Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ben Franklin was a blogger

Waaay back in the day there was a young, slightly chubby fellow going to and fro amongst the streets of Philadelphia. He showed up one day with enough money to buy a couple of bits of bread and went about finding work as a printer. Eventually he managed to get his own printing press and started circulating bits of printed paper on his own. He became a renowned man for many reasons, none of which would have come about if he hadn't started self-publishing his own newspaper.

Close to one hundred years later, another young man from Hannibal, Missourri set out to make his fortune. When he was a teenager he helped his brother to print a self-published newspaper, often contributing humorous anectdotes when a few extra inches of print were needed. He made his way out to the west coast and made a scant living writing about the shenanigans of the silver rush towns in Nevada. He also became a renowned man, but without his journalism, he would have just been another riverboat captain.

Granted, these were men of extraordinary talents. Some would say that they are among the best men who have ever lived, men who really do only come about every century or so. Would you even want to live in a world that was not enriched by the contributions of these great men? What if they had lived in a world where they would have been excluded from their seminal occupations because they didn't have a degree from a good college? Would their stars have shined nearly as brightly if they were not allowed to partake in that profession because other, larger newspaper companies filled to the brim with degreed men and women from those "good colleges" were able to squeeze them out not by the quality of their product, but by the sheer bulk of the resources at their command?

I don't even try to count myself in the same league as anyone who does journalism for a living or even just likes doing it. But I do know what's right. Before a person from one of those prominent news companies with the degrees from the "good colleges" looks down their noses at a blogger, before they proclaim that bloggers are not qualified or entitled to breathe the same rarified air that they breathe or enjoy the same legal protections that they enjoy, they should think about this: Every last one of them has a job, every last one of them got to study journalism, every last one of them EXIST only because someone without that degree from a "good college" self-published a bit of printed paper on their own.

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