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    June 26, 2007

    One-way blogging over at HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrcbackstory The Human Rights Campaign launched a blog today called "Back Story," which promises to "weigh in on issues, provide some perspective and commentary and hopefully add to the daily dialogue," according to an initial post by Joe Solmonese, the gay group's leader. 

    JoesolmoneseofcIt's a good idea in principle, especially given how remote the Washington, D.C.-based organization can be from its members — at least between black-tie dinners.

    I've added the blog over at Immigration Equality to my daily read, not only because gay immigration rights are a personal issue for me, but because I.E.'s Adam Francouer is refreshingly open in discussing tactics and encouraging feedback.  Having spent 10 years observing the gay rights movement, I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see one of our organizations treat strategy as something other than a "state secret" that only the rich and well-connected can discuss behind closed doors.

    Unfortunately, the initial posts on HRC's Back Story aren't too encouraging, at least when it comes to encouraging real discussion and "adding to the daily dialogue."  Most of the early entries by HRC's designated blogger Chris Johnson — who handles the group's "blog outreach," as if we needed further evidence of staff bloat — are either glorified press releases or news blurbs repeated on a thousand gay websites and blogs.

    It's not fair to judge a blog by its early posts, so there's still hope HRC might offer more meaty discussion and even (gasp!) take a few risks.  I know firsthand that it takes awhile to grow accustomed to the blog form, and its drive-by commentary is still an imperfect fit for me. But I can make one very specific suggestion to HRC:  enable reader comments.

    Sovo_logo_small I've been plenty critical of HRC, of course, in my years editing Southern Voice and the Washington Blade , in syndicated columns since and here on this blog. But I have always given over more space for responses and criticism than I took to use myself and, of course, this blog includes comments, and I don't censor.

    Blade_logo_small In the early days of the web, I added a comments section to SoVo and the Blade websites, but we had to remove the feature after a small but determined bunch used it to write incredibly personal, nasty and defamatory comments about individual staffers (no, not me). The Blade recently opened up its site to comments again, and I wish them well with it.

    Every comments section depends on a certain degree of respect and decorum, both qualities all too often missing from the Internet. But if I can handle the heat, and so can the Blade and Immigration Equality, then HRC can, too.  Otherwise, we're left to conclude what we already suspect, that "improving communication with members," one of Solmonese's goals for "Back Story," is really just a one-way street.



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    1. George on Jun 26, 2007 9:45:42 PM:

      You're absolutely right! What's a blog - especially a large, political organization's blog - without comments? How can HRC hope to be a part of "the daily dialogue," if all they offer is a monologue?

      Isn't it somehow oddly ironic that employees of large, Fortune 500 behemoths, like Adobe or Microsoft, publish open-comments blogs (where some people occasionally vent their misdirected grievances inappropriately), and a large Human Rights organization does not - not even moderated ones?

      I read some blogs as much for the well-informed reader comments, as for the author's views. And, with the likes of gaynewswatch.com :) or newsvine.com, or even plain-old Google News, simply re-posting basic newswire on any topic seems rather beyond the point. Let's hope it will evolve, and pick up, but for now, I see hardly any reason to add their RSS to my reader...

    1. Andoni on Jun 27, 2007 11:35:38 AM:

      Yes, the Immigration Equality website, especially the blog, is one of my favorites, too. Very refreshing, very enlightening. I will visit the HRC one occasionally to see if it's worth it. I don't want to prejudge, but my experience with HRC is that it is a "top down" organization and they don't care to hear what we think.

    1. jimbo on Jun 27, 2007 3:09:39 PM:

      If it has no two-way form of communication or discussion, it is not a blog. Posts without discourse are nothing more than press releases delivered from a content management system. They don't get it. It is not a blog.

      On the other hand, comments are hard to manage, and occasionally annoying to have to clean up, edit or moderate.

      Strangely, nearly every news article or editorial published by my hometown paper has a comments section available. It's a massive public discourse area that is either a great experiment or a big mistake. I pity the moderator of the paper's blog comments:


      Oh, and a blog has to be readable and entertaining. Dry press releases won't hold an audience for long. There has to be an angle and a reason for people to visit a blog, a reason for daily posts, and the HRC blog does not have any yet.

    1. laconic1 on Jun 28, 2007 7:48:13 PM:

      Are you going to take your buddy Andrew Sullivan to task for not including comments too?

      Surely if you took five seconds of self-reflection, you'd understand that your boasting that you take "heat" is absurd, considering the comparatively low number of hits your blog gets. A blog for the HRC, like Andrew's, is going to be a lightning rod for both homophobes and gay people LIKE YOU who have been on the warpath against Joe Solmonese in an obsessive and personal way. If Andrew ran comments, every post would become a magnet for ad hominem distraction.

      Unless a blogger has the time and staff to screen comments -- like both the Huffington Post and even gaypatriot.org -- using email feedback like Andrew is prudent. Of course, if the HRC spent the money for a staffer to screen comments, you'd write 7 blog entries read by 9 people complaining about the waste of money.

      That you tell the story of your own experience with comments at the Blade and don't have the presence of mind to apply that to others is another example of your blindingly high opinion of yourself -- a principal reason you were shelved at Window when your bankrupting policies forced you to give up ownership.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jun 28, 2007 8:12:36 PM:

      Well, "laconic1," thanks for proving my point that allowing comments means putting up with bitter, silly personal attacks.

      I brought up my experience with the papers (which I could have left out) for precisely the reason you suggest -- to acknowledge (as Jimbo did in his comment) that allowing comments comes at the expense of putting up with (your type of) mean-spiritedness but also encourages dialogue where we can actually try to learn something from one another.

      You're right about Andrew's blog, but he engages in an almost hourly basis in dialogue with his critics. I did the same in my tenure at SoVo and the Blades. Let's see if HRC bloggers follow suit.

    1. Brian Miller on Jun 29, 2007 12:12:57 AM:

      HRC is disinterested in serious dialogue with other political candidates outside of the Democratic Party. HRC is disinterested in communication with donors and members who don't give thousands of dollars per year.

      Why would they suddenly be interested in the thoughts of the lumpen proletariat? Given their obsession with ignoring the LGBT grassroots so far, I wouldn't expect a change when it comes to "blogging" either.

    1. laconic1 on Jun 30, 2007 10:17:19 AM:

      Oh really? My comment is "mean-spirited"? You're making MY point, too, Chris. You rag on Joe and the transgendered and of course omit yourself from any such characterization, no matter how petty (and even archaic) your criticism is.

      And of course you found an excuse to exempt Andrew from your whining. He interacts hourly with his critics? Huh? How would you know if he interacts with ALL of his critics or cherry-picks what he responds to?

    1. Test Block on Jul 9, 2007 4:31:04 AM:

      Oh, and I hate to break it to you, but you *DO* censor, and we'll see if you continue to do so now that you're being continually exposed as someone who does.

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