NYTimes "Blogging Kills" article misses key point: health insurance


I noticed this New York Times article reprinted in today's Star Tribune. It essentially argues--with much hemming and hawing--that the demands of trying to keep up with the fast-paced world of being a professional blogger are driving people into an early grave.

Here's the nut, where the reporter marshals his (flimsy) evidence:

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.

This is by far the most arresting quote:


“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

OK, I think the overall premise of this article is total hooey--to argue that blogging is somehow more physically demanding and health-destroying than, say, working at the dock, building a home, driving a commercial truck, or any one of a thousand other careers is ridiculous. But I do think that blogging has the potential to cause health problems, just for different reasons.

The Times article is all about the rise of the professional class of bloggers. It claims there are "several thousand, even tens of thousands" of professional bloggers who are potentially at risk. But I would argue they're not at risk from the job itself, but rather from the lack of health care coverage that is often the case with being a freelancer.

The rise of blogs--and with it the diminishing of traditional journalism outlets which has led to widespread layoffs throughout the industry--has essentially turned many formerly health-insured journalists into freelance and contract workers who aren't given health insurance unless they pay steep premiums for it out of pocket. The local examples are numerous, whether it be MinnPost or Minnesota Monitor. This mirrors a national trend--correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that major blogs that offer health insurance coverage comparable to what one would find working at a newspaper are the exception rather than the rule.

This issue hits home for me, because one of our writers recently suffered a health issue and had to be immediately hospitalized. Recovering from surgery required a week of convalescence, during which blogging or any other kind of work was virtually impossible (and who wants someone blogging on Percocets anyway?)

Because he worked for a "traditional media" outfit, he had health insurance that covered him, and he was able to take sick days and continue to get an uninterrupted weekly pay check. I can only imagine the impact this health crisis--relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things--would have had on his young family had he been a blogger.