Thought this would be a good time to repost an interview I conducted with Josh Claybourn quite a while ago who now is one of the bloggers at In the Agora. Heres what we said…..
Adrian: It is a great honour to be able to introduce to my blog readers, a man who probably needs no introduction to most of them – Joshua Claybourn Joshua was once listed as the 200th most cited author on the internet as well as studying law- a good occupation to be in for bloggers. Joshua has long been one of my favorite bloggers, and so I am thrilled to welcome him for the first of what I hope will be a regular feature of my blog- a blog interview.
Adrian: Joshua, first off, why do you think so many bloggers are lawyers?
Joshua: Lawyers are naturally drawn to matters of public policy, and blogging often addresses those issues. I think law professors in particular are drawn to blogging because a significant portion of their career centers around publishing law articles. Blogging offers a way to test the waters with ideas and also can serve as an extension to law review journals.
Adrian: What led you to first start blogging?
Joshua: I first heard about it at a leadership conference for students in Washington, D.C. during January of 2002. When I got back my good friend Paul Musgrave, one of the brightest minds in America, suggested that I use blogging in an alternative news site that I was reviving (Hoosier Review). It sounded like a good idea so I brought Paul on board as a co-editor and we launched what is still a successful site, although we’ve since handed the reigns over to Zach Wendling. Eventually, in March of 2002, I started a blog on my own site as well. So I’m nearing the two year anniversary of my blog beginnings.
Adrian So in blog terms that makes you positively geriatric Josh is that right?
Joshua: I suppose so 🙂
Adrian: Do you believe all the hype about blogging- is it the next BIG THING
Joshua: Well it’s certainly breaking down all sorts of barriers, especially in journalism. Whereas previous decades had a handful of news outlets and commentators, we now have countless numbers of self-made reporters and pundits. But it’s also shaping other fields, one such being the Christian community – it’s easing evangelism.
Adrian: What do you mean by ‘easing evangelism?’
Joshua: It allows Christians to reach more people and with greater ease. If I want top-notch Calvinist theology, I can turn to David Heddle. If I want information on British Christians, I can turn to you. Christians have more resources and an easier time of using them.
Adrian And is it transforming punditry?
Joshua We saw it with the resignation of Trent Lott, the firing of Jayson Blair, and the emergence of Howard Dean. Blogging played an integral role in all of these events, and they’re all very important events indeed.
Adrian Can you explain that a little bit more for my fellow English readers- what role did blogging have in these events?
Joshua: Trent Lott was the Senate majority leader in the US and said some controversial remarks that didn’t make many waves in the traditional media. But Joshua Marshall, a very good blogger, kept the story alive and was a big factor in Lott’s eventual resignation. A similar thing happened with Jayson Blair, a NY Times reporter who had fabricated some stories. Most
recently Howard Dean has pulled to the front of the Democratic primary in the US Presidential race. He credits much of his success to his web presence, most notably a campaign blog.
Adrian Critics might say that blogging is one big ego trip, and that especially a blog which uses the authour’s name (as both of ours do) is just self promotion. What do you say to them? Is self promotion always wrong anyway?
Joshua Well I think the critics are often right. There are plenty of bloggers who are in it for an ego trip, but you’ll find that in any field, especially one dealing with publishing opinions. However I don’t think using one’s name automatically means the author is on an ego trip. The domain of your name exists, so if someone’s going to own it shouldn’t it be you?
Besides, “cyber squatting” has become a serious issue so it’s important to lay claim to it before others do, especially for those who might one day enter public office or some type of public position. The issue of self promotion is pretty extensive, and one that the Christian neighborhood of the blogosphere addressed sometime last year if I remember correctly. Pride is certainly something to be mindful of.
Adrian Do you see yourself as someone who may enter public office? You were once quoted as ‘Tomorrow’s leader today’ on someone’s blog- how did that comment make you feel?
Joshua: I think it’s a flattering comment. I feel I’m being called to run for office one day, but things can often change in a heartbeat, and it’s presumptuous to assume I’d win anyway. And while I do see myself in public office, one can be a leader in any number of roles. It doesn’t have to be public office.
Adrian: Well, you have certainly been a successful blogger by anyone’s standards, what do you think makes a successful blogger?
Joshua: I suppose the correct answer would be one that achieves its goals. So if your purpose for blogging is to keep friends informed of what you’re doing, then “success” should be judged by that standard. If it’s to persuade, readership and traffic would be one measure, etc. It all depends upon what the blogger is trying to accomplish.
I think offering the readers a slight glimpse into the person behind the blog goes a long way toward getting readers. When we read someone’s opinions it’s nice to know a little about that person; to understand their own story. Whether through a biography or pictures, that insight is useful to readers. But Readership is not always the best standard because that’s not always the goal.
Adrian What are you aiming to accomplish with your blog?
Joshua To test my ideas, grow intellectually, persuade, archive my writing, etc.
Adrian Who do you aim to persuade- Christians, non Christians or both?
Joshua Both. Too many Christian bloggers are preaching to the choir. I think we’re called to do much more.Adrian: Rumour has it that yours is a ‘God blog’ and indeed you are a moderator over at Blogs4God can I assume you are a Christian blogger yorself?
Joshua: Yep, and if that’s not clear from my blogging, I must be doing something wrong (wink).
Adrian: Don’t worry Josh, its not that you seem like a heathen or anything, in fact you shine as a great example of a Christian blogger interacting with the secular world. What made you choose that route rather than being more overtly Christian?
Joshua: As I said earlier, I think it’s important that we don’t preach to the choir. If all I ever write about is Christian related topics, not many others will be reading. Besides, I mainly write about what interests me. This includes culture, politics, and sports. As you mention I’m a Christian and so that personal, spiritual side comes out as well. Many use their blogs to evangelize, and in many ways I’d like to think I do as well.
Adrian: What kind of a Christian would you describe yourself as?
Joshua: I grew up in a quaint Methodist church that my great-grandfather helped build. But now I attend a larger non-denominational church. I hope for the day when ‘Christian’ is a description enough.
Adrian: A while back I noticed you using G-d instead of God- does this point to some Jewish roots in you?
Joshua: It does indeed point to some Jewish roots. For some time in high school I went to Messianic Jewish services and immersed myself in Jewish teaching. It really helps the Old Testament come alive and adds a certain amount of depth and wisdom to Jesus’ teaching. At any rate, the use of ‘G-d’ is a Jewish tradition that I sometimes invoke.
Adrian: What kind of things do you think Bloggers should be focusing on?
Joshua: Whatever it is that interests them. I don’t believe in some arbitrary set of topics or issues that ‘should’ be addressed, especially considering the eclectic array of things I address. The lack of any centralized codes or rules of conduct in blogging is part of what makes it great.
Adrian: What do you look for in a blog to read?
Joshua: More than anything, I look for bloggers with a unique voice. There are an alarmingly large number of bloggers, especially those that focus on politics, that simply regurgitate what other pundits and commentators are saying. It’s boring and unenlightening. So mainly I look for a unique, intelligent message.
Adrian: Can you tell us about a couple of your favorite blogs?
Joshua: Certainly the ones on my blog roll I read on a regular basis. But there are scores of others that I check frequently as well, assuming I have the time. The proliferation of blogs is a double edged sword. It’s great that there’re so many, but it’s sad that there’s not enough time to read all of the great ones out there.
Adrian: What was your most controversial post ever – have you ever got yourself into trouble with others?
Joshua: There have been several, but I suppose a few posts during the run up to the Iraqi war were among the most controversial. Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds would often link to those, and anytime those two blogging giants are linking on a regular basis it’s bound to stir the pot.
Adrian: Do you like stirring the pot, Joshua? Was that something you were known for as a kid?
Josh: No, I don’t like stirring the pot. I like creating dialogue though, with an eye toward intellectual growth. Some people unaccustomed to public discourse may take that as stirring the pot, but I don’t think it is.
Adrian: So tell us a bit more about yourself Josh- How old are you and are you the blogdom’s most eligible bachelor?
Josh: I’m 22. As for being the most eligible bachelor, I’ll have to leave that to the ladies to decide.
Adrian: Where did you grow up?
Josh: I was born and raised in Southern Indiana. Or, as I like to call it, the land of milk and honey.
Adrian: How would your friends describe you?
Josh: That’s a good question, and I suppose it all depends upon which friends you ask. I’d like to think they say I’m kind, caring,
reflective, and intelligent. But I imagine they’d also say wild and goofy at times.
Adrian: How would your enemies describe you?
Joshua; Who says I have enemies? 🙂 If I have any, they should be scared; very, very scared [insert evil laugh].
Adrian: What things do you value most in life?
Josh: For one, I value life itself. There isn’t a day that goes by in which I don’t “stop and smell the roses.” We’ve all been given an amazing and precious gift in the very act of living, and most of us take it for granted. On a more specific level, I value my family, friends, and the countless opportunities I’ve had.
Adrian: What is your idea of the ideal night out?
Josh: With old friends and a bottomless glass of beer. Yet I also enjoy a good book or a nice movie just as much. I’ll take either and be as happy as a lark.
Adrian: Well we are getting towards the end of our time together, but
tell me do you play chess by the way?
Adrian: That’s interesting – 2 out of 2 of my blogging friends I have
asked play chess! Nick Queen does too. I wonder if it’s a bit like being a
lawyer? Well I’d better be going but lets meet up online and play chess
Joshua: Yeah, that’d be fun to do sometime
Adrian: Thanks for joining us Joshua. After I have posted this to my
blog, if our readers have other questions to put to you, would you have a
chance to pop by and reply in my comments section?
Joshua: Sure, that would be fun, thank you Adrian.