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Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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March 13, 2006

Seeders of Clouds: Latest on Newspaper Blogging

User loyalty and engagement with the site: that's why newspapers need blogs. Some grasp that, some don't. "The puzzle isn't solved by newspapers starting blogs, even though it's a good idea to learn the form by doing it."

I started thinking about the import of newspapers starting blogs when I looked at Greensboro101 for the first time. It’s an aggregator for local bloggers. There was something portentous about it. You could see the day when a 101-style site—with better and bigger content—might swipe the main switchboard position from the local newspaper. Or at least offer serious competition for news-related traffic.

Mike Phillips, editorial development director for Scripps Newspapers, had a similar thought in comments he made at PressThink (Sep. 29, 2005):

There are days when I’m tempted to gather a few friends, move into a nice town with a newspaper run by one of the slower-moving publishers, start up something that’s digital and citizen-driven and make a nice living picking the big guy’s pocket.

Which is why John Robinson of Greensboro—featured in this profile at PressThink’s Blue Plate Special—was smart to get his newspaper into blogging in 2004, and to push the idea of the News & Record’s site as a “public square.”

Back in December 2004 I did a short interview with Greensboro101 founder Roch Smith Jr; and I asked him, “Who is your competition?”

I guess that depends on what I’m competing for. If it’s for local eye-balls, then the competition is the News & Record, although I think other local media will soon be interested as well.

Right, because an ambitious television station might say: Fellas, we’re going to swipe the main switchboard position from the local newspaper. We’re going to be the public square. (Remember: They have on-air promotion, you don’t.) Or for that matter, TV site as local aggregator.

That’s what KRON in San Francisco has done with The Bay Area is Talking, and what WKRN has done with Nashville is Talking. (Check out their general manager’s blog.)

These aggregator sites exist in lots of places. There’s Philly Future, an outstanding example. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Daniel Rubin—also profiled at Blue Plate Special—says Philly Future is “where I go first each morning to find out the buzz.” There’s also Pittsburgh Bloggers, and Universal Hub in Boston, to take three examples. Or rather, there’s…

  • Philly Future (“Philadelphia Regional News YOU Write”)… and there’s (“the region’s home page.”)
  • There’s Universal Hub (“1011 Boston blogs and counting!”) and there’s (five blogs, hard to find.)

Peggy Noonan’s love note to the blogosphere (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 17, 2004) ends with this passage:

Someday in America the next big bad thing is going to happen, and lines are going to go down, and darkness is going to descend, and the instant communication we now enjoy is going to be compromised. People in one part of the country are going to wonder how people in another part are doing. Little by little lines are going to come up, and people are going to log on, and they’re going to get the best, most comprehensive, and ultimately, just because it’s there, most heartening information from … some lone blogger out there. And then another. They’re going to do some big work down the road.

(Ellipsis… hers.) Down the road the aggregator sites, like Greensboro101, could do some big work too. You have to imagine how a “lone blogger out there” who has “the best, most comprehensive information,” as Noonan put it, comes together with others who have similar goods to make a high traffic site that can gain advertising. Sort of like John Battelle’s Federated Media concept:

Federated Media helps leading independent authors turn their publications into sole-proprietor media businesses, at the same time providing media buyers with a scalable mechanism by which they can tap the audience loyalty and engagement that are fostered by the best blogs.

Reader loyalty and engagement with the site: that’s why newspapers should be starting blogs. Dan Rubin, who does Blinq for the Inquirer, says, “On average, visitors tend to spend more time on the blog than they do the entire site.”

On March 1, Blue Plate Special released a chart summarizing what we found when we looked for bloggers at the 100 largest newspapers in the U.S. (See Facts About the State of Blogging at America’s 100 Biggest Newspapers.) One of the findings: only 14 newspapers had no blogs that we could find.

One of those 14 was a newspaper I grew up reading: the Buffalo News, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. (Disclosure: I’ve done some consulting for their law firm in two libel cases, which the News won.) There we find a situation not unlike the one Mike Phillips sketched… “town with a newspaper run by one of the slower-moving publishers.”

Take it away Buffalo Geek, reacting to our chart…

The Buffalo News website is a testament to poor design. It seemingly exists in an Internet vacumn as links to external sites or community groups are verboten and is simply a copy of what is available in the print edition. If there is no content on the site that cannot be found in the print edition, why even have a website?

Local newspaper asleep at the digital switch, Geek says. Check out the site and tell me how accurate that is. (There’s a cheerier by the same firm.) Meanwhile, the broadcast stations are stirring a little.

Channel 2 has had great success in driving participation and viewership with their Taxpayer Weblog. Yes, it’s poorly designed and it’s usability is questionable, however, it clearly demonstrates the market for community participation in the news cycle and is used to build a loyal following of readers and viewers.

I like his way of putting it. “The market for community participation in the news cycle” is going unclaimed in Buffalo. That’s where the 101-style sites come in.

If people feel as if they are empowered, they will read and comment. Websites like,, local blogs, and BuffaloRising demonstrate the value and power of community involvement. Those sites increase awareness of local issues and empower participation in the political process.

Buffalo Geek is on a roll, in my opinion. His recommendation:

The Buffalo News should emerge from their technical coma, hire a few bloggers, promote community commentary, and empower the local community to fight for change. It would return the paper to relevance in this town and be the bridge between “Old Buffalo” and “New Buffalo”… we would then all be on the same page as we fight to revitalize this city.

Let the management at the Buffalo News know how you feel, demand that they respond to the community. Send them a link to the NYU study, this post, or links to any of the local blogs to demonstrate the value of new media.

Or as Tom Glocer, CEO of Reuters, put it in a recent speech: “The internet was not invented just to show a replica of yesterday’s newspaper with a few banner advertisements.” (Via Lance Knobel.)

If the Buffalo News is at degree zero in blogging then the Guardian in the UK is at the extreme opposite end— degree six. Its newest project is an expansion of the commentary section along the Huffington Post model. It’s called Comment is free… and described by Emily Bell, executive editor, as a “live comment blog which will pull in not only the best of our commentators’ work but the views of other bloggers, critics, academics, writers, technologists, thinkers etc., in a sort of British version of the Huffington Post.”

The site debuts Tuesday. Comments will be allowed, but only with a valid e-mail address and registration, and the Guardian may try geolocation technology to identify your actual location when you post a comment.

Simon Waldman is the director of digital publishing for the Guardian, and one of the forces behind Comment is free. The last time he was in New York, Jeff Jarvis and I had coffee with him. (Jarvis writes a new media column for the Guardian.) Waldman realized a while ago what I learned by doing this study with the Blue Plate team. Starting blogs is not the problem for newspapers, and it’s not the answer, either.

Once you create the first blog, it’s ridiculously easy to come up with more. In months you could be on your twenty-first. But there is a serious risk of over-supplying the market, drowning out your best voices, and publishing a lot of mediocre material. The blogging puzzle simply isn’t solved by newspapers starting blogs, even though it’s a good idea to learn the form by doing it.

The Guardian has learned the form. It has blogs, and will start more. (Also see its special report.) But Waldman doesn’t see starting more as innovation. The problem is how to create unique value. The new Comment section is about that. It is founded on an insight, not about blogging, but about the newspaper’s traditional columnists and the state of opinion writing online.

On March 2, Emily Bell told the Online Publishers Association that she would be doing a disservice to the Guardian’s old guard columnists “if she did not show them why their major competition is now online.” (via “This is where commentary is refining itself,” she said. “You have to think ‘where is this competitive landscape going?’ - and it is already there. Unless you take your writers there you are already dead.”

“Comment is free” is the vehicle for taking the Guardian’s writers there, and sidestepping their belief that a columnist’s opinion has prestige because it’s in a prestige newspaper. They will be voices in the Huffington-like mix (200 writers signed up already, including Arianna herself) and they will have to learn the new rules for how to stand out.

As Bell said, “columnists can now be challenged by anyone with an idea and a simple blogging platform— writers no longer need an international news organisation behind them.” Which means it’s not immediately obvious that Charles Krauthammer has anything on Captain Ed. What is obvious is that the Krauthammers of the world are never going to come to that realization on their own.

In between the zero innovation policy of the Buffalo News and the hero-of-innovation style of the Guardian, there’s the current state of the art at most American newspapers, with the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Post leading the way among bigger papers, while the Spokesman-Review, the News & Record and the Roanoke Times set the pace for papers under 100,000.

At the Chronicle, interactive editor Dwight Silverman wants to make writers out of readers, as well as bloggers out of journalists. But not just any reader will do. For his chron.Commons section, Silverman is hunting for knowledgeable and passionate people to fill particular slots. Here’s his wish list (Feb. 24):

We launched our reader blogs at the chron.Commons three weeks ago, and we’ve had a steady stream of new ones join the dozen that launched. We want to kick things up a notch, though, and fill in some gaps in topics.

We’re getting a lot of requests to do blogs that fit into the “Life” category, but I’d really like to fill out some of the others. Here’s a list of blog topics we’d love to have…

Silverman’s list includes fishing and hunting, dieting, building a house, home improvement, “someone starting up a business from scratch and writing about the process,” and computer security. There are standards:

We’re interested in Houston-area folks who are passionate about their topics, have some level of expertise and are clear, articulate writers.

E-mail me indicating your interest in these or other topics. If I like the proposal, you’ll be asked to submit some samples. If those meet the criteria, we’ll set you up with your own chron.Commons blog.

Which is a lot different than just throwing open the gates. The theory Silverman’s working with was stated well by Tom Glocer of Reuters:

Media companies need to be “seeders of clouds.” To have access to high-value new content, we need to attract a community around us. To achieve that we have to produce high-quality content ourselves, then display it and let people interact with it. If you attract an audience to your content and build a brand, people will want to join your community.

Jeff Jarvis explains the greatness of Glocer’s speech. Meanwhile, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has gone hunting:

We’re looking for Seattle-area residents who are passionate about something and want to tell the world about that topic, be it long distance running, the local live music scene, gaming, cooking, movies, poker, programming, getting fit, buying real estate, parenting - or something else. We especially want to sign up neighborhood bloggers to write about the issues and events in your corner of the world.

If you know a few fellow citizens/writers who would like to blog about a topic with you, we can start a group blog featuring you and a number of your friends. If you are already writing your heart out on a blog just a few hundred people are reading, talk to us about moving your blog to the Seattle P-I.

Which brings us back to Greensboro101, because clearly the P-I would like to be the blogging switchboard for the Seattle region. If it stays in business, that is.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links… says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer could go all-Web soon. “Talk has spread that the paper may leap directly to web as the nation’s first major daily published exclusively on the internet.”

The Guardian’s HuffPost-style blog is now live. comment is free…. According to Steven Vass, media correspondent for the Sunday Herald, the site is unlike anything other UK papers have attempted. From the editor’s welcome by Georgina Henry (March 14):

Welcome to Comment is free, the first collective comment blog by a British newspaper website. It will incorporate all the regular Guardian and Observer main commentators, many blogging for the first time, who will be joined by a host of outside contributors - politicians, academics, writers, scientists, activists and of course existing bloggers to debate, argue and occasionally agree on the issues of the day.

And I can announce that as of March 13, I will be a contributor to comment is free… , though they haven’t made me a page yet. Glenn Reynolds has a page there.

Do get a look at their Editor’s Blog, “a daily account of the process of editing the Guardian and Guardian Unlimited. It covers how editorial decisions are made, the events and discussions that take place and how the editorial side of the organisation works.”

Daily…interesting, that. Jarvis: “This shows the right attitude: opening the door and leaving it open.”

PressThink regular Daniel Conover, who is working on Internet projects for the Post-Courier in Charleston, had this to say Monday (March 13) at his personal blog:

One thing I learned on Friday: After looking at a bunch of the blogs cited on the Blue Plate Special list of blogging editors, I came away with the distinct impression that the blog I’d just built for my executive editor is going to look better and be far more readable/inviting than the majority of the other stuff out there. Why? Because I got a real designer (Janet) and three other guys with skills to design the template architecture.

“Our stuff goes live on March 22,” Conover says. “Watch for it.” We will, we will. Of course, he’s using Blue Plate Special exactly as intended. It’s a base line; after marking it you’re supposed to serve an ace.

In the comments to my March 1 post, Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, author of the Trib’s Hypertext blog, made a sound observation about our study naming the top blogging newspapers in the U.S. He wondered whether having a main page listing all the newspaper’s blogs was all that important. “My understanding is that readers go to newspaper sites looking for news,” said Johnson. “So the more salient measure — or, at minimum, another salient measure — of a paper’s blogs ought to be how well they are incorporated into the daily news presentation.”

He’s right; we should have looked for that. Then, in reacting to this post, Johnson takes note of Daniel Rubin’s experience: “On average, visitors tend to spend more time on the blog than they do the entire site.”

His experience is not an endorsement of blogging per se, but rather of the idea that newspapers need to augment the “news,” in the traditional sense, with content that feels less impersonal, a little looser than the norm. That could be a great blogger, it could be (and often is) a great columnist, it could be a slam-bang entertainment site, say, that is distinct from the rest of the site. Any of those, done well, will surely grab people for longer than the site average and help firm up the relationship between reader and paper.

Check out this Craigslist ad from LA Voice: “Journalists, Bloggers - Get Exposure Without the Grind.” They too are soliciting voices.

…Getting published in the L.A. Weekly, CityBeat, Los Angeles Magazine, the Times and a dozen more L.A. papers and mags means you have to endure the grind: Editors don’t return your phone calls. They ignore your emails. They hang onto your work for months. If and when they run it, they mangle it or ask for late, massive changes and further reporting.

Over at Blue Plate Special’s feature on Canadian newspaper blogging by Mark Hamilton, PhD student Mark Federman has this comment about not finding many blogs at the Globe and Mail.

I think you’ve missed the point at the Globe. The entire online presence has been turned into a blog, with visitor comments that often turn into conversations on all articles.

The idea is not to have a thing called a “blog” (as in, “hey look at me - I’m bloggin’, I’m bloggin’”), but rather to change the web presence from a billboard into an active, engaging, conversation. The Globe’s redesign has got it mostly right, I think, regardless of how many of their journos are actually talking at us.

Posted by Jay Rosen at March 13, 2006 1:25 AM   Print


I suspect in many, if not most, of our bigger cities, civic life is on life support. The kinds of things discussed above are the steps a newspaper, a community activist, a group etc. can do to infuse new blood and vigor.

This trend provides hope for a revival of real community debates, engagement in issues and the pooling of knowledge to solve our problems.

I've been feeling morose because of the sale of Knight Ridder. This post, and the post just preceding it, are nice pick-me-ups.

Posted by: Dexter Westbrook at March 13, 2006 2:13 AM | Permalink

I think Dexter is right about civic life -- and I'd take it one step further.
Some of the social problems we're having right now stem from people having a sense of "disconnectedness" from their communities. It's as if the parks and schools, etc, that their taxes pay for actually belong to someone else.
With more people being able to have their voices heard without having to "know somebody", or attend meetings, those people can connect back up and be part of their communities again.

Posted by: Trudy W. Schuett at March 13, 2006 5:47 AM | Permalink

"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first."
-Frederick Wilcox

Blogger Leo Morris is well aware of the risks referred to by Wilcox: ‘If newspapers treat blogs as they should, as a technological innovation instead of a threat, perhaps they will enable a leap, too. Blogs will evolve as well -- they have to ...’ Two worlds ;

International Herald Tribune noted recently: 'In the Internet era, the old media, like newspapers and television, are sometimes seen as dinosaurs, about to be rendered extinct by aggressive predators ...' Old and new media meet but can't make connections

CODA: The Atlantic issue suggests that indeed 'civic life is on life support' as 'Blogs find themselves in the same place as newspapers: not half as popular as they'd like to be.' Those Busted Blogs

Posted by: jozef Imrich at March 13, 2006 6:29 AM | Permalink

PS: Borrowing a famous laugh line from the 1967 movie, "The Graduate," I want to say one word -- just one word (well, more, actually):

Whatever we do lets not mention how Wal Mart is telling bloggers what to say ;-)

Posted by: jozef Imrich at March 13, 2006 6:35 AM | Permalink

Some co-workers and I had the pleasure of meeting with Simon Waldman when he was in the U.S. last year. Very bright, appears able to see clearly well into the future. Granted, the UK news market differs from ours in some important respects, but if he's doing something, smart journalists will take the time to understand why.

Posted by: Lex at March 13, 2006 9:51 AM | Permalink

The Buffalo news is a joke. I would rather they NOT hire our good blogging community and suffer the slow death they set up for themselves. We have a strong blogging community and don't need the News, which just recently picked up on a *blogging trend in Buffalo* feature story a few weeks ago. A few weeks ago. Mind you we have had a cohesive Buffalo Blogging Community for years now. Sad.

Posted by: Jennifer at March 13, 2006 10:35 AM | Permalink

As aggregators are a part of this story I thought I'd shamelessly plug my list of local aggregators world wide (I've worked on it for months.) as well as the newest use for a blog aggregator.

As always, I found a lot here I can use and want to say thanks for the info. -Billy

Posted by: Billy The Blogging Poet at March 13, 2006 11:29 PM | Permalink

Hey Jay,

We launched this morning:

That's stage one. Stage two launch is next week. More shiny things then, too.

Posted by: Ben Hammersley at March 14, 2006 5:09 PM | Permalink

There are two kinds of "editing", and in the newspaper business they seem to run into one another. There's the sort of editing that catches typos and misspellings and corrects the grammar. And there's the editing that squeezes stories to fit -- whether it's the number of column-inches or the "editorial stance" of the outlet.

Everybody needs the first. But if newspapers want to win me back via electronics, they need to discard the second almost entirely. There's no need for it. There's plenty of space on the server, and the user can decide how much or how little to download; and, if they truly want to serve the public, the whole idea of an "editorial stance" should go away. Comment is free. Content is not.

Putting everything the reporter turned in (with the language cleaned up) on the site would be much more useful than multiple opinions of the same abridgements. So would employing nontraditional reporters, people knowledgeable about specific subjects, the ultimate freelancers.

For the moment, people are gratified and amused at the novelty of being allowed to voice their opinions and get an audience. Down the road it'll be much of a muchness. Everybody's got a navel and an opinion, including me. Most of them don't add a lot of value. The value comes from the information -- the reporting.

Yes, the front/home page should carry the edited story, as a sort of executive summary. It should have links to the full, unbowdlerized thing for those who want to look deeper, and further links to previous, competitive, alternative, and reference material on the same subject.

That won't happen soon. Editorial staffs are too used to their privileged positions as gatekeepers of the data, and wish to keep their status. But if it doesn't happen at all, the boom from blogging will be a bubble with little lasting effect.


Posted by: Ric Locke at March 15, 2006 12:53 AM | Permalink

Newspaper blogs started by outsiders or by veteran newspaper columnists will thrive or die according to how well they utilize links -- links, as Ric Locke, says, "to the full, unbowdlerized thing for those who want to look deeper, and further links to previous, competitive, alternative, and reference material on the same subject."
I run what I think of as an online journal of criticism, and to the extent that it works, it works only because we link not just to every single body of work that we critique, but also to comparable work that impresses us more.
Which is our way of saying, "We don't like it, and we've told you why we don't like it; but don't take our word for it; go read it yourself and make up your own mind. And if you think we're offbase, come back here and tell us so, and tell us why."
A link is the opposite of a lecture; it's an invitation to go see for yourself.
As citizens of the Web, the day that we get lazy and stop sprinkling our work with such invitations is the day that we become as dead as the deadest of dead trees.

Posted by: Steve Lovelady at March 16, 2006 12:56 PM | Permalink

Re: links

We had an interesting impromptu conversation in the newsroom on Wednesday. I'd been talking with our tech guy about news sites that do a good job of integrating background, context and connections with stories, typically by generating sidebar boxes that offer links to related materials.

Then my friend asked me if there was any online news source that was doing a good job of linking from within the stories themselves. And all I could say was, "Well, the bloggers get it."

Which became an animated stand-up, five-way discussion on the transformative value of linking out of news stories. I left it with the distinct impression that one of the next big moments will be when traditional newspaper stories start showing up online already threaded with hypertext. When reporters who now write "print first" care as much about honoring the ethics of the link as the best bloggers do, we'll really have something.

I can't imagine having that discussion in our newsroom six months ago.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at March 16, 2006 9:56 PM | Permalink

Steve (and others, of course):

The Dallas Morning News used to have a movie critic/reviewer whose advice was invaluable. If the man panned a flick, I knew I would enjoy it. If he thought it was absolutely wonderful, the pinnacle of celluloid art, I knew I would regret paying for the popcorn, let alone the ticket. It was wonderful; I could read ten lines and know where to spend my money.

But that only works if you're familiar with the critic, if you know his or her tastes and how they compare to your own. So kudos to you for doing it right. As people follow your links they will learn to calibrate their own preferences and tastes against yours, and thus learn what your comments mean to them. On matters of substance, they'll also get a feel for how diligent you are in ferreting out the information. It all adds up to building credibility.

Just don't get insulted when --

He: Lovelady panned hell out of it.
She: Oooh! When's the next showing? Can we get tickets?

An exchange like that means you're reliable and trustworthy, a go-to guy for advice. Agreement is a separate matter, measured on a perpendicular axis.


Posted by: Ric Locke at March 16, 2006 11:06 PM | Permalink

From the Intro