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February 6, 2006

Introducing PressThink's Blue Plate Special

This blog has to expand. One way of doing that: a new spin-off site called Blue Plate Special, written by students in my blogging 101 class, plus others we may drag in. Each Special to offer fresh intelligence about one thing going on in the Net-meets-journalism world. First up: newspaper blogging.

We’re starting with simple format: a swarm of edited posts and reported features, short and long, held together by a big picture post that stands on its own, and links to all the other posts. Good information and multiple perspectives on a single theme— for now, that is the formula for a Blue Plate Special. (The domain will be, but it’s not operative yet.)

State-of-the-art in newspaper blogging

Our intent in the debut is to execute well upon a basic form in journalism: the snapshot, or state-of-the-art report. The first one will be about blogging at American newspapers. Newspapers are definitely past the “let’s start some blogs” stage, but what stage are they at? Where’s the action, traction, and satisfaction in the growing world of newspaper blogs? NYU students and I, joined by a few special guests, pros and amateurs, will try to find out.

Blue Plate Special Number One—to appear later this month—will have a core team of 12 correspondents, 5 editors, two of them also Web producers, plus assorted contributors, who are now being hunted down. (To view the story line-up, go here.)

If you’re a newspaper blogger or an editor who’s overseeing blogs, expect an e-mail or call. We may want to interview you. And if you want to be in this package or help us out, e-mail me. We can use you. If you’re a blogger, journalist, writer or aspiring press critic who reads PressThink, and you want to contribute to the debut of Blue Plate Special, we don’t pay in dollars but we plan to pay in readers and linkage.

Current plans (which could change) call for Blue Plate Specials on a monthly schedule— February, March, April, May. But we’ll see how it goes.

One thing I want to know from PressThink readers: what ideas do you have for the Blue Plate series? After we kick things off with newspaper blogging, where should we go next in the Net-meets-journalism, press-in-transformation world?

Examples of blog expansion.

As a matter of form, PressThink has remained more or less the same since September of 2003. I haven’t built any additions. But I have been watching how blog expansion happens. Some creative examples:

There’s Weldon Berger’s BTC News, which added a White House correspondent, Eric Brewer, in 2005. (See Dan Froomkim on it.) At the time I didn’t catch the significance of Berger adding a White House reporter. Now I think it’s one of the smartest moves any political blogger has made; and I have been considering how PressThink might develop its own network of correspondents.

An example I continue to admire is Terry Teachout’s About Last Night, which has a second contributor, Laura Demanski. (“TERRY TEACHOUT on the arts in New York City, with additional dialogue by OUR GIRL IN CHICAGO” is says at the top.) I have considered in the past expansion by adding a second contributor.

There’s the more ambitious example of Chris Nolan (see her PressThink post, The Stand Alone Journalist is Here) who expanded her own blog, Politics From Left to Right, into a group of writers on politics, who range from left to right. Her new (and very handsome) site is called Spot On; it’s the home of six authors.

And there’s the example of Talking Points Memo by Josh Marshall. He expanded by adding a spin-off site, TPM Cafe, which has a roster of talented part-time contributors and reader-written blogs. It also has comment threads (Talking Points Memo does not.) Marshall will soon debut a second spin-off. TPM Muckraker, for which he has raised money.

PressThink 2.0

All those expansions make sense to me, and they give me ideas.

Creating Blue Plate Special is part of a larger project: figuring out what the re-built 2.0 version of PressThink should be. The site is overdue for an overhaul and re-design, which I am starting to raise money for. I have to decide what should be added or “fixed” in the second version, and what directions to expand in. As soon as I have the funding for it, I will begin to solicit ideas from PressThink readers.

Posted by Jay Rosen at February 6, 2006 6:53 PM