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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blogging and Action

Yesterday I was catching up on missed radio programs and listened to an interview with Alderman Antonio French (D-21st) that aired a few weeks ago on KDHX's "Collateral Damage". One statement stood out: Alderman French, whose Pub Def is one of St. Louis' trailblazing blogs and who is a local online media pioneer, doesn't have much time to read blogs. French says he's too busy doing his job to have the time needed to take in the local online media.

That's not surprising, actually, given how hard French is working for his ward. Yet French's statement reminds bloggers that our audiences often are not the decision-makers themselves but their constituents. If we want to spur action, we can't stay at the keyboard at call it a done deal. A blog is not a letter to a state senator, or testimony at a public meeting, or protest. Yet a blog can encourage people to take all of those acts -- and more.

As online media proliferates, the echo chamber effect can drown out the action potential of blogging. The Northside Regeneration topic is a great example of a case where the online chatter outweighs the real world action. I commend the activists who are doing the hard work of process participation on the issue, even though I don't agree with all of their tactics. The endangered buildings that come before the Preservation Board are another example where the online buzz often belies the fact that only one or two people will actually be present to testify -- or even observe -- the actual Board meeting.

Antonio French's remark on KDHX was not a big point, but it's an important one. Media doesn't solve the city's problems, although it helps identify them and encourages solution-making. Yet the solutions happen through our actions. We need both good blogging and effective political action, so that as the years go by we can measure the civic impact of early 21st century St. Louis activists in more than just word count.


Anonymous said...


- Ald. Cohn

Jennifer said...

So true, Michael. People get very passionate about issues they care about, but so often that passion doesn't translate to action and then the status quo remains.

On the plus side, though, the side with the most energy, even if it doesn't have tons of resources (read: money), often can make a big impression.

Emily Beck said...

Can I get a gazillion Amens?! You nailed it, and politely to boot. I may just have to start reading blogs. <<:-)

GMichaud said...

Action is thought also. Action begins with thought and ends with action. Action starts with ideas, getting rid of the current political structure is radical, but St. Louis is ruled by this democratic machine that has ruled over the decline of St. Louis.
So the idea of radical is only important to the people whose bankrupt ideas have made St. Louis the weak, shadow city of today. (They will jump up and down and claim their trophy, undeserved).

I feel Alderman French is a new breed of political doers who will supply the leadership without the corruption.
A difficult fight.

john w. said...

What blogging does in fact indicate is the solidarity that many who otherwise do not realistically have time to commit to activism and action as we'd all like to see it truly prosper, have with the platform of progressive [urbanism, preservation, political leadership rejuvination]. It's been a very effective message board thus far, and so we have to just keep working to keep blogged issues alive on the street and get the necessary traction to attract a critical mass. I'm not disappointed in the current blog community in St. Louis one bit, but more blogs and less action is certainly not a formula for successful urban transformation.