Thursday, July 9, 2009

What's In A Name?

I'd been reading blogs for a couple of years before I decided to try my hand at it. I started blogging because because I was curious about how it worked. I'm generally a curious person (in educational terms, I'm a life-long learner) and although I'm willing to read directions I prefer just jumping in and reading the directions as I go. I decided that the best way to learn about blogging was to try it, and then I realized that three things were stopping me. I needed a topic, one that would be sustainable and that wouldn't bore me quickly (I get bored easily). I needed a name for my blog. And I needed a name for me.

I cast around for a topic for a while, and ultimately chose something that I thought was sustainable and interesting, that gave me plenty to say, but that wasn't entirely too personal. (You can read about why I'm writing about the schools right here.)

As for the name of the blog, I'm still thinking about this one and I might revise it. Grammatically, one can defend the use of the word School or Schools, and I sometimes wonder if I should broaden the name to include Washtenaw, or Michigan, or. . . I'm fond of the ampersand (&) so maybe "& Beyond" belongs in there. Or is that too pompous? But I digress.

I started this blog about six months ago, and you can tell that I'm still learning as I go. For instance, look at this post I wrote the other day. Although the whole picture shows up in preview, I can't get the whole picture to show up in the final version. . . I'm learning more every day about statistics and web searches. For instance, it should not surprise anybody that the top web search for this blog is "Ann Arbor School" or "Ann Arbor Schools," but it might surprise you that people are still searching on Kisha French.

Where the blog really got personal--and what stymied me for quite a while--was in finding a name for me. Sure, a lot of people use their own names as bloggers, but I was uncomfortable with that. I was afraid to start blogging and then become a too-public figure--and blogging about my life and the schools does involve my kids' lives too. On the other hand, I just couldn't think of a clever name for myself, as some bloggers have. Finally I realized that I could be semi-anonymous, and that's how I started just using my first name. [I feel pretty sure that an astute reader could figure out who I am, but really, if you want to know, I will probably tell you if you just send me an email--my email address is in the side bar.]

In any case, that is how things stood, until invited me to be on their "parenting blogging" team. Was I flattered? Yes. (Even though you could, and should, argue that education shouldn't be relegated to the parenting blog, and I try to include some policy, I am partly blogging as a parent.) Ahhh, but the sticking point--I still wanted to remain semi-anonymous. Ultimately, has decided they want everyone to use their full names, for reasons of credibility. Which strikes me out. (I do feel fine about this or I wouldn't blog about it. It was unpaid, potentially a big time commitment, and I'm still flattered.) Nevertheless, of course I have some thoughts about how, whether, or why credibility should be attached to using your "real" name.

I think if is thinking of Ann Arbor bloggers as "citizen journalists" then they are sadly mistaken. I doubt that I will ever "break news" in the way that a traditional reporter does, and I don't think most bloggers do. is making a mistake if it thinks of typical blogging as the Huffington Post, or unusual events like the breaking of news in Iran (two of the examples recently given on the web site). Really, the Huffington Post is more like an online newspaper with a lot of commentary than a blog (sure, the lines blur)--and the blogging from Iran seems more like a new way to source data. [And by the way--a lot of those sources were choosing anonymity.]

If you're going to be "hyperlocal," that is not what blogs look like. Some of my favorite blogs are anonymous, others are attached to real people's names, but they generally: share information; aggregate information; analyze information. And the best do all three, but they are not generally breaking news. [Take a look at some of the blogs that will be on the parenting section of Ann; they are well-written and interesting, but they are not news breaking.] In addition, although some of the most credible bloggers I know do use their real names, others don't. They seem credible to me because their voice comes through (yes, as in "writing voice"), they provide thoughtful analysis, they cite verifiable sources.

So What's In A Name? As Shakespeare points out, and as I thought when I started blogging, quite a bit.

By the way: Ed Vielmetti has some thoughts about the blogging vs. journalism issues here (he's the new "blogging leader"). They are not fully fleshed out, but I'll look forward to more.


  1. As a follow-up to an email I got--just one clarification--I know that David Jesse will be the education beat reporter, and I liked his work at the Ann Arbor News, so I assume I will like it at

  2. Another point of clarification: We are not depending on our contributors to break news at We're looking to our contributors to use as a platform to share their knowledge and expertise with the community. Some contributors are already bloggers, and they'll post on our site and link to their blogs. Other contributors are new to the world of online writing, aggregating and information sharing.

    Of course, there will be lots of instances where our contributors break news on our site. Since is set up to be interactive, it's very likely that commenters on the site will break news, too. Anyone who logs into our site can start a conversation on our pages and share their news and information within different topics. Sometimes news will break that way. And of course we'll have our staff of trained journalists coverings beats ranging from crime to education to government and they'll regularly break news.

    Stefanie Murray
    Community Director,

  3. Thanks Ruth.

    For what it's worth, one of my favorite long-running Ann Arbor blogs (Ann Arbor Is Overrated) was written by someone who concealed their identity up until the end; that doesn't change the value of the comments, just makes them a bit less transparent to someone who would like to respond to someone's face.

    I got a chance to talk to David today and look forward to working with him.