It was a legitimate challenge. When I mentioned to a fellow blogger that I was appearing on NPR, and he raised a very important question: "Is that really a good thing? I thought that the point of blogging was to pose a challenge to the mainstream media, but it seems like bloggers feel like they have made it when that same media pays attention to them."
This hits at the core of what I do as a blogger (and a podcaster). Why do I spend so much of my time doing something on that takes a bunch of time and energy, when I already have a very busy life? Why blog? Why podcast? Why do interviews? Why llamas? Why spend a weekend in Las Vegas? OK, the last question has any of a number of answers, and I have no idea about the llamas. But you get my drift: given the busyness of my life, why should I do all of this?
My answer is this: I blog and do all the rest of this stuff to give my perspective to as many people as possible.
I know that there are those out there who claim that they blog "for themselves" and "don't write to the audience." Bull. If you don't care if people read what you say, why do you say it on a public platform that can reach anyone on the Internet? Why not just write it in a journal? No, bloggers blog so that they will be read by others, the larger number the better.
This seems to be egotistical, and maybe it is, but the only reason anyone reads a blog is because it interests them. My readers think what I write is interesting (except my Mom, who reads it to make sure I am keeping out of trouble). What makes my blog different from the "traditional media" is its subjectivity. I am a practicing primary care physician, and that perspective is a large part of why people read me. People want to know what doctors think - what it's like to be a doctor. If I quit my practice and went into writing full-time, I would lose that unique subjective perspective and the legitimacy it lends.
I am not doing journalism when I blog; I am writing a personal narrative and giving my opinion on things. I am explaining things that I know about and entertaining people with my own personal style. Journalists gain legitimacy from their objectivity. People rail on MSNBC and FOX because of their bias. I don't want to do journalism; I would lose interest very quickly.
What makes this even more important for me is that I see my perspective as one that is not heard and one that is really important. Prior to the Internet, primary care physicians could only reach a large audience with their opinions if they stopped practicing medicine. They could only influence the debate on issues that mattered to them by giving up their perspective. Blogging, podcasting, and doing all the other stuff gives me an incredible opportunity. I can voice my opinion to millions of people, and those people seem to really want to hear what I have to say. It is really remarkable to me.
When I first started blogging, I did it to see if I was a good writer. I thought I might be able to write entertaining stuff, but had never had much of an opportunity to do so. It was a hobby for me. I had no designs to become famous. It still surprises me that a primary care physician in a small city with an odd sense of humor could actually be seen as important. It's not something I would have ever expected; and had I known, I would have been really nervous.
But it still isn't the fame that makes me want to blog. The truth is, the more people who read me, the more pressure I have to give them something worth reading. I could write lots of bad posts when I was unknown and could take extended breaks from writing if I wanted to. Now there is much more pressure, which is definitely a negative from my perspective. But what keeps me coming back to this stuff is one thing: passion.
I feel strongly about things. I sit in a room with people pouring out their lives. I see suffering and struggle, and I see people doing incredibly hard things. They will never be famous, and their situations and accomplishments might not even be recognized by those close to them. But I have been given the opportunity to see underneath the hoods of a bunch of people, and I am honored by their trust. They are what health care is about. They are the reason I work the long hours I do. But they don't have the power to change things, and for some mysterious reason I have been given a small chance to do so. I owe it to them. Blogging has given me the voice to give them a voice, and that's a thing worthy of passion.
Even my humor is fueled by this. I don't think I could have ever spent three years writing about llamas and muppets. It's a wonderful diversion and it keeps me from burning out; but it is not my passion.
So the reason I am so excited to get attention like this NPR piece is the same reason I do the blog and the podcast. I think my perspective is important and needs to be heard. It's about people's lives. It's about giving a voice to them. Maybe I can even make a real difference.
That's why I do this.