five blogs worth (varying degrees of) your time.

The powers that be around here (I’m looking at you, Amanda) have bestowed me with a particularly difficult task: to review and critique five randomly picked, varyingly worthwhile and only tangentially related blogs from around the internet.

Not that I’m averse to reviews or critiques or anything – much to the contrary, picking things apart is no doubt one of my favorite pastimes. But despite their innate immediacy and quick-hitting nature, blogs, as a whole, are not meant to be digested all at once: Multiple YouTube videos, 100 word posts, tweet strings, epic screeds on Michelle Obama’s dress choice – these are things we let slowly, yet constantly trickle into our lives.

We were not, as the internet gods deigned it, meant to read 3,000 words of Andrew Sullivan in one sitting. That’s a circle of hell I’m not eager to dance in again anytime soon. 

Okay, okay: so I’m not crazy about this topic. But, since we have a time/space constraint here, and only so much space is set aside for my ranting, let’s lay out the groundrules before this blogpost turns into a novella.

A good blog, in my often un-humble opinion, accomplishes the following tasks:

-Provides quality content at least once a day (preferably 5-10 times a day on sites with multiple authors or especially short posts);

-Incites interaction with readers, both in terms of commenting, social media and – most important – participation from blog administrators and authors in the conversations their content has stirred;

-Acknowledges the existence of the rest of the internet, as well as the differing perspectives and takes floating around cyberspace;

-Maintains an easily navigable layout, in which the reader neither has a problem finding content, nor feels overwhelmed by an abundance of widgets, links, ads or other colorful things that make people money;

-In following with the previous theme, makes it easy for readers to a) find other related posts or b) highlights content that the reader would not search for otherwise;

-Most of all, leaves the reader with a feeling of satisfaction intense enough that they find themselves clicking back every few hours, waiting for the author(s) byline to appear once more atop the page.

A bad blog, of course, accomplishes none of these things.

Without further ado, let’s do this. From worst to first:

Howard Fineman’s Huffington Post Blog

Host: Take a wild fucking guess

STRENGTHS: Howard Fineman is an actual journalist. All of his posts read like slightly abridged newspaper articles. (That’s meant as a compliment, by the way.) Most of the time, there’s a sense of integrity to what you are reading. Fineman does his best – as a good journalist should – to write from a non-biased perspective while also making a point through his writing. He also does a great job inciting conversation amongst readers. His pointed questions at the end of many posts have comment numbers on most of his posts stretching into the quadruple digits.

WEAKNESSES: I agree with Mr. Fineman’s politics, I just wish they could be expressed elsewhere. The format (1-2 posts a day, mostly of the abridged-journo-variety) leave the reader (at least this one) seeking more; in reading Mr. Fineman, I felt like I’d be better served by reading a newspaper, or at least a more all-encompassing news website.

Lastly, the HuffPost layout, for all its money-making glory, is a mess: it’s difficult to navigate from post to post, and the clutter on the page distracts from the content itself.

NYTimes: Well

Host: New York Times (Duh.)

STRENGTHS: Fantastic, clean and aesthetically pleasing layout. This should be an exemplar of how every news organization should be running its online outfits.

Also, it’s the New York Times. What you’ve got here is journalism: There’s some shorter stuff for sure, but mostly you’re going to be reading quality news and advice from a trustworthy news source. The post on bullied autistic children stood out in particular as the sort of informative and impactful writing you might read in a print publication.

WEAKNESSES: …because it was that sort of writing. NYTimes Well isn’t as much a blog as it is an online translation of all print articles containing a Health + Wellness keyword.

I’m not sure if this is a bad thing, but there’s something unappealing about content that leads or ends with the words “This article originally appeared in…”

Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish



Sullivan does a better job than any of his competitors in post frequency: I had read 20 posts before I even realized that his live blog from last night’s DNC coverage was still several posts away. He also does a wonderful job of including other voices in the conversation; his blog often responds to readers and quotes opinions both sympathetic and in opposition to his own.

Furthermore, his use of block quoting is perfect for his quick-hitting writing style, which allows him to prop up or tear down vast stretches of text with just a few well-placed sentences. Perhaps his best strength is variety– full blog posts, tweet strings, YouTube videos and other types of posts are employed frequently.

WEAKNESSES: With regards to the block quotes, Sullivan does a terrible – almost journalistically unethical – job with attribution and hyperlinks. His most recent post at the time of writing contains 165 words, 164 of which were taken from a writer at the National Journal Daily. There is no attribution on the page – only a hyperlink. (This is not an uncommon occurrence.)

Perhaps even worse: his blog has no comments section, which is a deadly sin in this arena. It’s not surprising that most of his posts have zero likes and are shared infrequently on Facebook and twitter; if you cut one head off the social media hydra, the rest are destined to die with it.

David Roberts’ Grist Blog

Host: Mhm.

STRENGTHS: Environmental issues aren’t of particular interest to me (especially when compared to politics) so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Roberts’ blog. Each column/post is well thought out, well-linked, and well-written. In regards to the latter, his writing is forceful and interesting without going overboard; his arguments are rational and measured; and most of all, he’s not a Green Johnny One-Note. Roberts’ subject matter varies: for an environmental blog, there’s a lot of politics on here, as well as some stuff you wouldn’t expect. (Music recommendations for example.)

WEAKNESSES: The posts are a little long, but from my perspective, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Still, Roberts would be well-suited to reign himself in once in a while. Otherwise, I have trouble finding flaws.


Host: Gawker

STRENGTHS: I’m a sucker for the Gawker network. Their layout is what every website – blog or otherwise – should aspire to: big, colorful photos set against a crisp background; an easily navigable interface that has dozens of interesting articles with alluring headlines at your fingertips; and lastly, an awesome comment section that highlights the best comments and quiets some of the noise. Tthe writing is informative while also a bit snarky. It’s always a great read.

WEAKNESSES: As someone who isn’t an ex-nerd trying to rekindle the days when he had someone to talk to about his new calculator, Gizmodo isn’t my particular cup of tea. Want an example of how a blog should run, no matter the subject? Check out some of the other Gawker sites – especially the sports-centric Deadspin, which, through its unique combination of news, snark and entertainment, has  new media down to a science.

84 inch TV’s are pretty cool tho.

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