Veteran blogger Andrew Sullivan announced he is hanging it up. That’s a watershed moment for new media. If you are unfamiliar with Sullivan, he is a hugely popular online content originator who began daily digital missives about 15 years ago. In that time he has written for Time, The Daily Beast and The Atlantic, before creating The Dish, a subscriber-supported new media opinion site. Sullivan built his blog up to 30,000 paid subscribers and more than one million in revenue. So he decided to quit.
In addition to being a successful new media pioneer, Andrew Sullivan has been a frequent guest on TV news programs.
Cue the new media freaking out. I’m not even going to bother covering that, because it’s not anything anyone hasn’t heard before. What’s important is why Sullivan said he’s hanging it up:
“I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again…I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me.”
This is a true pioneer in digital content and online conversation. A genuine new media success story openly exploring an idea that has been nagging at me for some time. Blog culture champions trite conversation and instant animus. But the most important ideas are best served slow cooker style. Facts and truth should not be microwaved. They come out half-baked. Hot on the outside and frozen in the center.
The Problem With Half-Baked Journalism
Online media from secondary sources dilutes the message, even when it is not overtly biased, which is rare. When actual journalism is circumvented for the sake of either opinion or clicks, the gravity and importance of the subject at hand is compromised. That’s how we get a false media equivalency in which Deflategate and Syria are offered as equally valid news. Since more people hate the Patriots than understand geopolitics in the Middle East, content providers go all Pats all the time in order to generate clicks.
Meanwhile our military is in the process of shifting assets to and across Europe in a manner and scope unseen since the early days of the Cold War…and “no one is talking about it.” Truth is, the media is covering this move. They just aren’t talking about it online or on cable news (or comedy channels). But the actual media is covering this story. Along with countless other stories “no one is talking about.”
The compulsion to instantly comment short circuits the vital human skill of deeper thought. Rumination is uniquely human, yet blog posts and social media threads expect us to abdicate this human birthright for the empty reward of aimless conversation, absent any legitimate depth.
Comment threads accomplish nothing productive. All too often they turn into petty squabbling or echo chambers. Neither result is helpful, illuminating or worthy. This devolution is demeaning, both to the topic being discussed and to the people engaged in the discussion.
So, please, I’m asking you to honor yourself.
Don’t comment on this…yet. Take some time to think about it. Move past the emotional triggers and remember what it was like to develop an idea before feeling the need to discuss it. To find the answer to a question and realize that there was so much more to learn beneath the surface.