The New York Times says I’m doing it all wrong, but maybe that’s for the better


Some time ago, The New York Times ran a story titled In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop, which mentions that "those on the lower rungs of the business can earn as little as $10 a post."

Dude, if that's what people on the lower rungs earn, then I'm below ground level! (Nevermind that just the previous month, an article in The New York Times wrote about the business of blogging: Don't expect to get rich.)

Then again, I probably shouldn't complain, seeing as what most people took away from the article was that blogging kills.

Slate's Timothy Noah noted in his article Death by Blogging that the New York Times article employs a magic phrase which, once it appears, is a signal to the reader that the subject matter of the story is completely made up:

Give Richtel credit for admitting high up in the story that what follows is purest fancy. Newspaper reporters call these caveat-rich passages "to-be-sure grafs."

The "to-be-sure" paragraph appears as paragraph number six:

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But...

It opens with the magic phrase that says "What you are reading in the remainder of this article is complete fantasy," then adds a few more statements saying that "None of what this article says is true." And then, as if to say, "Let's not let facts get in the way of a good story," it immediately resumes the fabrication with a "But..."

Comments (14)
  1. d says:

    Raymond, I know it’s not something you’d like to dwell on, but given that you already have about a year or two’s worth of posts queued up, have you thought about what you’d like to happen to that queue if anything were to happen to you?

  2. Nick Tompson says:

    Death by blogging? How could that be possible, especially for Raymond with all the "keep-alives", what with nitpickers and all.

  3. mikeb says:

    Raymond, you can fix your per-post income by simply rethinking what Microsoft is paying you to do. Just think of your paycheck as being for your "Old New Thing" posts – the other stuff you do at Microsoft is simply research for the bulk of the postings.

    Now you’re a top-dollar blogger.

  4. John says:

    Well, Raymond could have died from blogging long ago and we wouldn’t even know for another couple of years.  How do we even know Raymond is a real person?  I bet this entire blog is a long forgotten joke set up as a cron job many years ago.  Raymond does not exist, nor has he ever existed.

  5. Ben says:

    I can personally vouch that Raymond does (still) exist, or at least that someone who looks suspiciously like his photos is inhabiting his office. I happened to walk by it the other day (I didn’t stop and stare like someone else did, who was previously mentioned on this blog).

    He could still be a robot, as already postulated…

  6. Larry Hosken says:

    I tried searching nytimes.com for the phrase "to be sure".

    I found "To be sure, several of Manhattan’s appealing features are found in small towns," which seems unlikely.  Except that it’s an amazingly nice feature to find a parking space in Manhattan, but there are plenty of them in small towns.  But I don’t think that’s what they meant.

    OTOH, another article said "To be sure, squeezing suppliers would have unpleasant side effects." I didn’t click through to find out what the article meant by "suppliers", but I am nevertheless inclined to believe the Times on this one.  Squeezing things tends to result in annoyance, leaks, and/or unpleasant odors.

  7. Nick says:

    I think it is implied that in order to make money, you need to have advertisements on your site.  The more intrusive, the more lucrative.

    I suppose you *could* always pull your MSDN site down and put up your own personal blog, complete with ads.  I have no idea what your traffic looks like, but I’ll bet you’d make more than you do now ;)

  8. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    "Raymond does not exist, nor has he ever existed."

    That explains "social skills of a thermonuclear device"…

  9. Worf says:

    @Ben: you sure it wasn’t just a standee?

    That’s why the other people stare – to make sure!

  10. CGomez says:

    Every piece of news I’ve seen in the last decade doesn’t bother with any little thing like facts.  Entertainment news isn’t just Extra or Access Hollywood… it’s all news.

  11. Mark (The other Mark) says:

    Larry- I think you’re applying the rule incorrectly. The words immediately following "To be sure" should be true, it’s the rest of the article that is a complete fabrication.

    "To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging". That statement is true. The entire rest of the article is how <dramatic music> Blogging will KILL you.</dramatic music> I guess the more logical headline "Blogging Doesn’t Render You Immortal!" wouldn’t be as catchy.

    The suppliers article you mentioned doesn’t seem to perfectly fit this mold. The entire article is critical of Person X’s health care plan. The "To be sure" paragraph is also critical of the plan. However, is paragraph immediately prior talks about how the plan will drive prices down, and the To Be Sure graph explains why this is a Bad Thing.

  12. Anonymous Coward says:

    Which is why if you’re paying for the NYT you’re doing something wrong. Mind you, I stopped reading the NYT for a number of reasons quite some time ago. Contributing factors where many, including that they let fact checking go down the drain and that their newsfeed became more and more broken over time.

  13. Kevin Eshbach says:

    Congratulations Raymond!  You’ve just gone up a few points in the internet’s Microsoft death pool contest.

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