Gimme Some Lovin’

I started Collide-a-Scape in January 2009, when I was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism ( CEJ). Initially, I envisioned blogging about the Southwest. It was to be a continuation of the energy, ecology, and archaeology stories I had already been writing during the 2000s, for various publications and for Audubon magazine when I was an editor there.

I remember Tom Yulsman, CEJ’s co-director, laughing when I described the Southwestern focus of the blog. Who are you kidding, he said. You’re not going to want to limit yourself.

Heh. I think it took about a week for him to be proved right.

It also didn’t take long for me to embrace the blog and find readers (or them to find me). A few dust-ups soon followed, as I started watchdogging some of the self-appointed watchdogs in the climate community. That morphed into a closer and more sustained examination of the raging climate controversies that still tend to dominate the public discourse.

Over time, I have found these excursions to be the least personally satisfying but the highest traffic-generating posts. That’s problematic. I want to be relevant. I like being part of the daily conversation. That’s a big reason why I’ve continued to blog nearly every day. But if the public conversation on climate change is not advancing to a higher level, then what’s the point? Well, an underlying motivation for me (in terms of climate change) is to probe or point to areas and issues that are not so much discussed. And to do it in as fair a manner as possible.

My approach was first recognized by Michael Lemonick in his 2010 Scientific American profile of Judith Curry, in which he referred to my blog as “militantly evenhanded.” By this, I think he meant that I don’t play favorites. Sure, I have my biases and my appetite for blog warfare sometimes gets the better of me, but in general, I will poke and prod just about anyone, including those in my own fraternity, as I did here last year, when I was dismayed by an unusual arrangement between a non-profit advocacy organization and a publication I have long admired.

Some may give me points for my militant evenhandedness, but not much more than that. In an article for the Fall issue of the Society of Environmental  Journalists newsletter, Bud Ward (a co-founder of the organization and the editor of the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, where I now write a weekly column) surveyed the fast changing journalistic landscape. He discussed some of the new models, partnerships, and individual initiatives that have sprung up in recent years, and mentioned my “self-made brand of independent journalism/blogging” at Collide-a-Scape, and wondered if it was sustainable. Ward captured my situation perfectly:

Without any financing and conducted more or less from his abiding commitment to journalism and science, he [Kloor] recently found himself asked by a prominent national magazine editor if he couldn’t simply continue his site as a “public service.” The implication: Why a need for money in return for his labors.

The comment Ward refers to was made to me in passing at last year’s AAAS conference in Washington, D.C. Some context: This particular editor happened to mention, unsolicited, that he was a fan of my blog. I was flattered but responded, jokingly, that my wife would prefer if such appreciation was rewarded financially. That’s when he laughed and said that what I did was a public service. I know he meant no offense, but I was offended, nonetheless.

Now before going any further, let me acknowledge that many science writers blog for free (or pennies) at various blogging networks. I’m opposed to that on principle. It cheapens the value of professional science writers/journalists and reinforces the expectation that little to no money should be paid for their work-if it appears on a blog. A year ago (at that same AAAS conference), I said this much to a friend/colleague who had just joined one of these blogging networks. Her response to me: Nobody is paying you to blog at your site. Ouch.

At the time, I glossed over this inconvenient fact by saying that at least I wasn’t adding value to another site by providing it with free content. My friend wasn’t impressed with that counter-argument and truth be told, neither was I.

Still, I continued to blog dutifully, as more of my peers (privately) cheered me on. Their plaudits, combined with the satisfaction I derived from blogging, blunted my mounting resentment at the expectation that I soldier on for the public good. (In fairness, let me be the first to admit that I have plenty of detractors who do not share this view.) But by the end of last year, I had resolved to reconcile these conflicting emotions.

Hence the new “donate” button on the right sidebar. I would never expect to make a living off this blog. Far from it. But I also want my endeavors to be acknowledged by more than expressions of appreciation. So thank you for whatever support you may be inclined to give this blog. It will go straight to my new Harley Davidson motorcycle fund.

Seriously, your support will help sustain the upkeep of the blog and my wife’s acceptance of it. Most important of all, I will truly feel your undying love and devotion.


Category: bloggers, Journalism

Orac’s Tic

Nobody in the blogosphere takes on the anti-vaccine movement with more passion than Orac, who is a surgeon and biomedical researcher. Stylistically, Orac is a bit long-winded for my taste, but his thoroughness is admirable and appreciated. While some may disapprove of his acidic tone, his persistent deconstruction of the arguments and propaganda advanced by the well-organized anti-vaccine movement is both on the mark and necessary.

But like many in the climate change concerned community who see “false balance” lurking everywhere in the news media, Orac has the same tic with respect to vaccine-related reportage. In his latest so-called example, he really reaches to make the charge, and even then, he’s doing it not with any sense of conviction or evidence, just seemingly out of habit. It’s that obvious.

The fact that he can’t help himself suggests to me that he’s hostage to this tic, and perhaps as willfully ignorant of journalistic principles and ethics as anti-vaxxers are of science.

UPDATE: I just noticed that the author of the article Orac criticizes responded in his comments section.


Category: anti-vaccine movement, bloggers

Breaking Down That Wall

While reading the intro to the new SciAm blog network (launched today), this caught my eye:

We are trying to eliminate the artificial line between “blogging” and “journalism” and focus on good, accurate writing, no matter what form it comes in or what software is used to produce it. Our bloggers are a part of our team, as ‘continuous correspondents’ or ‘full-time freelancers’. Thus, I made careful choices keeping this in mind – I invited bloggers whose expertise, quality of writing, and professionalism fit well with the mission and general tenor of our organization.

I think it’s admirable that SciAm wants to professionalize “blogging” in a way that puts it on par with “journalism.” I’m all for it. Just one teensy question:  So if science bloggers are being welcomed into the magazine fold, as “part of our team, as ‘continuous correspondents’ or ‘full-time freelancers,” I assume they’re being financially compensated as such?

Just asking.


Category: bloggers, blogosphere, blogs, Journalism

Who Are You?

A couple of months ago, I started thinking about a way to deal with anonymous commenters who are regulars at this site. This is mainly because I like to engage in comment threads but I’ve also become annoyed that many of the people I interact with are unknown to me. It’s made me feel increasingly foolish. What would make me feel less foolish is if I at least knew who I was sparring with.

So I came up with an idea. More on that in a second. First, here’s a perspective on anonymity from Jeff Jarvis that aligns with my own, especially the last sentence of the second graph:

One tactic to cope with the fear of exposure and overexposure is anonymity. Anonymity has its place. It protects the speech of Chinese dissidents, Iranian protestors, and corporate whistleblowers. It allows Wikileaks to expose secrets. It helps people share, for example, medical data and benefit others without having to reveal themselves. It lets people play with new identities. When the game company Blizzard Entertainment tried to bring real identity into the forums around its massive, multi-player games, including World of WarCraft, players revolted, and no wonder: Who wants everyone to know that in your other life, you see yourself as a level 80 back-stabbing night elf rogue who ganks lowbies at the Crossroads? Taking on identities—pseudonymity—is the fun of it.

But anonymity is often the cloak of cowards. Anonymous trolls—of the human race, not the WarCraft type—attack people online, lobbing snark at Julia Allison, spreading rumors and lies about public figures, sabotaging a politician’s Wikipedia page, or saying stupid stuff in the comments on my blog. I tell commenters there that I will respect what they have to say more if they have the guts to stand behind their own words with their own names, as I do.

Now I can appreciate and respect the need for anonymity by some commenters, because of job concerns and the like. So I would never want to exclude  anonymous commenters from my blog. However, to ameliorate my own frustration, I thought about asking anonymous commenters to reveal themselves to me-if they intended on being a consistent commenter. I looked at it this way:  if a source for a story I’m writing about comes to me with information but he or she does not want to be in the story, I still insist on knowing the identity of the person, so I can establish credibility.

Of course, comment threads at blogs are a different kettle of fish. And taking this step at my blog would have its complications, since some commenters might not want to reveal themselves at all-even in private, and perhaps wouldn’t trust me. So I ended up abandoning the idea.

But I’m still curious what folks think about it and I’d also like to hear from anonymous commenters-in the thread-as to why you choose to remain anonymous.


Category: bloggers, blogosphere, blogs

When Arrogance Meets Arrogance

So what happens when two insufferably smug climate bloggers butt heads over at Climate Progress?

It’s a karmic exchange:

February 21, 2022 at 3:44 pm:

As usual, this misses the real point. The current and long term threat to Egyptian agriculture is sea level rise. Egypt is a combination of Chile and Bangladesh, a fertile river delta with a long thin coastal region along the Nile and nothing else. The delta is being inundated by sea level rise (and sinking as water is pumped out of wells).

If you don’t address that, you are spiting into the wind.

[JR: As usual? I'm letting this comment thru cause you're a colleague. But until you've blogged on sea level rise half as much as I have, don't suggest I've omitted something by not including SLR in every friggin' post I write on a related subject. Heck, when you've done a quarter as many posts as I have on the urgent need to address climate change, then you point out here that failing to address the climate renders all solutions meaningless.

This is a repost of a colleague's piece and is perfectly reasonable. SLR is a contributing factor, no doubt, and I've got a piece coming up on that.]

*******

I really can’t improve on Joe Romm’s inline response beyond the obvious translation: I’m letting this comment thru so I can belittle it in my usual obnoxious and patronizing manner.

Eli, have you wiped Joe’s footprint off your forehead yet? That’ll teach you to get mouthy with the master.


Category: bloggers, climate change

The Secret to Blogging Success

Kiss celebrity ass.

Lots of it:

Mr. Eng posts about 65 items per day, seven days a week, from the moment he wakes up — sometimes at 5 a.m. Sometimes he doesn’t sleep.

Well, I got the no-sleeping part down, but that’s called kidz!

So this nice-guy celebrity blogger lured 3.3  million unique visitors to his site in December. His closest competitor, the not-so-nice Perez Hilton snagged 2.2 million unique visitors. Folks, the larger story here is: why do people eat this crap up?


Category: bloggers

Why I Blog

Not me, silly. I still have no clue why I blog.

But I have in my possession the first draft of Joe Romm’s recent post, “Why I blog.” It’s a rough, bullet-point version that was smuggled out of Romm’s kitchen window by a source who shall remain anonymous. Here it is:

I joined the new media because the motherf#!$*! mainstream, status quo, false-balance media are so utterly, miserably, failing to report on the looming end of civilization.

What I have learned most from my blog is that hyperbole works! The louder I shout, the more insults I hurl, the more credible I become.

I am channeling the spirit of George Orwell. He was a truth teller. So am I. Don’t believe me? I’ll blowtorch your name in public.

I dicate all my posts not just because I love the sound of my voice, but because I love the poetry of my meandering 2,000 word posts, and the artistic beauty of those 50-word headlines.

I blog because it gives me more pleasure than the treadmill. Also, I simply would burst from acid reflux if I didn’t have a vehicle to truth-tell.

I blog because my brother lost his house to Hurricane Katrina. That singular event, which I admit, had nothing to do with global warming, motivated me to become an unflinching truth-teller.

George Orwell. Note to self: insert more references to Orwell.

A key goal of my blog is to save you time by being as verbose as possible. I know that sounds like a contradiction. It’s not. I never contradict myself. Remember, I am a truth-teller. The point is, you don’t need to bother going anywhere else for truth-telling. Everything you need to (and should) know about climate science, climate politics, and the motherf#$%&! status quo media is what I tell you.

On that note, F-you Andy Revkin! I’m the man! Not you! And I’m gonna drum that home from hell to high water.

I blog because I love my commenters. They reinforce my basest instincts, they appreciate my truth-telling and they never fail to say that in the most adoring terms.

The ultimate reason that I blog is because it’s too late for humanity. But I want the cockroaches who will inherit hell and high water to know that somebody was out there yelling from the rooftops.

The ultimate, ultimate reason that I blog is because there’s a great hunger for such ravings. That is what keeps me going. Your hunger for my rants. Thank you all for lapping it up!


Category: bloggers, Joe Romm, satire

That’s It for Me

Well, it looks like Keith’s back, and my classes will be starting soon, so this is probably a good time to sign off.  Thanks to Keith for inviting me to do this, and thanks to all the commenters for making it such an interesting experience.  I’ll continue to blog at Gambler’s House, so if you just can’t get enough of my longwinded posts, that’s where to look.


Category: bloggers

Hello World

Hi, I’m teofilo.  As Keith mentioned earlier, I will be guest-blogging for him this week.  As he also mentioned, I am currently a graduate student in urban planning (at Rutgers) and have also worked seasonally at Chaco Canyon.  People often see that combination as rather incongruous, but I think it actually makes a lot of sense, and part of what I’ll be doing here this week is trying to show how the two go together.  I’ll especially be focusing on the concept of societal collapse, which is something that gets discussed a lot in both archaeology and planning, at least in certain circles.  Chaco has often been drawn into these discussions as an example of collapse in the archaeological record that can be useful as a cautionary example in dealing with current challenges such as climate change.  That’s reasonable enough, but I think there are some pretty serious problems with the ways some people have tried to bring Chaco into the modern collapse/sustainability conversation.  I’ll be discussing that in more detail in the days to come.

I do have my own blog, Gambler’s House, which focuses on Chaco but also discusses Southwestern archaeology more generally along with a wide variety of related subjects.  Most of the posts I do there are rather different from the sort of thing I’ll be doing here, so I doubt I’ll be doing much cross-posting this week, but if you’re interested in this stuff there’s plenty more to see over there.

Anyway, I’m glad to be here, and I thank Keith for the opportunity to expand my horizons a bit and engage with a different sort of audience than I’m used to.  It should be an interesting week.


Category: Archaeology, bloggers, blogs, chaco canyon, collapse, sustainability, urban planning

Introducing

This is going to be a treat. Teofilo, who writes the fantastic Gambler’s House blog, will be filling in for me all this week.

Teofilo is a seasonal park ranger at Chaco Canyon, a native of New Mexico, a second year grad student at an east coast university (Masters in urban planning) and a thoughtful critic of some of my work. I am thrilled that Teofilo will be blogging here on issues and themes related to the environment, climate change, sustainability, and archaeology, among other areas.

Teofilo has many fans other than myself, including the science journalist John Fleck, who has raved about Gambler’s House:

It’s a terrific blog for a lot of reasons. The incredible insight born of listening to people’s questions is one big one.

I look forward to peeking in to Teofilo’s posts and the threads that develop from them.


Category: bloggers