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The Chicago Blog

By Katie Buitrago

Blog: The Chicago Blog

Description: "Publicity news from the University of Chicago Press including news tips, press releases, reviews, and intelligent commentary."

Substance: When the first two words I see on a blog are "publicity news," my first inclination is to Abort Mission Internet faster than you can say Missed Connection. Very little could be as boring as people trying to sell you stuff and disguising it as content: it's not an ad, it's a blog! Trust! There are comments! And links! And an About page where you can find how to spend all of your discretionary income on my product learn more about me!

But the University of Chicago Press has the good fortune of trying to sell you stuff that's pretty damn good. The largest scholarly press in America gets to pick from the cream of the crop, both books- and staff-wise, and the result is that their blog is both smartly written and based on interesting books. Bloggers SXH and TXM (surprisingly not designer drugs) reach into the vaults of the Press several times a day and pull out books relevant to major news and trends. Occasionally, Press authors will weigh in on current affairs. Some posts are simply squees about awards and readings.

Ultimately, the Chicago Blog is what it says it is: a publicity blog. But self-promotion isn't such a bad thing - and is even useful - when their products are interesting, relevant, and smart.

Style: Straightforward with the occasional dash of wry humor. Posts often begin by introducing a news story then segue into a U of C Press' author's take on it supplemented by quotes and links to interviews. It upends the traditional news blog style of giving the blogger's interpretation of events and the result is an eclectic set of voices. But I'm left wondering: who are these masked men, and how do they find all these books? They have a lot to search through. Also, there's no real incentive to engage with the bloggers since they're not putting forth their own take and couldn't argue back, even if they wanted to. See "commenter involvement" for the result.

Tl;dr Score: Usually low, though occasionally they post book excerpts or essays from authors that test my backlit-fatigued eyes' patience. The long bits are helpfully hidden behind cuts so you can tl;dr with ease.

Commenter Involvement: Guys, it's a press, not a library - you can talk in here. Nonetheless, it's pretty freaking quiet. I imagine this has something to do with the lack of strong voice from the bloggers themselves.

Linkage: When the bloggers post, the links are useful for adding context with current events and providing more material by authors. When essays or commentaries are posted by authors, linkage is minimal to nonexistent.

Visual Appeal: Classy with the muted earth tones, but looks a little default-Wordpress-template-y. They're good at posting pictures consistently.

NSFW?: Are you kidding? You will look like the smartest employee ever if caught on the Press blog. Make it your homepage in case your boss ever uses your computer.

Start Here: Chocolate (New York) City

Bottom Line: It's a publicity blog that might actually make you smarter. When your friends fret about the virulence of the swine flu, you can say you're not surprised. When they whine about monopolies preying on consumers, you can say "naw, son." And you can, um, become a funny copy editor. We could all use more books in our lives, so sign this one up.

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See the Chicago Blog Review library. We're just getting started!

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Comments and submissions welcome.



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Posted on May 13, 2009


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