As I noted this morning before dropping econ bombs on a conservative friend, I don’t mind isolation. Nonetheless, Scott Ehrisman’s closure of South Dacola after thirteen years of Sioux Falls blogging leaves me feeling isolated in an unwelcome way.
Ehrisman began blogging in 2007, when the South Dakota Blogosphere was still only single-digits old. Of the numerous blogs that sprung up in the Aughts (or the O-Os?), only a few remain funct. Many past bloggers and subsequent screen-tappers who might have replaced them have found they can scratch their megaphone itch more easily and cheaply on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Still hanging in there are Doug Wiken of Dakota Today (launched December 2003), Dr. David Newquist of Northern Valley Beacon (December 2006), and Leo Kallis of The Displaced Plainsman (July 2007). I started blogging under the Madville Times masthead in 2005, then migrated to Dakota Free Press in summer 2015. Pat Powers started throwing things at the Web walls in winter 2005; he stepped away from Dakota War College in November 2010 to take a political patronage job that he managed to keep for only a year and a half before his own scandalous political behavior led to his resignation and return to blogging, though much of his blog production since then has been the product of pandering to South Dakota’s one-party machine rather than the independent thought, analysis, public service, creativity, or writerly joie de vivre that blogs should exemplify.
Ehrisman sounds like he’s not finding joie or vie in blogging anymore:
Over the past couple of months I have had many POSITIVE things happen to me, and the Blog is no longer a part of that and it time to cut the strings. While I enjoyed it, I did speculate shutting it down for at least 2 years, it just took me awhile. It’s just not fun anymore and really not part of my life anymore. I got stuff to do and it doesn’t involve city politics [Scott Ehrisman, “My Final Post: July 7, 2020,” South Dacola, 2020.07.07].
Not that Ehrisman owes anyone an explanation for choosing to write or not, but it whatever way I might “need” to hear anything about why a person would quit blogging, “It’s just not fun anymore” is all I need to hear.
Should Scott keep blogging? Should anyone blog? Those aren’t good questions. There’s no “correct,” normative answer. Should I wear a mask in public during the coronavirus pandemic?—now there’s a question with a proper normative answer: yes, you should wear a mask, and you’re a role model if you do and an ignorant ass if you don’t!
Should you blog? Should you write? Should you paint? Should you study law? Should you study nursing? Should you teach? Should you haul garbage? Should you be a life coach? There is no should or shouldn’t to such questions (except the last one: life coach? seriously?). The proper question is Do you want to? Do you enjoy it? If you do, great, knock yourself out. If you don’t, knock it off. Marie-Kondo your daily pursuits (wait, isn’t she just a life coach? Dang.) and do your thing, or your next thing, or that thing you used to do but got distracted from but miss, whatever. There’s no debate to be had, just a handshake, a thank-you-for-your-service.
I assert no moral obligation on Ehrisman to blog. I will, though, contradict the grudgeful snark of Pat Powers, who says Ehrisman’s departure is a “fringe benefit” of yet another victory for Powers’s big-money patrons. Blogosphere is not just a cool word; the term epitomizes the multivocality that I’ve found central to good blogging. You can blog alone if you want to, but a blog is always better when it has other blogs around it, blogs that will amplify and challenge each other, blogs that will view the same topic from different angles, blogs that will each adopt and discuss their own topics of special interest in ways that no other blog or regular media outlet will.
Ehrisman’s writing added that sort of diversity to the South Dakota Blogosphere. He focused intensely on Sioux Falls issues. His hyperlocality (dang, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged this much about blogging and broken out the navel-gazing theory jargon!) strengthened my own blogging in various ways. When I wanted to write about Sioux Falls, I could read Ehrisman’s blog to learn more first. I could quote and link to Ehrisman’s blog to give my own readers more information and a different, more local take. But I could also leave some topics to Ehrisman and focus my attention on other topics, knowing that together (loosely, not in coordination, just in the same space and serving overlapping often overlapping principles and audience) we could offer interested readers a better buffet of South Dakota news, analysis, and commentary than any blogger could alone.
To serve their communities better, newspapers need more than one reporter, and blogospheres need more than one blogger.
If you think blogs are good—especially if, like me, you think blogs are good enough to read and make every day—then your commitment to the true blogging ethos requires that you acknowledge that Ehrisman’s departure leaves the South Dakota Blogosphere—and your morning read—poorer. That’s not cause to guilt-trip our friend Scott—his life is his; he needs no backseat drivers—but it is cause to keep our ears open for new voices to fill the gap he leaves.