Thursday, January 11, 2007

Role of Weblogs in Academic Careers

Some incidents occurred today that made me think: Is this Weblog really a good idea?

More than a year ago, my colleague Dr. Robert Potter pondered about whether Weblogs might jeopardize a career. He talked about a Chicago Tribune article (the link is expired, the archives cost money, and the piece is not on Lexis-Nexis) titled, "Did blogging doom prof's shot at tenure?"

As I have discussed before, there is a constant tension over what to include. I know that if I am a complete industry wonk, I will lose readership. Our field is great, but it's not fascinating every day. So I post stupid pictures from my trip to Mexico.

More importantly, I talk about the good times (here and here). And mostly my professional life is really good. But it's not always good. So I talk about the bad times, too (here and here). I also criticize the field (here and here). And therein lies the danger.

I teach advertising. I grew up in an advertising agency. My parents still run an advertising agency, and I was there last week helping out in a very small way. But I am trained as a journalist. I bleed ink. I get excited by the smell of a printing press. And I profoundly believe in the Fourth Estate.

And that means balance. I have to tell both sides. Whatever this Weblog is worth, it is worth nothing to me if it's just some public relations organ. It is what it says it is: Communication, Cognition, and Arbitrary Thoughts. Rob Potter introduces his Weblog saying he will, "also likely comment on what life is like for a professor who teaches undergrads in Electronic Media Programming Strategies, Advertising, and Media Management."

I believe in that. I believe in public science -- and I talk about my work here -- but I also talk about my life. Some people who read this are my Ph.D. buddies who will be going through these same trenches in a matter of months. They might learn something and avoid a mistake if I give a complete picture. Heck, you might be some completely arbitrary person trying to decide whether graduate school is for you. And this is where I think the truth matters. The whole truth.

But I might want to be a department head, a dean, or even the president of a university some day. And perhaps complete honesty is not the best policy. I would argue the other side, but I saw my friend and former NMSU president J. Michael Orenduff fired for supporting free speech.

It's too late for me, really. I wrote an opinion column for two years at the NMSU student newspaper, the Round Up. And I said some incredibly stupid things (hey, I was young once). And although my columns are not online, they exist on microfilm and in the Round Up morgue (and I have copies). If anyone wants to crucify me for my ideas, ammunition exists. Yet only these thoughts can be found on Google.

So it comes down to this: I believe in the First Amendment. I believe in ideas. I believe in the right to be wrong. And I really, really believe the right to update your theories in the face of new data (we call it science).

Sure, someday down the line, something I've said here might cost me a job or a promotion. But that's probably not a job I wanted anyway. I'm a real person ... complete with faults (just ask my wife). If someone hires me, they're hiring the whole person. If I pick up a life of crime, I understand that they might want to rethink my employment. But if someone does not want me around because I admitted that some days just suck, then I probably do not want to be around.

This goes beyond a self-centered rant. I believe that Weblogs are still defining themselves. I believe that it is an open question about how much personal information belongs here. And I think I'm right that the entire Weblog medium calls for more than pure wonk content.

Nonetheless, it's author beware.

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1 Comments:

Blogger GWYNN DUJARDIN said...

Sam,

A *refreshingly candid and unvarnished assessment of the issue.

Look forward to reading more.

Best,

Gwynn Dujardin (Jardiniere)

2:33 AM  

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