When I worked for a weekly newspaper, I used to write a column. It generally consisted of left-over bits and pieces I may have collected that didn’t quite amount to a full story anywhere else in the newspaper.
Sometimes I allowed myself to blow off a little steam. Reporters are supposed to be objective but columnists are supposed to be opinionated. On weeks when my opinions were particularly virulent, I could count on a robust reader reaction. The following week’s letters page would be filled with responses either praising or attacking my editorial stance (usually attacking). Then it was over.
Writing a blog feels very much like writing a newspaper column but there is at least one interesting difference – digital words live forever. A post that I wrote when Walter Cronkite died last July continues to attract new readers and, over all, it is the most read digital piece I’ve written.
This of course is not startling news for anyone with a passing understanding of the digital domain. A well-crafted Google search is bound to keep spitting up my blog post. Why people are still googling Cronkite is another question. Journalism students, I imagine, or laid off reporters nostalgic for the good old days.
But if my old posts will continue to attract new readers, they should be written to remain relevant. Unlike my newspaper columns of the past, blog posts should still make sense a year later. And changing events should not make me embarrassed by the thoughts or opinions I’ve expressed. Like the famous footprints on the moon, my digital ramblings will remain out there somewhere forever.
As companies dip their toes into new media, they are often reminded that it is a dialogue, designed for quick responses and free exchanges of ideas. What’s not always mentioned is that there is a permanence to all digital communications from blogs to text messages and we never know when those words will come back to haunt us. Just ask Tiger Woods.