Interview with Blogger Trace SharpBy The Pakistani Spectator • Apr 22nd, 2008 • Category: Interviews • 2 Comments
Would you please tell us something about you and your site?
Newscoma is something I started a few years ago mainly to amuse myself. My name is T. Sharp and I work at a biweekly newspaper in a small college town in Tennessee that doesn’t even have an AP wire. I wanted to have a place where I could write about national and state politics as well as about issues going on globally. I try to have a sense of whimsy about the site but I do talk about issues that I feel are important such as politics and human rights. As the editor of a newspaper, I am confined to rules. In blogging there are no traditional rules and there is a freedom I’ve never been allowed before.
Do you feel that you continue to grow in your writing the longer you write? Why is that important to you?
I hope I am growing. Maintaining a blog is really about disciplining yourself to make mistakes as well and that is a commitment. Writing is putting yourself out there and not everyone is kind. I think I’ve only skipped a few days of posting. I wanted to improve my writing skills by blogging but it’s also about finding one’s own voice. Blogging is also about communicating outside our own personal world. I find it amazing that I’m in Tennessee and having a written conversation with a site in Pakistan. The vastness of the Internet and exchanging ideas with people is incredible. I think writing/blogging is important to me because of the dialogue we can have on such a large scale. It’s important because our world, while vast, is really not as big as we think it is.
I’m wondering what some of your memorable experiences are with blogging?
I go back to blogging being somewhat like a conversation. I’ve been contacted by some pretty incredible people through Newscoma. I had a comment from Norman Lear, who is a television producer, who was looking for information about a woman named Loraine Barr. They both left comments to each other on my blog. I found that to be pretty amazing. The post, http://newscoma.wordpress.com
What do you do in order to keep up your communication with other bloggers?
I do go to blogger meetups in Nashville and Memphis several times a year. I’ve also attended a Media Reform conference about Net Neutrality and met people from all over the world. I utilize Twitter as well. I think Twitter is a great tool in instant communication. I also send emails thanking people for leaving comments and I comment on their blogs as well. Blogging is about community.
What do you think is the most exciting or most innovative use of technology in politics right now?
I go back to Twitter and social networking platforms like Facebook, which are a good way to get to a large amount of people quickly. I also think that politicians, not the people that work for them, should blog but we have two waves of people using the Internet. The people who understand new digital media and those who still think it’s a passing fad in political circles. One thing about the advances in social networking is that information is instantaneous. News cycles are shorter, than let’s say, what we had even ten years ago. A story like Watergate or Iran Contra dominated traditional media outlets when those news stories were broken and lasted months in the news cycle. Now, because news is instant, I don’t think those stories would have the legs, if you will, because of technology because there’s always a new story breaking and instantly sent out to the masses. There really isn’t much “sitting” on news now because there is a blogger somewhere ready to release it instantly. It has become a challenge for traditional journalists but it’s also made news more transparent in the last couple of years. It’s good, but not perfect.
Do you think that these new technologies are effective in making people more responsive?
I do. Technology changes daily. People have cell phones with cameras and video on them. Anyone can be a citizen journalist. But once you get the latest technology, there is a new gadget out there that does it faster and better. As for being responsive, people react to what they feel. We can have the greatest technology in the world but the humanity of people is what makes them respond either positively or negatively.
What do you think sets Your site apart from others?
Oh, that’s tough. Okay, I think that Newscoma is a bunch of things. I’m not one thing really. Newscoma is about left-leaning politics, but it’s also about pop culture. I write about odd news that isn’t going to make the newspaper or daily newscasts. I have been told I have an odd blog and that’s probably true. I do try to have my own voice as well. I also try to keep an open mind and have a dialogue with folks.
And I think every person has value even if they disagree with me. Disagreeing is fine because it can lead to a pretty good conversation. I want Newscoma to be entertaining but I also want it to be relevant. An odd combination but it’s what I try to accomplish.
If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success in life, what would it be?
Compassion. And can I add a sense of humor.
What was the happiest and gloomiest moment of your life?
I’m a pretty optimistic person. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to stay in Europe for about nine months when I was a teenager and even traveled to Morocco. I look back at that time and realize how fortunate I was to see different cultures so vastly opposite of where I grew up in rural America. I was allowed to experience and see different religions/government and that the world was not confined to just what I could see. I’m very lucky to have had that chance.
The gloomiest period in my life, without a doubt, is when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I freelanced during that period of time so I could be with her until she died. She was an amazing woman who taught me a great deal about strength and courage. I write about her quite a bit on my blog. I find that it’s okay to share certain personal experiences along with my observations on what is happening in news.
Do you think [the use of Twitter and other social networking tools by politicians] is bandwagon jumping or what?
Actually, I think Twitter and other platforms of this nature are just what you wrote. They are tools. And there are going to be more of them out there. I don’t think it’s bandwagon jumping, just another form of communication. But also remember, if politicians, or people for that matter, don’t sound genuine, then they are either going to be mocked or ignored. Howard Dean, when he ran for president of the United States in 2004, proved that the Internet was an incredible place to raise money and found a voice online even though it ultimately worked against him with his rebel yell. Republicans Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul raised huge “money” bombs online this year before they dropped out of the race. And YouTube has hundreds of videos of democrat Barack Obama’s speeches that you can go and see at your own leisure. Candidates, and elected politicians, can be accessed more than ever. These tools are just apart of the process now and it changes and moves forward daily. Of course, they are also learning that what you say and do can be taped at any time. I think the Internet scares some politicians, but within just a few years, it’s going to be just part of the process and already is to a large degree.
If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s
paid for - what would your top 3 choices be?
I’d like to go to Alaska, to see the Mayan Ruins and Japan.
What is your favorite book and why?
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love this novel because it explains hard lessons about racism and classism from a child’s point of view. It’s beautifully written.
What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?
This may be a weird answer but you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their shoes.
Is there anyone from your past that once told you you couldn’t write?
Of course. Creative people are told all the time they can’t. Singers are told they can’t sing. Dancers are told they cannot move properly. It’s a way for people to gain power over another person. I let it bother me when I was younger. Now that I’m in my forties, I’ve learned to take criticism from the individual. If they are being constructive, that’s one thing. If they are just being mean for the sake of mean, I pretty much ignore it. Not to say it doesn’t sting but there is a lesson in everything. And one good lesson is not to give other people free room and board in your head. It accomplishes nothing but sometimes it’s difficult to separate yourself from it.
How bloggers can benefit from blogs financially?
I’m not sure. I know that some make outrageous amounts of money. I think, however, that there is a market for bloggers to benefit financially but it depends on how you are going to market that blog. Most of the blogs making money right now have a foothold in the market. If a person establishes their blog as a brand, then I do think the market can benefit them. But blogger is a hard word to define. You have blogs that are specifically about being a parent, gossip blogs, political blogs, knitting blogs, etc. It depends on the niche and how hard someone wants to work on it becoming a brand. Every blogger I know who stays at it would love to make money blogging, including myself, but the realities are that millions of blogs are out there.
Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?
I work a full-time job, have a part-time blogging job and have a pretty good social life. I wish I had more time on my hands actually. The stereotype of a blogger sitting in their parent’s basement in pajamas is not what I’ve ever experienced.
What are your thoughts on corporate blogs and what do you think the biggest advantages and disadvantages are?
The advantage of the corporation having a blog is that they get their message out with a friendly voice, BUT the disadvantage is that if there is no personality and it is little more than a press release, then corporations lose before they have even begun. The reality is that corporate blogs are here to stay. The question is will the corporations allow them to be organic and grow with a distinctive voice. Honestly, I think just having a standard website is the way to go but that’s just me.
What role can bloggers of the world play to make this world more friendlier and less hostile?
Not only writing compassionately about what they are passionate about, but also being open minded and leaving prejudice and anger aside.
Who are your top five favourite bloggers?
It’s hard for me to pick just five. I read a lot of blogs and have hundreds of them in my reader. I would say that I think Aunt B. at Tiny Cat Pants out of Nashville has a distinctive voice and I find myself drawn there constantly. There are just too many to choose. I tend to read a lot of sites about newspapers and the changes in traditional news media in comparison to digital news media and how to accomplish those goals. I also like, being based in Tennessee, Jack Lail at Random Mumblings who concentrates on those issues as he is an editor as well along with Michael Silence who blogs for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Although our politics are different in many ways, I also like Adam Kleinheider at the Nashville Post. Nationally, I would have to go with the Huffington Post although that is more of a magazine that utilizes blogs for content.
Is there one observation or column or post that has gotten the most powerful reaction from people?
In Tennessee, I get some reaction on my political posts and some of the odd news I find. I keep trying to communicate that politics does not always have to be angry. As someone who is left-leaning, I find that my repeated message over the past year of having a “dialogue” has opened up some pretty good conversations with people who are different than I am. If you just hammer the “I’m right/you’re wrong” drum all day, it gets old. I want to be inspired. I don’t want to fight and I don’t. Life is too short. I think we can communicate effectively by taking a breath and talking to each other and not at each other. Ironically, it’s the pop culture links that tend to get the most attention.
What is your perception about Pakistan and its people?
A lot of what Americans get about any country is from mainstream media. I have found that every country has a unique voice that is more than just the news we see. We have seen a great deal of unrest in Pakistan and as an American woman, I have followed the treatment of women which concerns me, but I’m also concerned about how women are treated all around the world, including in the United States. Politically Pakistan seems to be in flux right now. The Pakistanis I’ve met have always been lovely people and my experience has always been positive.
Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger?
I love to find posts written by people who are very clever who can turn a phrase with either directness or with a love of language. I admit, I think people who blog that can be snarky yet aren’t rude about it to be highly amazing. I love the idea that someone can start a free blog and make it into whatever they want it to be. I do not, however, enjoy bloggers that are angry for the sake of being angry.
What is the most striking difference between a developed country and a developing country?
I think developing countries have some advantages because they can write their own history book as they grow. Sometimes a developed country can become so immersed in keeping the status quo that they can forget about people.
What is the future of blogging?
I don’t think it’s going anywhere but I do think it will evolve. It will be interesting to watch the journey. Blogging is the new printing press of voices that didn’t have an outlet in the past.
You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?
My blogging life has been incredible. There have been a couple of times that things I’ve written have made people I love uncomfortable but it was unintentional. As for my professional life, blogging has opened doors for me that I never would have imagined. I think it confuses some people who are not interested in the Internet, but on the other hand, the benefits have largely outweighed small bumps in the road that I’ve run into.
What are your future plans?
I have no idea. I hope to continue blogging and having fun with this as well as making what small impact I can. I hope I can continue to learn and to grow, be fair and enjoy.
Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?
I would like to say thank you and I leave you with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt I really enjoy. These words have helped me in my life so I will share them with you.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.