No matter which way you attempt to interpret the statistics, the number of blogs regularly posted to Fresh-Ink, et al. has begun to fade. What began as the brave new world of Citizen Journalism seems to have been replaced with Twitter-length attention spans of readers, or a diminishing lack of interest on the part of former contributors.
A casual bit of research on my part has exposed this downward trend. But first a note on my methodology. As a wannabe journalist/writer, I subscribe to the notion that journalist’s decide on their career path in a similar way that historians do; that is by discovering, at a tender age, their inability to achieve significant scores in mathematics. Therefore I beg the forgiveness of those of you with real educations, in advance. Now to my methodology.
Two sets of annual figures were used; those provided in the yearly, month by month totals for all blogs listed in the Monthly Archives column, and by manually totalling the monthly figure given on each particular month for the year. Because of the discrepancy I saw between the two totals, I simply added them together and divided by two. Interestingly, the number of total blogs I counted missed the mark by only 19 for the period from 2006 through 2012; 4,307 vs. 4288.
The eye opener that confirmed the downward trend became apparent in the comparisons between the four most statistically meaningful years, 2009 through 2012.. In 2009, there were approximately 679 posts. In 2010 that number more than doubled to 1531. It decreased to 1357 in 2011 and fell to a four year low of only 650 posts in 2012. Quite a reversal.
So what could possibly account for such a swing?
For one thing, the manpower that had produced The Hub and later Fresh-Ink during those years, was reduced to mere subsistence levels the result of austerity measures instituted by the struggling newspaper business. Continual changes in format and publication days rivaled the tax code in uncertainty. When I began submitting articles in 2006, a staff of 4 to 5 full time employees manned the desks in the newsroom There was a lot of enthusiasm and dedication to the effort; they are all gone. Perhaps that will change.
Disenchantment with the whole social site experiment may have spilled over into Citizen Journalism. My Facebook account has been closed for over a year. It had become a natural resource for advertisers, corporations, politicians, perverts, the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, and God only knows who else, mining every thought, keystroke, link, and carelessly contributed comment, for personal information, privacy guarantees notwithstanding.
Considering the contributors; there certainly are enough items in the news on the local, state, national and international stage to engender a response from some thoughtful individual, seeking to educate or inform the reader without inurement. And if commenting on the news proves distasteful, life does offer a plenitude of fresh fodder for enquiring minds.
But before I throw in the towel, I am going to review the content of the past several years and sift out what I consider authentic Citizen Journalism from citizen junk. Perhaps I’ll be surprised to learn that the numbers really do contain the kinds of contributions this media was originally intended for. Stay tuned.