Sunday, October 21, 2007

What's up with Ruth?

Community member Ruth does Ruth's Report for The Common Ills, a column that started off looking at NPR's Morning Edition and quickly expanded. She's expanded as well . . . starting her own site on Friday. Since Ruth was helping us with this edition, we grabbed the time to check in.

First question is, "Will your report continue to run at The Common Ills?" You make that clear at your site but we've got 22 e-mails asking that question?

Well the report stays with The Common Ills and, as you note, I did explain that in my first post. I assumed there would be some confusion so I thought addressing it would make it clear but that does not appear to have been the case. Though delaying my report this weekend to work with all of you may have added to the concern.

Why your own site?

My granddaughter Tracey has been suggesting it for some time. She can give you the hard sell on it including, her key point, more women are needed online and women of all ages.

So that's the hard sell, were there any other issues?

Well, Tracey's beefed up her insistence and I have discussed this at length with Rebecca and C.I. They made a wonderful point which is there are many times in a report where I zoom in on one topic and, as a result, either try to squeeze in some things I really think people would enjoy or need to know about, or they just fall on the cutting room floor. So the site exists to note those things. It might be a broadcast that I really enjoyed but does not fit the topic of the report I am working on. Or it could be a broadcast that was so awful. Instead of attempting to force those into my reports, I can just note them at my site.


Yes. Yes, briefly. That was one of the things I was concerned about, the fact that I really do not have time these days for a site. Rebecca brought up Wally's intent to do a jot and I know that has expanded from its original intent but I spoke with Wally about it and he was highly supportive and told me that, if I'd stay focused, I could pull it off in such a manner.

Wally: I lost my focus long before Cedric and I started working together. It was supposed to be, at The Daily Jot, a comedic haiku, nothing long. By the time Cedric and I started doing our joint-posts, it had already changed and now we generally do a lengthy -- or lengthier -- set up and go to the main joke at the end. You really need to stay focused to do something compact and I think Ruth can do that.

You did an introduction, an introductory post, that's lengthy -- especially compared to what you will be offering. Trina told us to ask you about that.

Well, the thing was that people could stumble upon it and I wanted there to be some sort of basic "About Me" so they would know where I was coming from. The profile options offered did not, to me, seem to offer a way to explain that so I did an introductory post.

Trina said that was very hard for you to write?

That is correct. I wrote and re-wrote that thing repeatedly. I do that sometimes with a report and I will have in the back of my mind, "C.I.'s going to get e-mails asking where the report is?" Sometimes that is the only thing that will force me to let go of a report and get it posted. With this first post, the introduction, it was a hand sweating, fear based writing experience. I really have no other way to describe it.

What Trina found odd was that you now have been doing reports for over two years and yet you were nervous about the introduction. She said your second post, "David Corn moving to Mother Jones," you didn't even sweat but you spent close to two hours writing and rewriting the first post. It's a personal post but Trina said that really wasn't the issue?

She is correct. I have shared so much at this point that there were no nerves over addressing the death of my husband or anything like that. But . . . Honestly, I froze. I was typing and I would suddenly think, "How many people might read this?" I was not worried about what I was sharing but I was worried about how I was sharing it and the potential audience and creating expectations. It was worse than my first report because I was excited about that. I did get nervous over some of the attention that followed -- in terms of, "Can I live up to these expectations?" This was, writing the introductory post, really scary. I enjoyed Mike's introductory post in 2005 but I really understood what he was talking about when I attempted my own first post. I need to think Trina for being there, in her kitchen with me, while I was doing that first post. C.I. and Ava are off doing their TV commentary so I will also share that in the middle of it, C.I. phoned, while a lot of you were on your way to the Tori Amos concert, and said, basically, "Ruth, it's up and life goes on. It's never going to be perfect and if you attempt perfection, you better plan to do one post the entire time." That was very freeing and obvious. It goes to Kat's "It is what it is" motto.

Kat: But that really is a concern. Not just was, but is. If you talk to most of us, you'll find that when we're at our sites we're probably doing thirty to forty minutes of just staring, wondering what to write or how to write it. I mean, Elaine, am I wrong on that?

Elaine: No, that's exactly correct. Kat's noted that before at her site and how we all do have those days -- plural -- where we stare and stare at the computer screen, long after we've selected our topics and excerpts, trying to figure out what we're going to say and how to say it. Kat once wrote, and I'm not trying to make work for Dallas, I have no idea when Kat wrote it, that C.I. just opens up a vein and lets it bleed. That's really true and why C.I. can pull together an entry in half the time -- at least -- that it takes the rest of us at our own sites.

Kat: I remember writing that but have no idea when it went up and we won't make Dallas try to locate it. Ava and C.I., as Ruth said, are off writing their TV commentary and C.I. can usually narrow down a range of dates when something appeared if not figure out exactly when it did so there's no need to bother looking for it to link to. I'll just explain my point here. It's my motto -- It is what it is -- but C.I.'s the one who's always operated under it. The difficulty Ruth's talking about, I know it very well. And I really envy the ability to just let it go which is really what C.I. does and, I think, also what Rebecca does. Am I right?

Rebecca: Your sort of right. I generally -- no, I do write that way. But I am also prone to, believe it or not, at the last minute, after I've written an entire post, delete the whole thing because I'll think, "Oh, I don't need to tackle that." There are a lot of things -- especially these days -- that tick me off. Just writing it tends to purge it but sometimes I'll pull back afterwards and delete it and choose another topic. There are times when I may want to do that and I won't due to the fact that it's time to nurse the baby or something similar. In those instances, it goes up and if someone has hurt feelings or I didn't word it exactly correct, as Cedric says, "Oh well." But talking about it right now, and thinking about how much time I have spent doing that, I will probably do it less often now.

Jim: When you'd do it in the past, what sort of things would be deleted?

Rebecca: To give one example, Katrina vanden Heuvel. As tough as some people think I've been on the woman -- and most of my readers appreciate the toughness -- there are times when I'll delete the whole thing. I'll have something personal in there, for instance, that I know via C.I. and I'll be ticked off at vanden Heuvel and include it thinking, "I'll pull this before I post." But then it will end up being the thing that the whole post is built upon and I'll delete it.

Wally: Which comes back to the issue of focus and how that sort of thing won't be a problem for Ruth if she mainstains her focus because she's really just talking about doing basically three lines of writing in a post.

Wally was very helpful with that, explaining how easy it is to get distracted, to think, "I need to make points A through L" and that the thing to do is to stick to point A.

Keesha e-mailed us to tell us to thank you for including the snapshot.

Well she made a very valid and strong point in that roundtable over a year ago at the gina & krista round-robin. We all want more coverage of Iraq in the community. We want it from our media and we want it from The Common Ills. The community voted to keep the snapshot and, as Keesha pointed out, it should be copied and pasted on all community sites posting that day. It's a very simple way to include Iraq and keep it in focus. We are sick of the lack of coverage of war resisters and the snapshot is one place that we can find coverage of them so instead of being part of the problem, amplify the reach of the snapshot.

Jim: Mike was pissed off Wednesday and I loved that post. One of the points he made was, "C.I. doesn't go 'Whine, whine, The Nation doesn't cover war resisters!' C.I. proves every Monday through Friday (minimum) that they can be covered. The whiners just want someone to make the world better for them."

Yes, and two things on that, Wally brings up a similar point when he filled in for Mike: " If your issue is so damn important, how about you write about it as opposed to showing up every few weeks to scream that no one is covering your issue? No one, by the way, would include you. And, by the way, some people are covering that issue."; second, it is a sentiment similar to the point expressed in a Center for Constitutional Rights advertisement.

Betty: On CCR, I thought you might want to talk about what you're linking to on your "Links."

Well, I link to the community sites first of all. That is a given. After that, I could have spent forever adding links. My template is different from everyone except for this site's and C.I. sat down with me Friday afternoon and set up the site including showing me how to do my link list. I could have added many more. I tried to pick the ones that I have emphasized the most in my reports. I need to add more and my grandson Jayson pointed out to me Saturday night that I did not have Iraq Veterans Against the War on my links. That is an oversight I will fix when I post next.

Mike: Well adding links, regardless of the template, can be a pain in the butt. You're either doing it before you post or right after and you're thinking, "I just want to turn this computer off" or "I just want to do my post." I think we all avoid going into our templates. Partly because it's a hassle and also due to the problem The Third Estate Sunday Review had their first week.

Jess: A friend had created a template for us, had worked all night creating it because we had talked about starting a site but hadn't planned anything. So when we decided to start one up, a friend went into overtime creating a special template just for us. We'd done everything, our articles and all, and then we started doing our 'blog roll' and the whole thing just crashed. We couldn't fix it and ended up using a Blogger/Blogspot template. I think that's on everyone's mind when they're considering going into their own template.

Cedric: I'd agree with that and we were especially nervous, those of guest posting on Friday -- Betty, Wally, Ty, Jim, Dona and myself, about adding Ruth's site to someone else's sidebar links because it's bad enough if something goes wrong at your site but to do it at someone else's site .

My site really is simple after I got it down. C.I. told me I was really lucky because the other sites have to copy and paste code and then copy and paste the link. I just have to grab the link and do not have to bother with code. I had honestly forgotten the template issue until it was just now brought up adding to my list of things to worry about.

Dona: Well don't worry about it. You really shouldn't have that problem. But Trina did say you had one "Oh no!" moment after you were done on Friday.

I did. Thank you for asking about that. Dallas helps out at this site hunting down links -- among other things -- and Dallas has always helped me out with my reports. He and C.I. would grab the tags or the links. I could also ask him, "Did ___ make sense?" So when I finished posting Friday, I had a minute of grief when I realized I forgot to thank him. I'll thank him now and note that he has always been a tremendous help. I did my posts Friday without any help on the links so that's probably why I forgot to thank him but he really has been a huge help in too many ways to count.

Anything else you want to add?

Just that I am really curious to read Ava and C.I.'s TV commentary, that I am still slightly nervous about my own site, and I think we really did a great job on the Ms. magazine feature here.


Mentioned throughout the above are:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,

C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Korner;
Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mikey Likes It!;
Like Maria Said Paz;
The Daily Jot;
Trina's Kitchen;
and Ruth's
Ruth's Report

All but Ava and C.I. participated on this feature (Trina by suggesting questions) and Dallas also participated.
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