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What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able: a flock of crows

Every day, 19 WordPressers are featured on the Freshly Pressed section of WordPress.com. And every day, many more wonder, “What do I have to do to get Freshly Pressed?”

Well, it’s time to reveal what the folks who push the launch button are thinking. Each week, a member of our editorial team will do a close-up on one post and why we thought it was Press-worthy. We hope we can provide insight into the process and give you tips and tools to make your blog the best it can be.
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Last week, we featured the post I’m Gay and Christian, a thought-provoking essay dismantling the false dichotomy of “homosexual” and “religious” by D.L., the brave and well-written teenage blogger behind a flock of crows:

Yes, I’m wading into this whole debate. Well, not wading, more like already stuck in the middle and trying to be as quiet as possible. GAY-BASHING CHRISTIANS, the papers and protesters say. GOD HATES FAGS, the Christians say. And I’m there, sitting right in the overlap: I’m Christian, and I’m gay.

Writing about controversy in a way that champions a particular point of view while acknowledging that others think differently isn’t easy – and this topic in particular is a deeply divisive one touching on two incredibly personal aspects of many people’s identities: sexual orientation and faith.

This post could easily have been a one-sided diatribe that traded in stereotypes or denigrated those with whom the blogger does not agree. Instead, it was thoughtful, balanced, and thought-provoking – a perfect candidate for Freshly Pressed. We were glad to feature it, and even happier to see readers engage with the author in a similarly respectful way. Here’s why we were drawn in:

She spoke from her own perspective.

No one can speak on behalf of an entire group of people. I’m a woman and a democrat and Boggle lover and when I talk, I talk from a particular perspective, not as the official representative of Women, Democrats, and Word Game Addicts. Even if I wanted to speak for all of them, I couldn’t; after all, I come from the specific vantage point of the nearsighted size 11 shoe-wearer and might not accurately represent the needs of a bifocal-wearing size 8.

My point: no one is the spokesperson for an entire community, and when someone tries to be, it often ends up being exclusionary and offensive. By framing her post as being about her experience as a gay Christian, D.L. created the space for others to step in and share their perspectives and views – which is critical when trying to find common ground on a contentious topic.

She acknowledged both sides of the coin.

The post presented D.L.’s views very directly, but she took the time to look at the ways Christians and gays are portrayed in the media, the stereotypical pictures they paint of one another, and the arguments each group makes when dismissing the other. Thus, the overall effect of her post wasn’t argumentative, or dismissive of alternative views. It’s tougher for a reader who thinks differently to attack her argument (or her person) when those views have already been acknowledged.

She presented a way forward.

Her conclusion gave readers a way to start moving past the conundrum:

They could, should, find a level playing field by getting to understand the mindset of gay Christians. The activists could attempt to understand the convictions of our faith, the Christians could attempt to see why we believe we are God’s gay children. If either side could, for one moment, believe what we believe, maybe we could end this war.

Tearing down the wall between “gay” and “Christian” isn’t an easy thing to do, especially in a society as polarized as the U.S. is right now. Instead of throwing up her hands, D.L. laid out some straightforward questions designed to help people find a way out of the morass.

(It’s equally instructive to look at what she didn’t do: she didn’t shy away from a difficult topic. She didn’t rely on images. Instead, she took a tough topic head-on and unpacked it with clarity.)

Bonus! Her comment moderation was spot-on.

Freshly Pressing this post was bound to get a lot of people talking – the post now has over 250 comments from people all over the spectrum. For the most part, commenters took a cue from D.L.’s measured tone and were respectful, even when they vehemently disagreed, and D.L. did a fantastic job of engaging with them while defending her position.

We’re looking forward to reading more from this blossoming young writer. What did you think of the post? Of her blog? Will this affect the way you approach hard-hitting topics on your own site?

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  1. I admit it; I clicked like on this before I read it just because I was suddenly gripped to be the almighty ‘first’. But I think it’s okay since I always read them entirely anyway! Right…guys?
    I love reading about what makes something freshly pressable, and always check out the freshly pressed page – thank you WordPress for having such an option!

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  2. I’m so glad to see the Freshly Pressed moderators embracing controversy — when it’s done well, that is, as this writer did…

    Thank you for highlighting different perspectives and for shining a well-deserved spotlight on this post. It’s definitely further encouragement for us to take chances in the oft-too-tame blogosphere… 🙂

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    1. Hi there — if you don’t have a photo, no worries. (And I’d say don’t simply add an image just to add one — if appropriate for the post, go for it, but we consider photo-less posts for Freshly Pressed.)

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  3. I wish the young writer wrote much more about the difficult situation of gays all around the world, to make us know the problems they face everyday and to enable us to really be part of their life. How can each of us really help? We shouldn’t say “they” or “their”, but only “we” or “us”. Just human beings.

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    1. Thanks for your feedback. “I wish the young writer wrote much more about the difficult situation of gays all around the world…” >> That would also make for an interesting, engaging post, but like Michelle states above, one of the strengths of this particular post is D.L. spoke from her *own* perspective — rather than speaking on behalf of everyone.

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  4. I tip my hat to you all. I think it would be so difficult to read through so many fine posts and try to pick. I enjoy your posts and thanks for sharing these great FP pieces with us all 🙂

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  5. I like that you brought attention to her comment moderation. That is a sometimes overlooked art in and of itself. It is good that people took her cue and were able to stay respectful; but it is even more amazing to me that she could respond to folks in the way that you described.

    And in terms of what I take away from this for my own posts; I will pay more attention to the times I’m tempted to say something on behalf of a whole group of people and focus more on my unique position in the middle of many overlapping spheres.

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    1. Comment moderation = an “overlooked art in and of itself”? Sure is! Nicely said.

      A post can certainly be strengthened when you focus on your unique position and experience — of course, the approach also depends on what you’re writing. Thanks for your comment.

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  6. Communication is the key to everything.
    WP allows the freedom of speech to happen… all colors of the spectrum as well as all parts of the world! Thank you for bringing new friends into my life and the many avenues of expression for myself and others to be read/shared. Oh and the ability to save drafts so I can write freely and edit as days go by.

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      1. It looks like you generally feature posts from blogs with significant readership, blogs that take a public tone and expect interaction. That’s good. I wouldn’t want to be FP and I assume my lack of commenters or personal/adult content would protect me from that. I suppose most people wouldn’t think of that because they would love to be FP for the exposure.

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  7. I assume it is the clarity of her writing that presents itself as a worthy candidate for freshly pressed and not necessarily the hot button topic. Although images are worth a thousand words, the ability to express an opinion on an issue so clearly clouded with emotion, brings a 3D effect to the images themselves. We are at once part of the piece rather than observers and therefore are compelled to comment. Good show!

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    1. I certainly felt compelled to comment–and did. Inasmuch as I was respectful of the touchy subject, I didn’t feel the need to tip-toe because the post itself didn’t tip-toe. The writer provided a thoughtful response to my question, too, which added value to the writing as well.

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  8. I think gays and social clemency stereotyping fall in the same category where the label is imposed on the stereotyped individuals aggressively and in a criminal way rather then in a willfully and individual social level.

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  9. Has anyone else lost access to the “Reader” section and is not receiving blog posts updates or having problems since WP switched over to the homepage? I apologize that it’s off topic. I contacted support, but no response. I was wondering if anyone else is having these problems and how they fixed them. Thanks!

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      1. I want to thank you and Karim for following up with me. Karim for his assistance. It was a browser issue. For me, IE latest version wasn’t working with the updated WP. I’m trying Google Chrome, don’t want to sound like an ad here, and what a difference. The access and functionality is back and images and photos on WP look so much better.

        Thanks again!

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    1. Just happened upon this. I too can’t access subscriber info as I had in the past. Support couldn’t help unless I “took a picture” or some such. Don’t know what they mean. Have figured it might be a browser issue since I’ve not updated as was suggested…over and over again. I guess I’ll have to look into that.

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  10. Thank you! It’s such an odd feeling to read this week’s post and realise that I’m the one being talked about. Thanks for all the comments and compliments, everyone! 🙂

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  11. Looking at a controversial topic from every angle is very important. Even if sometimes we writers have to leave out our own beliefs to look at all opposing arguments in a new light. If we add our own beliefs it can sometimes alter the discussion or make others not want to comment at all. Like bloggers who review all sides of a topic, they are generally great writers.
    Loved the article and blog.

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    1. There are blogs that have been Freshly Pressed multiple times — we spend much of our time looking for posts on blogs that have not been promoted, but sometimes — if a post is particularly excellent, timely, and resonant — we promote a blog that’s already been featured. (And love the SNL/Walken comment…)

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  12. Thanks for revealing what makes posts Freshly Press-able. What a great learning tool. Writing about controversial topics can be tricky. I wonder how the cloak of anonymity impacts this type of writing. Since DL is still in the closet, does it give her more freedom as a writer? I don’t shy away from difficult topics but need to exercise some measure of discretion due to the public nature of the Internet. Thanks for getting me thinking about this and, hopefully, improving my blog as a result.

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    1. I agree with Jamie that one tends to take “some measure of discretion “when dealing with Internet, but it can also be a way for improving one’s courage to take a position, at last! I’m trying to do that.

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    2. Excellent thing to bring up, Jamie. I gather the Daily Post could tackle the topic of anonymity at some point — how a blogger can maintain privacy while still building a public persona in their own online space. A discussion of how to be “authentic” — and a trusted narrator/voice — while being anonymous would also be interesting. Thanks for the idea!

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      1. Thanks for your reply, Cheri, and for considering this topic. It is something I find challenging. Since I use real events and experiences in my blog I struggle with how to not attack or point the finger at people without their permission. My strategy is to alter the details just enough to render the participants unrecognizable. I do wonder how other bloggers handle this. So, thanks for considering more on this topic.

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  13. I’m glad WP took the initiative to feature this subject and FP the blogger D.L… We need more diversity on topics and bloggers featured. I mean offering us the full range too; balanced or not. Kudos! 🙂

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    1. We’ve recently promoted poems (and writing about the poetry process as well as poetry analysis/commentary) to Freshly Pressed, so nope — it’s not a “minority topic.”

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