Friday, July 28, 2006

Blogger Q&A No.16: Andy Cline

Dr. Andrew R. Cline of Missouri State University analyzes language used in the media and in politics at his Rhetorica site. This week, he has a fascinating piece about objectivity. Check it out.

The blogger interviews continue.

Q.:When did you start blogging?

A.: I began The Rhetorica Network in March of 2002 and started blogging in April of 2002. Before that, I ran a site called Presidential Campaign Rhetoric 2000 (started in the spring of 1999) as part of a project for grad school. That site included a blog called Timeline.

Q.: What's your purpose or motivation to blogging? What do you hope to accomplish?

A. The Rhetorica Network is my attempt to describe and explain the rhetoric of journalism and politics (especially the interaction of these). I believe that all human communication has at its foundation a rhetorical intention. That's easy to see regarding political communication. But many journalists would bristle at the idea lqthat they also employ rhetoric for persuasive intentions. They do. And my job on Rhetorica is to shine a light on these intentions and the tactics that follow from them.

Q.: Where do you get your topics?

A.: The news media provide a never-ending stream of data. I could do this full time if I could find a way to make money at it :-)

Q.: What has provoked the most response from readers?

A.: My thoughts on media bias draw the most attention. My "Media/Political Bias" page gets almost as many hits per month as the main blog. It has become something of a defining issue for Rhetorica. My contention is: Political bias of all kinds exists in the news media. If all you do is consider anecdotal evidence (and ignore counter-evidence), it's easy to "prove" any kind of bias you please. This simplistic thinking fits the needs of ideological struggle, but is hardly useful in coming to a better understanding of what is happening in the world. I contend that applying a structural bias theory to journalistic behavior is far more interesting and predictive than simplistic charges of political bias. You may read more at

Q.: Do you know who your readers are and if so, do you have much interaction with them? Anything interesting to say about them?

A.: I know some of them by name. I've met a few of them in person. According to my server logs (or, rather, the inference I draw from them), my readers are academics and journalists for the most part. I used to interact with them regularly though the comments feature of the MovableType software I use. But comment spam has become such a problem that I have had to suspend comments. I hope to be able to open them again soon. I really miss the interaction. Something interesting to say about them? Yes! They are smart people who challenge me to do my best work. Their generosity and interest has made me proud of Rhetorica. And I feel bad when I let them down.

Q.: If you know, are your readers language or journalism experts or just regular folks?

A.: All kinds of folks--but quite a few academics and journalists. I also attract a few hard-science types, which I find particularly interesting.

Q.: Do you try to post on a regular schedule or as topics arise?

A.: As topics arise. They arise by the hour, so I really have to edit myself. I could post every hour on the hour if I didn't have anything else to do :-)

Q.: Do you consider yourself web savvy or up to date on technology? Will we still be blogging in five years or will technology completely replace this method of communication?

A.: Yes, I do. I am comfortable with most of the latest blogging technologies. I dislike prognosticating--especially outside of my areas of expertise. That's a good way to make a fool of yourself :-) I can say this: I believe blogging--in whatever forms it may take--represents an important moment in the history of journalism. The history of journalism is far more the history of citizen practice that professional practice.

Q.: How much time do you spend each week on your blog?

A.: Waaaaaaay too much :-) But, I enjoy it and think it's important to my mental health and my work. About 3 hours per day average, I think.

Q. What are your favorite language web sites or blogs?

A.: Language Log
Earth Wide Moth
Lying in Ponds
The Blogora

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