Blogging and Action

by Michael R. Allen

Yesterday I was catching up on missed radio programs and listened to an interview with Alderman Antonio French (D-21st) that aired a few weeks ago on KDHX’s “Collateral Damage”. One statement stood out: Alderman French, whose Pub Def is one of St. Louis’ trailblazing blogs and who is a local online media pioneer, doesn’t have much time to read blogs. French says he’s too busy doing his job to have the time needed to take in the local online media.

That’s not surprising, actually, given how hard French is working for his ward. Yet French’s statement reminds bloggers that our audiences often are not the decision-makers themselves but their constituents. If we want to spur action, we can’t stay at the keyboard at call it a done deal. A blog is not a letter to a state senator, or testimony at a public meeting, or protest. Yet a blog can encourage people to take all of those acts — and more.

As online media proliferates, the echo chamber effect can drown out the action potential of blogging. The Northside Regeneration topic is a great example of a case where the online chatter outweighs the real world action. I commend the activists who are doing the hard work of process participation on the issue, even though I don’t agree with all of their tactics. The endangered buildings that come before the Preservation Board are another example where the online buzz often belies the fact that only one or two people will actually be present to testify — or even observe — the actual Board meeting.

Antonio French’s remark on KDHX was not a big point, but it’s an important one. Media doesn’t solve the city’s problems, although it helps identify them and encourages solution-making. Yet the solutions happen through our actions. We need both good blogging and effective political action, so that as the years go by we can measure the civic impact of early 21st century St. Louis activists in more than just word count.