Sunday, July 10, 2005

Folding Star's decision to stop blogging

Last week started out pretty good. We were pleased with the edition we'd put out. We all had the Fourth to spend as we pleased. O'Connor's announcement was weighing heavy but all and all, pretty good week. Or so it seemed.

Monday morning, Rebecca was surfing (while painting her toe nails as she noted) when she came across a post and immediately called C.I., Kat and Jess. They didn't know anything about it. None of us did.

Folding Star decided to stop blogging. A Winding Road is no more. In addition, Folding Star's deleted all posts. The only one of us who's been in any contact with Folding Star since then is C.I.

Folding Star has advised that any readers of A Winding Road that have questions should send
"questions/queries to"

We were all surprised by the news. Readers who've asked us why we didn't mention it last week, we didn't know it was happening. We had no indication at all. We'd even spotlighted Folding Star's post on Sandra Day O'Connor.

We're all part of The Common Ills community and the news surprised us. Also made us wonder how long are own sites would last? We teased each other about that. With C.I., we teased that the increasing drumbeat of e-mails would finally lead to C.I. announcing "the community is no more, go home! Go home!" a la Tracey Ullman. With Rebecca, we joked that as the winter months gathered, she'd pack up and move to a tropical spot where she'd lie by the beach each day and tan away. With Mike, we teased that as soon as he got into his next serious relationship, he'd forget all about blogging. With Betty, we teased that Paul Krugman would say, "At last, someone else who sees how foolish Thomas Friedman truly is! Come away with me, Betty!"
With Kat, we joked that the Pink Floyd reunion would lead to her running the laser light show for them and no time for blogging. And Third Estate Sunday Review was teased about being a Fleetwood Mac about to happen with "shacking ups" and "breaking ups."

But behind the humor, we were all wondering about ourselves. (We are Ty, Jess, Dona, Jim, Ava, C.I., Mike, Betty, Kat and Rebecca.) Betty who had no time for blogging drove herself crazy trying to get a post up this week. She had already gotten a few e-mails asking if she was bailing as well and she wanted something up to show that she was "still in the game." Betty works and works and works again on each entry. By contrast, C.I. does rough drafts and posts those. Over here, C.I. will do editing with all of us and keep reworking an entry until it's as sharp as it can be. Over there, C.I. just posts what gets typed up. So it wasn't a case of being like Betty. But C.I. noted that it was a lot easier to focus on work regarding O'Connor's replacement than to focus on doing entries. Rebecca tried to stay positive. We'd all agreed to try to see if Folding Star wanted to talk about it before we made a public comment. Rebecca was upset (and says she still is) and by Friday, she blogged on it. (And no, we weren't mad at her for that.) Mike wondered what was going on because he'd never met or spoken to Folding Star and was completely in the dark. Kat, in her typical cool, didn't let it affect her. She almost posted Friday, she says, but figured, "I've already said, I'll post when I have something to say and I'm not doing a daily blog."

We'd always planned to address it here, this Sunday. We wish we had something to tell you. C.I.'s shared all that's permitted. We weren't given a heads up and we were given no notification after.

From Folding Star's post there was an e-mail that led to doubts and the decision to close down the site. We've all had doubts and we've all had our share of nasty e-mails.

We're not sure what was behind the decision, but we'll respect it and say that we enjoyed A Winding Road and our sorry that it has been shut down. Since all the past posts are gone, we've all wondered what to do about our permalinks/blog rolls?

Possibly Folding Star will decide to start it back up, we don't know. In case that happens, we're willing to leave it up. We're also willing to leave it up to note that a community member ran a blog from January to July.

And of course our highlights of Folding Star at this site remain.

We wish we had something to tell you. We don't.

A number of you have e-mailed all of us expressing surprise and disappointment. We share that.

At the end of the day, we're still here. We're still blogging. (Or doing entries, in C.I.'s case.) We're not planning to bail anytime soon.

But we do realize that with all the fun we're having, at some point it will come to an end. This site is helped out by some great folks (Kat, Rebecca, Ruth, Dallas, Maria, Mike, Rebecca, Betty and C.I.) but it's run by five journalism majors. College won't last forever. And we've long said that we might retire the site when we graduate or we might try to pass it on to some journalism students who weren't done with college yet. C.I.'s health is a topic thanks to jerks and The Common Ills would go on without C.I. (for health reasons or any other) with Ava as long as she was willing to do it. Rebecca's been working on an entry for over a week now and it's the most difficult one she's ever had to work on. ("Still working on it!") She's not really sure how it will go over or how she'll feel about it after it's posted. She may take a break after it goes up. Betty's determined to plug away but notes that it's very difficult juggling her kids, her job, her home and blogging. And we'll note again that Betty writes and rewrites and rewrites again. Mike thinks he's found his niche but admits that he doesn't know how it will feel when fall rolls around and he's doing full time classes again.

We've all been very lucky because it's mainly been fun. There have been tense moments. (And we'll never forgive or forget the attacks on C.I. and we'll leave it at that because C.I. said "Let's not go into that again.") But we've had fun swapping stories and sharing things. We've had fun with some great e-mails. We've had fun feeling that we could share something with readers (members in C.I.'s case) that they might miss otherwise. ("Tonight has not been fun," Kat said. And we'll agree with that since we lost a post.)

As a community, we tried to include other members who blogged. Maybe we didn't push hard enough to include Folding Star? Maybe "busy" really required asking again to make sure FS knew we were sincere?

But in the bad times, we've had te fact that we could share and we could discuss. And that carried us over the bumps in the road. We're not sure that Folding Star had that same feeling. (And if we weren't trying hard enough, our apologies to Folding Star.)

An e-mail is the reason cited. It seems hard to believe that one e-mail alone could cause someone to close down a site. So we're assuming there was more going on. Folding Star was working and going to college and maybe the e-mail was the last straw? We don't know.

We're as in the dark as any of you. But the point that C.I. stressed, the point that made all of us decide to start blogging, was that what we need are more voices. The mainstream media has a very narrow range. For now at least, the internet can provide a platform for other voices.

And we all try to take that to heart. Ruth covers NPR. Not from a "Cokie Roberts says it and it's true" but from a critique of wisdom that's come with age and experience and we appreciate and enjoy her contributions. Kat's covering music. And it would be really easy to be parroting what a blow hard from The New Yorker (we're all in agreement with Kat on that) has to say. Instead, she's focusing on how music needs to mean something. It needs to be something more than "beats" and "hooks" and pretty faces wearing few clothes. We're not seeing many superstar acts on tour these days, new ones. That's got a lot to do with the fact that they're not musicians. And they're not Madonnas. They tease it out and have no desire to push any limits.
So you're left with bad music and timid performers more often than not. Kat's critiques are needed in an age when a New Yorker critic feels the need to sing the praises on the product that is Justin Timberlake. Rebecca's the woman who will not be pushed around. And she's not going to be repeating news from the mainstream. Like C.I., she's going for the items that aren't being covered everywhere. (She was on the polio issue before anyone we knew was talking about it.)
And her site gets backlash e-mails because she's not going to fit into your tidy image of "the little woman." Betty's blog is a novel. Let's be honest. Those entries are like chapters. And throughout the novel is the critique of neoliberalism and imperialism and, for the matter, "misguided do-gooderism." Mike's hitting hard on the recuriting issue and answering questions that no one else is tackling (crotch rot, for one!). Like Rebecca and C.I., he's citing Democracy Now! and other independent media voices. And then there's C.I. and The Common Ills. The site that we all sprung from. (Rebecca just told C.I. to shut up and we'll write what we want on this part.)

We'll make it a whole paragraph in fact. The news of C.I.'s cancer isn't something we largely dealt with on a personal level. Jim's said if anything happens to C.I. he doesn't want to blog anymore. Other than some conversations Ava and C.I. have had, that's been the extent of our dealing with that issue. We know it's there. We know C.I.'s better. But we do worry.

And the reason we worry is personal. But in terms of the web, it also has to do with the fact that we all started because of The Common Ills. We saw a site that valued our input, shared our belief that the troops needed to be brought home now, wasn't afraid to risk attacks for taking a stand and offered news we didn't hear of elsewhere. Clamor? Didn't know of it until C.I. pushed it. LeftTurn? Same deal. Our appreciation for Democracy Now! only grew as a result of The Common Ills.

Time wasn't wasted on runaway brides or Aruba or other nonsense. And whether it's Katrina vanden Heuvel or Naomi Klein or Tom Hayden or Grace Lee Boggs or whomever, the voices for peace had a place there. And not in a "hippie" mocking tone. We're honestly bothered by the dismissal of "hippies." Not just because Jess' parents were and are hippies. But because of the sneering self-satisfied attitude. Earth to sneerers, you're not doing a lot of good tearing down a group that believed in something. Maybe you think it makes you look "mature." Or maybe you think it makes you look "moderate." We think it makes you look silly. And we've noticed that while you sneer at the hippies, you rush to prop up John McCain. We'll take one hippie over twenty John McCain's any day. And wonder about the value system of those who wouldn't?

Jess' dad works on prison reform, his mother is a public defender. Jess grew up not having Nike and other products pushed down his throat. His parents expected him to make contributions to discussions around the table -- and they ate their meals together. They have a garden that they work together. Playing music on the radio or stereo was always better than TV in Jess' house, and playing music yourself was better than playing recorded music. Taking stands was supported even if Jess' parents disagreed with the stands. (His mother especially wishes he'd go into music and forget about journalism. But she supports his decision.)

So we're not quite sure where these sneerers get off looking down on "hippies." Maybe they'd prefer to hob knob with Greg's parents instead of Dahrma's? And maybe that something about the sneerer's value systems?

But at The Common Ills, it's never, "Tom Hayden, hippie, doesn't get it!" Or "Maxine Hong Kingtson, hippie, doesn't get it!" But maybe that's because C.I.'s not trying to start the next war or support the current one? Or to be a Nicholas Kristof and tear down the left to score points with the right? (Someone should figure out what feminism ever did to Nicky K and why he hates feminists so much that he lies about them. Then they might want to figure out why his paper is okay with that?) For Rebecca, the turning moment was the post on NPR bringing on the husband of woman who worked for Dick Cheney to critique John Kerry's campaign -- and not telling the listeners that the man's wife worked for Dick Cheney. For Third Estate Sunday Review members it was that and the strong opposition to Simon Rosenberg whose first word was, no doubt, "lite." For Betty it was a number of things but what stands out was that Black History Month was noted there. Every day. For Mike, it was the "Night Letter" which he didn't hear about anywhere else. For Kat it was "everything -- going to sources that weren't obvious, taking stands and just the I'm not going to bullshit it and try to curry favor by appearing moderate."

We did a piece here on blogging. And the moral of that fairy tale was to speak in your voice. We need more of that and we need more voices. But not to run down links to ABC or a big paper. We need voices that will steer to you to our independent media. That's Democracy Now!, that's Free Speech Radio News, that's BuzzFlash, that's magazines other than Time and Newsweek.
For all the carping about the mainstream media, we don't see a lot of people using other sources.
We'll single out one person by name, Jude of Iddybud, because she does work a wide variety of resources. She'll note Pacifica in a post or feature a smaller newspaper or whatever. But Jude's an exception. We see a lot of people who want to note Cokie Roberts, not critique her but note her. "Cokie Roberts said . . ." Is that really what we need the internet for?

As journalism majors, we're concerned with the overreliance on "acceptable sources." They're only "accpetable" because so many have made them that. If for one week, and we're not trying to start a movement here -- we're just offering a thought, every left blog made a point to highlight Democracy Now! each day, think of how much good that could do?

We go to some blogs, especially new ones, and think, "You don't grasp the power that you have." ("Tear In Your Hand" by Tori Amos on Little Earthquakes.) We have a power now, who knows how long before the net gets regulated and completely absorbed by big media?

But we're all in agreement that while we're here we'll try to offer the left. There won't be any links to articles or comments by Andrew Sullivan. We'll work our resources from the left and we'll continue to criticize the mainstream media.

We got e-mails about C.I.'s stance regarding The Times and Judith Miller. Those looking for disagreement are going to be disappointed. (Rebecca remains indifferent.) Kat's opinion is they crack down on big media and then watch out in the counter culture. Betty's opposed to giving up sources. Mike says you don't rat. And The Third Estate Sunday Review has been involved in repeated debates on this topic both with fellow students and in classrooms.

We're happy to see a little bravery from The Times. ("Little" in contrast to what's gone on there for so long. We do not, however, think that there is anything "little" about Miller and the paper's stance. We think that's brave. Hopefully, it will cross over to the pages of the paper.)

We're glad that C.I. took a brave stand. And we applaud others who take a brave stand even when we don't agree with it because there are too many people in this country who just go along.
We need more bravery. And we really wanted to highlight an entry of C.I.'s on the need for courage but C.I. felt we had enough blog spotlights. (We did have a lenghty "Five Books, Five Minutes" and it's gone. We're not recreating what Blogger lost.)

A little while ago, these were very dark times. We entertained thoughts of moving to Canada. But brave voices spoke out. So to anyone blogging or thinking of starting a blog, we ask that you be a brave voice. And if you get a piece of hate mail, like Folding Star did, you find someone to talk to about it. When the death threats towards Ava and C.I. (for TV reviews!) started, we wouldn't have gotten through that without each other.

Recently Dick Durbin tried to be a brave voice but couldn't take the criticism. We've seen enough backing down, enough apologies for things that didn't require apologies. We've seen people push the myth of "red" states, we've seen people say "don't make fun of James Dobson."
We've seen enough crap.

"You don't know the power that you have." We're returning to that because we don't know that people get the power that they have. A butterfly flaps it's wings and the effects are felt. We're sorry that Folding Star's decided to shut down A Winding Road but we hope everyone realizes that they do have a voice and that their voice can make a difference. Not if it's only in your head though. You have to get it out there. And you have to know that there may be threats and flamers but if you stand your ground you can make a difference.

We wish we could tell you, "We spoke to Folding Star and the reason is . . ." We can't. We can only tell you that we hope Folding Star blogs again and that we're still here. And that a lot of you writing searching e-mails on this topic should consider blogging. More voices.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }