Most of Ohio’s political bloggers are rank amateurs, and that includes myself, whose blogging comes from inward motivations. Most bloggers, like me, don’t make any money to blog. There are a few that have a little bit of advertising. There are a few that are professional, like Progress Ohio, that has its own office space, or Openers, which is a blogging arm of a newspaper (in this case, the Plain Dealer). For those few blogs that aren’t purely amateur, they have an exposure, however slight, to external editorial constraints. Therefore, for the most part, bloggers write what they want to write without outside interference.
Jill Miller Zimon, of Writes Like She Talks (WLST), once abandoned an arrangement with the Plain Dealer ostensibly because she sensed that some entity or entities desired to influence what she wrote or didn’t write. Writes Like She Talks was one of my favorite left-of-center blogs to read.
After visiting Columbus last month to tape a segment of “The State of Ohio” for broadcast on PBS and The Ohio Channel, Eric Vessels of Plunderbund graciously introduced me to some bloggers within the office at Progress Ohio. I asked if Progress Ohio had made any decisions regarding the statewide issues on the ballot for this November. Passage of Issue 5 was to be their main thrust (I also urge a “YES” vote on Issue 5). My own main thrust is defeat of Issue 6, a casino-monopoly-granting amendment to the state constitution. The prevailing mood at Progress Ohio was “NO” on issue 6, but they had also received some communication to leave the issue alone. I understand their tenuous position, realizing the nature of their organization–an organization that needs funding in order to operate the way that it does.
Thinking back two years to the Ohio Learn and Earn farce of a state constitution amendment ballot proposal that also sought to legalize casinos, I felt that my own voice against Issue 6 this year would be joined by a chorus of agreeing bloggers, because there was such a blogswarm against gambling in 2006. The 2006 issue had stronger guarantees of tax yields by the casino, earmarked for education, just like Ohio’s lottery, several casino sites proposed, promising greater competition than the current proposed monopoly, and potentially employing more people, but an avalanche of bloggers voiced their opposition. If the 2006 issue was a turkey, deserving of defeat, then the 2008 issue currently on the ballot is a REAL STINKER, with much less to offer, any way you look at it. So far, though, there hasn’t been much of a blogswarm against Issue 6 this time around.
Is it possible that other blogs are being sent the same message as Progress Ohio, to sit on the sidelines when it comes to Issue 6?
And that brings me right back to Jill Miller Zimon, at Writes Like She Talks. WLST has not been the enjoyable read that it used to be. I am openly wondering whether JMZ’s blogging is being influenced by external forces. I’m not checking her blog as often as I used to. Is my perception off? Am I imagining things? Feel free to weigh in, but here are my own observations:
- JMZ was the clear leader of the anti-gambling blogswarm in 2006. Her most recent entry that carries the “gambling” tag was written on April 15th of this year.
- On April 15, she referenced “myohionow,” the organization backing the casino effort for the current ballot issue, but hasn’t posted any followups. For those who’ve paid attention to WLST for at least a couple of years, she’s customarily been faithful with updates and followups.
- JMZ led the blogstorm against Ohio Learn and Earn with a series of 57 REASONS to vote it down. This year, she’s reprised the 57 REASONS theme to highlight her support of the Obama/Biden presidential ticket. In reprising her 57 REASONS theme, she has referred back to her 2006 anti-gambling stance without ever referring to the gambling issue we are facing this November.
- Speaking of her support for Obama/Biden, those familiar with the JMZ of yesteryear know that she acknowledged that even candidates she supported had their human weaknesses. Since Biden joined forces with Obama and JMZ pledged to promote them, Obama and Biden have been uncharacteristically been put on a pedestal, with every personality trait lionized and every platform plank plated in gold.
- JMZ has opposed many Republican politicians openly on her blog, including George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Bob Taft, and Ken Blackwell, but she also demanded good governance from politicians within her own party, like Marc Dann. Some time after the Marc Dann episode wrapped up, though, Democrats have escaped JMZ’s scrutiny, including Jimmy Dimora, currently under investigation. I remember a time when the Cuyahoga County Commissioners passed a tax for a convention center and then blocked attempts to put the tax hike on the ballot. The JMZ I was accustomed to lashed out at the commissioners. These days? She seems to not want to go there.
- Of all the politicians JMZ has opposed, none have been met with the vicious incessant ferocity at WLST that Sarah Palin has. Last time I checked, Sarah Palin was not a criminal, like some of the others that merited JMZ’s attacks. To this day, the lowest job approval ratings Palin has garnered as Governor of Alaska is 68%. That’s stellar. The JMZ I’m accustomed to would grudgingly admit that those she opposed had some redeeming qualities. Not this time.
- JMZ was a champion of women making inroads in the political establishment. Yes, she favored candidates endorsed by Emily’s List, but she also offered congrats, however tepidly, to women of other persuasions who were able to rise to the top. That stopped after Biden joined the Obama ticket, as Palin, who didn’t ride anyone’s coattails to arrive where she is today in politics, has received worse treatment at the hands of JMZ than any prior politician, male or female.
- JMZ was genuine in her give-and-take discussions with commenters, gleaning additional knowledge from them, and occasionally adapting her perspective during the discourse as new information was acquired. More recently, JMZ concedes nothing. Once self-styled (and often characterized by others) as a moderate voice within the liberal blogosphere, she’s become immovably fixed on the left end of the spectrum and has taken a much harder edge in both her writing and her back-and-forth with commenters. Where has that moderate voice gone?
- A greater amount of WLST material of yesteryear was original compared with the more recent material. It seems that material from other people’s columns has been presented more often, of late. The recent recycled material is more divergent from JMZ’s own writings, than passages of others that she quoted in yesteryear. The recycled material more often crosses boundaries and thresholds of good taste that she, of herself, wouldn’t cross in times past. Her own voice, at least they way I recognized it, is being lost. Furthermore, there is a push to make the recycled material go viral. I didn’t notice any such WLST push for the writings of others to go viral in earlier times.
I’ve shared my observations, and readers are welcome to do the same.
Are external factors influencing/constraining Jill’s blogging? Has Jill herself changed? Or am I hallucinating?
To me, it’s not the same WLST.