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?