Not quite six years ago, Salon encouraged me to launch How the World Works, a hybrid blog/column originally envisioned as “a conversation about globalization.” Some umpteen zillion posts later, the experiment is coming to an end, as part of larger changes at Salon you’ll be hearing about soon.
No, I’m not going anywhere, and yes, I’ll still be writing about most of the same things I currently cover (though maybe with a little bit less emphasis on Washington horse-race politics). There are interesting projects in the works, some of which will incorporate more honest-to-goodness reporting than I’ve been doing for a while. There’ll still be an RSS feed for everything I write, but it’ll be hooked to my byline rather than the title “How the World Works.”
And that’s probably a good thing. For reasons that only became clear in retrospect, HTWW wandered a long way from its early day obsessions, when I was looking for connections between all kinds of disparate phenomena and attempting to weave them into one reasonably coherent narrative. But one thing led to another. My background in China studies encouraged me to keep a close eye on the economic relationship between China and the U.S. When I realized during the housing boom that that relationship could basically be described as Americans pulling cash out of their homes to buy stuff from China, I started wondering what would happen to the global economy if there was a housing bust. And not too long after I started worrying about the state of the U.S. housing market, it started to crash. Right place, right time, I guess.
When the economy became the big story of the 2008 presidential campaign, Washington politics and economic policy became my beat, and I’ve never been able to get away since. How the World Works eventually became How Washington Doesn’t Work.
Was the experiment a success? I’d give it a mixed grade. Traffic grew steadily throughout the blog’s tenure (and peaked, actually, during the recent debt ceiling nuttiness), but there are definite limitations to how deeply you can report or think or how much you can craft your prose when you are attempting to post three times or more per day. When I was learning new things, the pace was fine — invigorating, even — but when I found myself simply reacting to news events with insta-analysis, and repeating myself over and over again, it became considerably less satisfying.
I’m sure I’ll still be doing plenty of quick response items, however — the Internet rewards a good rant, delivered in a timely fashion, and I do like getting my dander up. But nonetheless, it’s time for a reboot! How the World Works is done.