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Bloggers: Fat, Stressed Sweat-Shop Boys

From Sunday's front page: "They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece - not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop....some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly."

Fat, stressed, and sleepless is no way to go through life, bloggers. That's the "helpful" message of Sunday's front-page story by Matt Richtel, "In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop," which strung together three anecdotes to ludicrously compare blogging for money (Richtel focused solely on technology blogs) to the sweat-shop era.



They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece - not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.


A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.


Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.


Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.


Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.


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 friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.


Richtel didn't quote ZDNet Editor and Chief Larry Dignan, who blogged (Hat-tip Romenesko's Media News):


But is it any worse than being a corporate lawyer? How many of those folks dropped in the last six months? How about mortgage brokers? Hedge fund traders? FBI agents? Any job where you gnash your teeth together? We write for a living, yap all day and don't have to wear suits. You could do worse than blogging.


Dignan offered this revealing excuse for the Times reporter, Matt Richtel:


Now this isn't Matt's fault by any means: He was up front about the premise of his story: The stress of blogging can kill you.


In other words, Richtel's story assignment wasn't a search for truth but merely a search for sources to confirm his presupposed thesis. How many political-beat or Iraq War-beat reporters pursue stories the same way?