For The Community (Long)

Guys,

I thought I should address a few of the major concerns that I've seen recur in commentary on the redesign, and specifically, this blog/channel.

1.) The RSS feed. It's broken at the moment. This is a major, major overhaul, and it's produced a few bugs. I'm not on the tech side, but I know the people well, and I know how hard they work. Perhaps we should have seen some of these bugs, I can't really call that. But we're working on it, and we'll have it fixed soon. I apologize for that, and hope you won't abandon us.

2.) Display on mobile devices. Basically the same thing. Again, our fault. We're going to get it fixed.

3.) The absorption of the blog into a channel. I think this is a major one. We spent some time talking about this internally on Friday, and I think it would useful to tackle this in parts.

A.) The basic problem is as follows: My blog, as it was, was a great home for a specific community. The bulk of the writing here fit beneath a similar rubric as some of the writing going on site-wide (Alyssa's stuff, for instance.) We wanted a way to incorporate much of that writing with the cultural writing happening here. Hence the culture-channel. There are, evidently, technical constraints to having a post "live" in two places. The thought was that a useful compromise would be to still have all the posts written by me collated in one place, while having the posts "live" in the various channels that they best related to.

B.) That said, I think this critique, offered by reader Ethan Lutske, is basically true:

I think the biggest problem is that this simply doesn't feel like a blog, with the 1 line summaries. It feels like looking at an archive, and that's not what blogs are all about. This isn't just a superficial problem; I'm much less likely to actually read things if I need to click on them, especially when my brain is wired to see the format of the page and think "this is a summarized archive and most of it isn't important".

This is a problem. And after some conversation on Friday, expect the appearance, and feel of that "Ta-Nehisi" page to change in the next couple weeks or so. It won't completely be the old blog, but we are going to do everything we can to get as much of the old blog back as we can. Moreover, we will specifically address the formatting issue that a lot of you raised in terms of seeing only one sentence. That will change. Overall, something better, if not perfect, is on the horizon.

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C.) I think I should directly address a related complaint that's popped up quite a bit, but that I've been hesitant to tackle. Here's a really direct, and typically well-argued, critique from Cynic:

The Atlantic clearly recognized that Andrews' Daily Dish has a branded identity of its own that was well worth preserving. Click on his name, and you wind up on his page. It's constructed with the same design language, but bears his own clear imprint. And his posts display the same way they always have, requiring jumps only when they extend beyond a few paragraphs.

TNC's blog, on the other hand, has essentially been spiked. Or, more accurately, rolled into the amorphous category of 'culture.' I'm not even sure what 'culture' means, other than that it's an incredibly poor way to pigeonhole TNC's creative output. This blog has covered politics, policy, culture, art, and entertainment with verve and passion, and a huge element of what keeps me coming back to it is that eclecticism. It's the musings of a creative and fascinating individual, not the aggregated output of a group of staffers assigned to similar beats.

I like what TNC does enough that I'll probably give this a shot. But I'm disgusted with The Atlantic for taking away his blog, and leaving him with nothing more than what you get when - for example - you click the name of a journalist on a newspaper's website. It's just a list of his recent offerings, with single-sentence links. That's not a blog. It's an archive search function. It's online journalism with tagging.

If The Atlantic is too dumb to realize what an immensely valuable asset they have in TNC, then that's their problem. But it seems singularly self-defeating to me to take a distinctive individual voice who has built in remarkably short time a passionately devoted following, and subsume his work within a broader category. If they want to cross-post his entries within the 'culture' section of the webpage, great. But they should also cross-post selected entries within 'politics' or 'food' or other appropriate categories. And it should preserve a single page, in classic blog-like format, for the thousands and thousands of readers for whom TNC is the attractive brand that confers legitimacy upon The Atlantic, and not the other way 'round.

First to the issue of the differential handling of my blog and Andrew's. Let me not mince words--it's about traffic. I don't think I'm at liberty to give out specific numbers, but suffice to say that Andrew is a monster. I don't know this, but I would not be shocked if he, alone, will get more hits than the entire culture channel.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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