Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=133469
Story Retrieval Date: 5/22/2013 3:01:13 AM CST
The editor-in-chief of DCist, one of the city’s most popular local blogs, Mathis is “pretty much chained to her computer every day,” updating the site, overseeing the content and trolling the Internet for story ideas. As DCist’s only full-time employee, there’s just no room for getting sick.
“I don’t do this by myself by any stretch of the imagination, but there really is no one to fill in for me,” said Mathis, 29, a Tucson, Ariz. native who moved to the capital four years ago.
As far as bloggers go, Mathis is practically in a league of her own. Blogging for a living is a relatively new concept and despite journalists’ dismay, it turns out getting paid to work from your laptop is a successful business model. And in D.C., there’s always material.
“There are a lot of bloggers here. There are more professional bloggers here than anywhere else I can think of,” Mathis said.
What does it take to be a D.C. blogger?
“Ultimately, a lot of blogging is about hustle,” said Kay Steiger, an associate editor for Campus Progress and who keeps her own blog on feminism and gender politics, while also guest blogging on a number of other sites.
“First of all, you have to have something original that you’re doing or saying. You need to really think critically about things that are going on and try to think of something new or interesting to say. You really need to know your stuff,” said Steiger, a 25-year-old Minnesota transplant.
In the day-to-day, bloggers aren’t the pajama-clad, press-hating kind of folk some would have us believe. Mathis gets up before 8 a.m. every morning to begin working on a morning roundup for DCist and produces at least six stories a day.
“We put up 15 to 20 stories a day and half of those I do myself,” Mathis said. “You really do have to know what you’re talking about. Our bloggers could very well be a staff writer for a magazine.”
Steiger, a former journalist, uses many of the skills she honed at The Guardian and The American Prospect to improve her blogging. Blogging might be only a hobby for her, but media-savvy bloggers like Steiger further blur the lines between the press corps and those who lord over the blogosphere.
“I just got dropped in this political scene of which blogging is very much a part, and I started doing it sort of on my own to sort of figure it out…For me, it was almost out of necessity, but after a while I started to really enjoy it,” said Steiger.
Late last year, New York City-based Talking Points Memo – called one of the most influential blogs in the country by the New York Times – hired two reporter-bloggers to cover D.C., a move heralded as a set toward blog domination.
Elana Schor was hired to do the job, but has since left to work at Streetsblog.org, a site that focuses on transit and sustainable infrastructure issues.
“My favorite part of the job is finishing up a post and watching the comments roll in… but I sometimes find myself missing the elegance and structure of the traditional journalistic format, with a lede and nut graf that gradually unfurls a complex story,” said Schor. “Of course, as huge outlets like the Washington Post and ABC News delve into blogging, some of their writers do stick to that traditional structure. Not everyone is comfortable jumping back and forth."
Why blog? Why here?
It’s that exact freedom to leave journalistic conventions behind that appeals to Mathis. And it works for her – DCist pulls in about 45,000 daily readers.
“I really get to decide for myself every day what I get to do,” she said. “I don’t have marching orders. I wake up and I’m in charge, and I get to decide what goes on the site under the broad umbrella.”
Schor started out as a more traditional reporter and never expected to end up on the right end of blogging.
“I came to blogging rather accidentally, after spending several years as a mainstream reporter, for lack of a better word, at The Hill newspaper and The Guardian,” Schor said. “The latter job involved some blogging on the side, and I found myself attracted to the conversational voice and freedom of movement in terms of story planning and length.
“After all, you can never run out of space on the Web," she said.
And D.C. is unique in its support of bloggers, who can often be seen side by side with reporters at press conferences and Capitol Hill briefings.
“Of all my closest friends, I think almost all of them are bloggers,” Steiger said. “The thing that makes D.C. different is the sense of community among bloggers.”
And that’s fast turning into a pretty large community.