack was retiring. My history with Dave began with a 2005 email after he announced his exploratory committee. When he took the step from considering to announcing retirement, I had enough background with his campaigns and career in the Congress to understand what happened and quickly posted about it in a meaningful way.
I like being read. If I weren’t, I would stop writing. What matters more is making a difference in society and to the extent I can keep mining contemporary experience for events and phenomena that merit wider consideration, I expect to continue to gain wider readership. That makes writing in this format something I value.