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Not Having Fun, Ehrisman Leaves South Dakota Blogosphere

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.

13 Comments

  1. Steve Hickey 2020-07-09 22:54

    Makes we want to reboot my VoicesCarry blog. Ehrisman’s cartoons were fun, most times. He provided a real service for the little people of city. A gadfly is a good thing in that they frustrate the tyranny of the supermajority, the money and the powers that be.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-07-10 05:44

    Rev. Hickey, if engaging the public with your writing trips your trigger, I would welcome your return. We need gadflies.

  3. Jeff Barth 2020-07-10 08:06

    Scott’s Blog was one of the last things I looked at every evening and first things I looked at every morning. His perspectives usually stimulated the grey cells one way or another.
    I miss his Blog already.

  4. Curt 2020-07-10 11:16

    Thx, Cory. Nice testimonial to South DaCola. And good “navel-gazing” review of blogging on the high plains. Please continue your efforts to keep us informed and entertained.

  5. Moses6 2020-07-10 14:12

    Scott was so much more savvy than the Mayor and council he made them look bad. of Sioux would like to have seen him debate the Mayor.Scott will leave a legacy even if some of my posts were deleted farewell but you might be back.

  6. Mary D 2020-07-10 19:42

    I could not believe what I was reading and reread it a couple times and was shocked! I wondered right away, “Does Cory know this?!?” I will miss him and knowing what was going on in his corner of the world. I started reading his blog about the same time I started reading yours. Wished he had not made it so final and would still post every now and then. I suppose though you are either into something completely when you blog and just can’t post pieces every now and then and he feels he wants to move on to his interests now. Hope to see him around…maybe here even.

  7. Donald Pay 2020-07-10 19:50

    I wandered over there from time to time to read what was going on in my old hometown. I liked it because it was an outsider’s take on the inside of local government. Every city and town should have an Ehrisman. I hope someone comes along to pick up the torch.

  8. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2020-07-10 21:04

    Jordan came back for an other three-peat. So, I hope Scott eventually does too.

  9. John 2020-07-10 22:12

    Scott’s observations are missed.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-07-11 10:00

    Mary D, I’m thinking about your wish that Ehrisman would consider posting every now and then instead of pulling the plug completely.

    One of the challenges of building an online audience is producing regular content to keep an audience engaged. I’ve given the same advice to political candidates as well as aspiring bloggers: to grab and sustain attention online, you have to get on the treadmill and post, post, post. David Newquist does not do that; he writes when he feels like it (he’s been averaging about once a week for the last seven years), writes with penetrating insight every time he does, but doesn’t keep up a a steady daily stream to stay on daily readers’ radar amidst everything else coming into their Twitter and FB feeds. The less you rely on that daily marketing ping, the more you have to rely on producing really, really good material.

    There’s also a difference in how we write and what we choose to write about on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Consider print media and the differences among what you read in the morning newspaper, in a weekly newsmagazine, and in a monthly or bimonthly publication. The shorter the publication cycle, the more articles the outlet will publish on current events, news of the moment. The shorter those articles will generally be and the less longevity that spot-reporting will generally have. The longer the publication cycle, the more feature articles the outlet will publish on broader issues, on matters likely to still be relevant a week or a month after publication. Long-cycle publications are written to last, to go beyond the moment and give people knowledge and analysis they can use further into the future.

    Daily blogs are inclined toward immediate action: “Holy cow, do you see what the City Council is discussing tomorrow night? Call your councillor now and raise heck!” Weekly or longer-cycle publications (David Newquist’s Northern Valley Beacon provides an example) tend toward deeper, longer-term reflections: “This instance fits with this pattern of instances and helps us understand our community and our culture. These are things to keep in mind not just as we vote next week but as we consider how to recruit and elect leaders, raise our kids, and make big choices about where we want to live and work.”

    Posting once a week or once a month seems like it would be less work than posting daily. But doing it “right”—doing it well, doing it meaningfully, doing it relevantly and helpfully—on a longer cycle might require a mission and focus and style difference from that of a daily blog. A low-volume, long-cycle blog could pose challenges different from but just as hard as writing punchy daily content.

  11. Bob Newland 2020-07-11 10:21

    Don’t encourage Hickey to do anything except attend Trump rallies without a mask.

  12. bearcreekbat 2020-07-11 11:54

    Cory’s comment is interesting. My three favorite blogs are DFP, Newquist, and Juanita Jean – The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon. Cory’s ability to publish multiple stories daily that are interesting, well documented, and well written is absolutely amazing and has kept me coming back since Madville days. Newquist’s writing is so powerful and relevant that I regularly check for new posts with great anticipation, and when I find one it moves to the top of my list. Juanita Jean almost always makes me chuckle or grimace and is highly addictive.

    Bottom line, thanks to each of you for improving all of our lives every single day with your hard work, careful thought and insightful writing. Meanwhile, I wish the best to Scott in his future endeavors and thank him for his past efforts on his blog.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-07-11 16:19

    Thanks, Bearcreekbat. Your reading list helps make my earlier point about the gap Ehrisman leaves:

    If we’re doing things right, no two blogs are alike. Each blogger develops a unique voice and a unique view. The more blogs you can choose from and read each week, the richer a literary experience you will enjoy, and the more complete a picture of the world you will have. Remove a voice from the blogosphere, especially from a subsphere like South Dakota where we already lack diverse voices (every blog I cited in the original post is written by an older white male, and coming up on 49, I’m outlyingly young in that group), and you are left with a poorer buffet of information and entertainment.

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