Bob Stepno's Other Journalism Weblog
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Monday, May 16, 2005

Blogging, as in Slogging. "Blogging is no longer for amateurs or the faint of heart. Blogging - if it's done well - has evolved into an all-consuming art." So says David Greenberg in the Sunday Times.

Yes. I'm still catching up with reading... Luckily, Paul Jones has already summarized a couple of news-blog developments at the Times

Paul's blog also informed me that my old employers at the News & Observer have been doing newsroom blogs, probably trying to catch up with the folks in Greensboro.

Meanwhile, a gang of Citizens Media advocates got together this weekend in San Franciso. A couple of comments I liked:
  • Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs -- The means of creation and distribution are now widespread. The means of doing it well are not widespread.
  • Bruce Koon, Executive News Editor, Knight Ridder Digital -- Citizens now have the ability to help tell the truth, in addition to what traditional media offer. Letâo[dot accent]s see if there's an opportunity to begin to highlight and provide the tools to help organize that conversation.
More at and

Back here in Tennessee, the Nashville Bloggercon 10 days ago inspired at least one non-blogging participant to get his thoughts online: John Jay Hooker
Being a newcomer to Tennessee, I didn't know of him until bloggers started mentioning his being at the conference, and now his online profile fills in an impressive history in business and politics.

Speaking of which, Tennessee's governor is blogging... to mixed reviews.

2:49:14 PM    

This little essay has too many long sentences with more than one "...which" in the middle to be a good example of "writing for the Web," and too much old information to be "journalism."

But it's starting to feel like summer, and summer provokes nostalgia. I'm catching up with the web after a three-days-offline trip to a rainy but terrific folk festival in N.C., the Lake Eden Arts Festival (, and it inspired some stream of consciousness rambling...

OK, so Richie Havens was there, and one person too many (maybe me) said, "I haven't seen him since Woodstock," and the clouds opened and Woodstock-like rain and mud became a weekend theme.

Besides Richie Havens (and getting to know a couple of new friends), the weekend's other high point for me was talking to bluesman Roy Bookbinder. I told him how meeting him at another festival changed my life. Of course he didn't remember, because it was my life that changed...

Roy and I were jamming at a Vermont folk festival in 1977 or so when Nancy, his Philadelphia girlfriend, came in wearing combat boots and suggested one of us put down our beer and dance with her...

"Nah," we said, and stayed in the shade talking about our 50-year old guitars. But a few months later I went to see him at a bar in New Haven, she showed up again (now as a Yale grad student), and she convinced me to be part of her car pool back to that Vermont folklore center for a "contradance weekend..." Another guy in the car pool informed me that I didn't have to drive to Vermont -- there was a dance every Friday a few blocks down the street from my Hartford apartment.

Result: For 10 years most of my social life started on that dancefloor, starting with a summer of driving around to festivals with Nancy, while Roy was on the road. We got as far away as Toronto... ("What are you -- her roadie?" was a memorable comment from a friend of his and hers, who saw us together in three states. Come to think of it, Kate Hudson in "Almost Famous" did remind me of Nancy, if you substituted a soundtrack of folksongs and Appalachian clogging.)

Eventually we landed back in Connecticut at a Wesleyan University festival, which helped convince me to enroll there for courses in folk music and anthropology, and that led to quitting my daily-newspaper job and buying my first (1982) computer to write my master's thesis
... which led to a software company writing job
... which led to a second master's and a thesis about hypertext.

Researching that thesis in 1987 got me into Internet and Usenet hypertext discussions, which I was still reading after going to work for a boating magazine... The Usenet alt.hypertext discussion had a guy named Tim Berners-Lee proposing an interesting hypertext project called "World Wide Web" based on a "HyperText Markup Language" and some grad students in Illinois came up with a browser called Mosaic that put pictures on HTML pages. A Unix sysadmin friend downloaded it from UIUC so we could give it a try.

I wrote to UIUC and got invited to beta-test the Windows version of Mosaic when it was ready, but it required a fast Internet connection, which didn't exist at the magazine where I worked... I quit the magazine job and applied to grad school again, since universities were where you found the 'net in 1993...

The university that offered me a fellowship had everything I needed -- journalism, computers and folk music. (OK, that's probably not the usual route to a Ph.D. in mass communication, but I really had done enough kinds of writing to think I'd have fun teaching it, and I do.)

Along the way, a UNC girlfriend took me to the 1995 Black Mountain music festival, where LEAF is now, which is how I knew it was a great event and decided to go back a few times, including this year. That gets back to that conversation last weekend with Roy Bookbinder, whose blues-racconteur storytelling sometimes reminds me of hypertext.

So do some dry old yankee stories I've heard, woven together like contradance figures, very likely to go the long way around the barn on their way to some small irony at the end.

Like this one: Roy thought I was the guy who introduced him to Nancy.

12:40:10 PM    

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