Josh Marshall is asking for people to pay for him to go to New Hampshire for the primary, so he can write about it on his blog instead of having to approach his usual sources of income and write in non-blog fashion for them. I’m going to go ahead and kick in a few bucks myself, but I do have to wonder why Josh doesn’t go up to some of his usual sources and offer to blog the primary for them. The “blog-as-reporting” paradigm is no longer sparkly-new; it was used extensively during the Iraq invasion, and has popped up here and there since then on various online news sites. Given his reputation as a political reporter and a blogger, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he got some media entity to fund his travels. It may be more to the point that he wants to write on his site, for various reasons including engaging his own editorial discretion as to what’s important and what’s not. This is entirely understandable, but were I in his position, I’d hit the media folks before going to the readers of my site (and maybe he did. I don’t know).
I do imagine he’ll get enough funding for the trip, which says both positive things for Josh’s relationship with his audience and something regarding the nature of blog readers, in that they regard blogs as a legitimate enough source of news and information that they’d be willing to fund something like this directly. I don’t think everyone could do this, nor do I think that this is something that Josh (or any other blogger) could sustain for a long period of time — i.e., I don’t imagine Josh would be able to get his audience to subsidize an entire presidential campaign. My own personal feeling is that blog money collecting is like a sprint rather than a marathon; so long as you don’t ask often and don’t ask for too much, you can indeed nab some cash from the readership.
But it’s also something that again I don’t really see myself ever doing. I’ve never done a pledge drive or asked for donations for the Scalzi.com site because (no offense) I don’t want to feel beholden to anyone regarding writing here. Time and time again the site has shown that it’s in my economic self interest to put stuff up, but even so I like knowing that if I want I can take a day or week or even a month off (or, indeed, close the site) and not have to worry about it. Maybe it’s a psychological twitch, but I just really like the site on my own terms. It’s not to say I don’t sell things here or that I don’t encourage y’all to buy my books and other stuff when they come out. But I wouldn’t, say, threaten not to write on the site, if you all didn’t go out and buy a copy of Book of the Dumb or Old Man’s War when they come out.
The one thing I have thought about recently is doing a pledge button in which I encourage Whatever readers to make a pledge to a charity of my choice (which, knowing me, would probably be something related to literacy). But then I think, why do you need me to tell you these things? I mean, you all already contribute to charity, right? But it’s still something that rolls around in my mind — perhaps something along the lines of offering a value-add to the site to donation contributors: A special story site, perhaps. Maybe I’ll do something with it in December. We’ll have to see.
Update: Josh raised about $5,000 in just under 24 hours and is no longer soliciting donations for the New Hampshire trip. Not bad.