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Anatomy of a 'Blogging will kill you' story: Why I didn't make the cut

I read the New York Times' take on how the stress of blogging and how it can kill you with great interest: I was interviewed for it. But I pretty much knew I wouldn't make the final story as my take was different than Matt Richtel's.
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Written by Larry Dignan on

I read the New York Times' take on how the stress of blogging and how it can kill you with great interest: I was interviewed for it. But I pretty much knew I wouldn't make the final story as my take was different than Matt Richtel's.

Now this isn't Matt's fault by any means: He was up front about the premise of his story: The stress of blogging can kill you. The story was straightforward "three makes a trend" journalism. Journalists joke that three of anything makes a trend. If you get three examples of anything you instantly have a story and a premise for an analysis. That's what the editors want. And oh yeah it has to fit in a designated space. Double bonus if it tops Techmeme.

I was having the conversation with Matt to talk about Russell Shaw and put him in touch with Ellen, Russell's girlfriend, and Dana Blankenhorn, a ZDNet blogger and long-time friend of Russell's.

When I talked to Matt the theme of the story was clear, but I had doubts about the premise. I played devil's advocate and outlined my day, which didn't exactly dovetail with the primary example of the guy who is in his Brooklyn studio blogging until he passes out at his computer. If that person weren't blogging my guess is he'd pass out playing Xbox or something else.

And that brings me to my point with Matt. Yes, blogging is stressful. Yes, it can be insane. But is it any worse than being a corporate lawyer? How many of those folks dropped in the last six months? How about mortgage brokers? Hedge fund traders? FBI agents? Any job where you gnash your teeth together? We write for a living, yap all day and don't have to wear suits. You could do worse than blogging.

Let's put a little perspective on this blogging thing. You could be getting shot at in Iraq. You could be a single mom working three jobs to stay afloat (Happy Birthday mom). You could work in a coal mine. You could be in a life and death battle with Leukemia. You could be doing any one of thousands of high-stress jobs. Sure, the Web has a lot of stress but let's get real: If you're stressed out over 5,000 RSS feeds chances are good you'd be stressed by any profession you chose.

The point I was trying to make was that nothing (certainly the deaths of Russell and Marc Orchant and Om's heart attack) exist in a vacuum. You have to take care of yourself.

Matt's money question was this: Give me the anatomy of your day? I told him it varies, but I said the first thing I do in the morning is work out. To do this gig you need stamina and that means you need to be in some sort of shape. I'd like to think I could still play a half of rugby although the reality is very different (I retired a few years ago when I ran out of neoprene braces to hold me together). But that's only part of the reason I work out. The other parts: I think better. It's my Prozac. And working out literally holds me together (I have a screw in my shoulder, two screws in my knee, a reconstructed ACL on its last legs and a neck that would have been fused if it weren't for acupuncture). That's what I get for playing collision sports. I'm in perpetual physical therapy.

After a workout, I may get a blog in before feeding my daughter (assuming I'm working at home). Most days all of this occurs before 7 a.m. EDT. Then I blog and blog and work in management stuff in the middle.

Clearly, this answer wasn't going to work for Matt's story--there was a smidge of balance even if I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. for it. The correct answer would have been: "I can't sleep at night because I'm worried that another blog will have a story first. I keep my eyes open with toothpicks so I can keep blogging through weekends even though no one other than the other 300 psycho bloggers are reading me (check your weekend traffic logs folks). I did admit to checking headlines when I get up to pee at night.

I had pointed out that blogging is similar to being a wire service writer--it's not for everybody but it uniquely suits some people. Am I balanced? Not quite, but I do acknowledge the goal. Like any job there are plusses and minuses. I noted that I happened to like the pace and said it's not the stress per se as much as how you handle it. Bottom line: You can't pin two deaths and a heart attack solely on blogging.

Of course all of those points would have exceeded the Times' word count.

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