My Year of Blogging

Haim Watzman

It’s exactly a year since we launched the South Jerusalem blog. And it’s been a great year—one in which we’ve gained hundreds of readers, some of whom think we’re left-wing fanatics, some who think we’re hopeless jingoists, and at least one who thinks we should relocate to Las Vegas.

I started blogging about four years after I was first told “You should start a blog.” I didn’t want to start one for a number of very good reasons, all of which this last year’s experience have proven well-founded. As I feared, I have spent far more time than I can afford writing blog posts for which I get paid nothing, and because I’m not getting paid I can’t take the time to do the research and legwork that would be necessary to make the blog a really valuable source of news and analysis. But with newspapers hitting the boards right and left, and with the surviving ones slashing their budgets for freelance stories, it’s hard to get paid enough to do serious reporting in the traditional media anyway.

But I finally broke down and roped Gershom into starting South Jerusalem. It’s certainly fun to have a place where I can write what I want as I want, without having to please an editor (although I often miss the probing questions and queries that many a good editor has used to improve my pieces). And the blog advocates are right—a blog does indeed create an on-line community where serious discussion and exchange of ideas can take place.

Still, I haven’t turned into a blog groupie. I read other blogs only occasionally; I still much prefer the Ha’aretz (my morning read), the New York Times (which I peruse daily online) and the New Republic (to whose digital edition I am a long-time subscriber, and which I read cover to cover). And I’m painfully aware that, to the extent that I’ve been able to write intelligently on this blog, it’s only because I’m able to parasitize the reporting of the work of journalists published in real newspapers and magazines. As Paul Starr and Gary Kamiya write in TNR and Salon respectively, this is the built-in paradox of the blogosphere—it can’t be the new media if the old media shrivels up and dies.

Another paradox: if blogs are supposed to be citizen journalism, Gershom and I should be writing South Jerusalem in Hebrew. After all, that’s the language of political and cultural discourse in the society in which we live. If we were writing purely as idealistic Israelis, we’d be trying to influence our fellow-citizens in their own language. But we have to write in English for two reasons. First, if this blog is to justify at all the time we spend on it, we need for it to be read by the kind of people who give us paying work (that is, editors and publishers in New York and Washington) and those who read the articles and books we get paid for. Second, even though we’ve been living in Israel for three decades and can express ourselves in Hebrew, it still takes us more time and effort—and we don’t have that extra time.

So I’m proud but frustrated. Proud because I think we’ve created an intelligent, worthwhile blog. Frustrated because I’d really like to be able to do more serious research, reading, thinking and investigation before writing posts. In other words, South Jerusalem needs a patron. Anyone out there want to fund a progressive, skeptical blog on Israel, Judaism, culture, politics and literature?

12 thoughts on “My Year of Blogging

  1. I hope this is isn’t the introduction to your swan song in the blogosphere; if I want equal parts of ethos, ethos, logos, and pathos when I read about various issues, I come here. But if you are worried about the free education in thinking you provide for blue-collar workers like me, I can occasionally cough up a couple bucks sans the phlegm for my two favorite bloggers (I’m on my second cold this winter). Just ask via suscription or Penpal.

    Here’s to to you two. (raise coffee cup). Salute.

  2. Haim, why didn’t you post this some time ago? I regret to say that all my money has now been committed to GM, AIG, Citigroup and the rest of the truly needy. Though I’m too pinched to give you anything, I am funding putting men on the moon and Mars and conducting two high-tech vs. no-tech wars. Oh, and I mustn’t forget the vital F22 fighter (can Israel use a few? It really would help the program!)

    Alas, all I can say financially in your favor is that indirectly I am supporting you by subscribing to the New York Times.

    Seriously, I am not surprised at the extra load that a blog puts on you. I decided several years ago to have my website be a place where I could express my philosophy all in one go and then leave the interchange to take place at other sites where I was not obligated to post regularly. With the amount of writing (and speaking) that you two do for a living, I’m astounded that you can afford any time for SoJo.

    If it comes down to not being able to sustain the effort, you have my full understanding though I’ll be sorry to see you go.

    You’ve shown courage in taking on very touchy subjects in an open way. Though it is true that blogs depend on newspapers, this blog is an example of something a newspaper could never do.

  3. Congrats on your anniversary, guys. I rarely agree with what you write here, but I always enjoy reading it.

  4. Please don’t completely go away here unless you absolutely have to. I love this site, and if all it amounts to are links to your and Gershom’s articles in other places, so be it.

    Great reporting on what is really going on in Israel is a beautiful, rare thing, and I am realizing with each day how very important it is to have more of y’all’s voices out there where people can read and consider Israeli politics, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and other issues in the Middle East without the knee-jerk, ABsolute Israel-is-always-right bias. Critical voices concerned about what is going on are needed now more than ever.

    Just my two cents. You gotta do what you gotta do…just don’t go too gently into that good night.

  5. Sorry I can’t provide any sponsorship. I’m hurting along with everyone else in the New Depression. But, for whatever it’s worth, I’ve only just discovered this blog and it’s become part of my daily ritual. Keep up the good work. You are providing an important service to many of us in the U.S.

  6. Sorry if I was misunderstood. No intention of stopping. Just wish we could make it better.

  7. Between you and Gershom, I’ve read three of your books and am currently working on A Crack in the Earth. I found out about this website a few months ago and now enjoy checking it regularly. It gives me hope where logically there shouldn’t be any and it also challenges my own viewpoints on occasion.

  8. So . . . I checked out TNR for the first time. Great looking website. Then I cruised on over to Haaretz. Whack!

    There on the front page is Peres laying a sweet peck on the cheek of H. Clinton. By her expression of amazement, I would say she almost looked feminine. Thanks Haim, I almost threw up!

    That set back my liberal leanings a week or two.

  9. South Jerusalem today, South Vegas tomorrow. If you really want a land without people for a people without land, Clark County Nevada fits the bill. At least then you wont be an irritant to the world and wont provokde the antisemitism that the zionist entity has provoked

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