Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Open Letter to Jeremy Wagstaff


After what I thought was a promising start, our conversation on SMS vs. MMS has gone nowhere. To my mind, there is an interesting difference between being a columnist for the WSJ and being a blogger, participant in the world wide conversation. As columnist you can be abstract and anonymous -- the idea of a person, but with the mighty reputation of the WSJ to stand behind you and give your words meaning and importance. As a blogger you are only as good as you give -- what you post, how you respond to readers, how you participate in the conversation of the marketplace.

To me, this is the fundamental difference between old media and new media -- the relationship between author and reader. In the old "mass" media, journalists have to be anonymous. If you are Walter Cronkite, you simply can't be expected to respond to the millions of viewers who tune into your program. And you rely upon CBS to provide you with the gravitas that will cause those millions to trust your reporting of the news.

But as a blogger, as with your loose wire blog your relationship as author to your readers changes. Readers expect to interact with authors out here in this new place called the web. We expect that authors are real people, not representatives of huge media conglomerates. We expect a conversation to take place.

I am not suggesting that every author has to respond to every reader. But when, as you did in responding to my September comments on your article on MMS, you write:

Interesting letter on this from Ted Shelton, with some fair points. I'll respond when I have a moment. Keep 'em coming. JW

there is a reasonable expectation on the part of the reader that a conversation will occur.

Ultimately, although I am passionate about the issues surrounding mobile devices, I don't care if you decide to respond to that particular thread. My point in writing this email is to observe that there is a fundamental difference between the way you think about yourself, and your relationship to your readers when you enter the web. Re-posting columns from the WSJ to a blog does not take advantage of this new rich medium that is developing and you are short-changing yourself by not participating in this new kind of conversation with the marketplace.


Ted Shelton

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