Speaking of South Kitsap

Reporter Chris Henry talks about life in the county seat of Port Orchard and surrounding areas.
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To Blog or Not to Blog

December 5th, 2007 by Chris Henry

This post appeared on the entry about the fallen soldier’s funeral.

“Note to management: This is not blogging (not just you, Chris, all of the official paper bloggers). This is not the way to build readership through a blog. Why are ya’ll bothering?”

I e-mailed the sender, Sophie, who turns out to be a community blogger from Albuquerque, asking her to elaborate. She replied with a lengthy e-mail and lots of suggestions. To summarize her critiques (hope I get this right Sophie): The problem with Kitsap Sun blog entries is they lack a clear voice and personality, and in many cases, they’re pretty much a rehash of news already posted on the Web. She would like to see new information or a new spin on old information, and she’d like to see the blogs do a better job of engaging readers in conversation.

To a certain extend we are limited in how colorful our voices can be. Manging editor Jeff Brody says, “A news reporter can’t, as she suggested, write with an element of editorial or opinion because that would raise questions of whether the reporter can cover his/her beat credibly without having an agenda.”

Being new to blogging, I am always open to suggestions. Purposes I see for the blog are:
To build a sense of community.
To give a forum for public opinion.
To alert people to important events.
To seek information and sources for upcoming stories.
To describe the unique character of South Kitsap.
To elaborate on issues, adding behind the scene details or other information we may not have room for in the regular story.

Ideally a blog post should give fresh perspective on a news article, but, as I told Sophie, it’s sometimes a function of time. At the very least, I’ll try to make a post so people have a place to post comments, and — wonderfully opinionated bunch that you are — it doesn’t take much to get you going.

Last year our newsroom experienced a downsizing (about the time be revved up our Web presence). All news media are in the same boat, so this is no excuse; we all need to do more with less.

What would be helpful to me is to hear your critique of this blog. What works, what doesn’t? What’s missing altogether?

And speaking of the Kitsap Sun Web site, it’s evolved exponentially since it got an extreme makeover last year. In a single year, we’ve gone from being a paper with a Web site to a Web site that also produces a print product. Both serve their own purposes, but you can’t beat the Web for immediacy (unless of course you’re out of power). During Monday’s storm for example, by 5 p.m., we had experienced more than 140,000 page views, shattering the previously daily record by some 60,000 with the evening hours still to come.

And then there was the legendary Nov. 10 code item that we, in newsroom shorthand, refer to as “lugnut man.” Interest in the South Kitsap resident who tried to remove a stubborn lugnut with a shotgun made its way via the Internet to England where it quickly became the BBC’s most e-mailed story. Lugnut man went on to become a kind of Internet folk hero. Something about his story resonated with all of us who have ever wrestled with machines or technology.

Here’s a partial list of his claims to fame, as forwarded to the newsroom by Web editor Lloyd Pritchett Nov. 13:

Picked up by BBC and quickly became their second most-e-mailed story. (Man hurt using gun to change tyre)

Picked up by the Associated Press, which ran it at the top of their national Strange Headlines feed last night.

Picked up by the London Daily Mirror website here.

Snagged by the Daily Telegraph website, which tacked a few grafs about high U.S. gun ownership at the bottom of the story.

Picked up here by a German news site, shortnews.com, which gave it a Florida dateline, prompting several comments about the stupidity of Floridians.

My note: Florida, Washington, if you live in Germany what’s the difference?

Also picked up by many other news websites, including MSNBC, the Seattle P-I, San Diego Union-Tribune, Kansas City Star, Tacoma News Tribune, the Oregonian, City News (Canada), Toronto Sun (Canada), a site called Tire Review in Ohio, radio station websites in California and elsewhere, the Daily Egyptian in Ilinois, Minneapolis City Pages blog, etc., etc.

A site called Car Domain picked the story up and gave it this headline — “Man Attempts to Shoot Nut Off” — and ran a huge photo of a shotgun shell with the story.

(Sorry if some of the links don’t work.)

Anyway, that’s just a sampling of the ways the Web is changing the news industry. The advantage is the interactivity with community, which really came out during the storm coverage (thanks for all the photos, videios and tips). And, getting back to the topic at hand, blogging is a part of it. So let me know where you’d like to see us go with Speaking of South Kitsap as we evolve (in Kathryn Simpson’s words).

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15 Responses to “To Blog or Not to Blog”

  1. Blue Light Says:

    The obvious problem with the Kitsap Sun blog is the time it takes for entries to post. Sometimes DAYS! Compare with the Seattle PI where entries post instantly. Such a delay is not conducive to “discussion”. As I have followed the blog, I have noticed less and less postings as – I suspect – many grow frustrated with this delay and write off the blog – as many have written off the Kitsap Sun entirely – as irrelevant.

    Another problem I have – and the conspiracy theorist in me believes this is the cause for the delay – is the ongoing attempt by The Kitsap Sun to channel “information” and community conversation toward a particular outcome. I think posts that are damaging to The Sun’s allies (and, yes, I believe The Sun has allied itself with governmental groups like The Port of Bremerton) are censored. For instance, when Kitsap County’s last budget director resigned, he sent a letter to The Sun articulating his frustration and detailing County hiring histories that were to blame for the current budget crisis. His letter appeared briefly on the blog page. Then it was removed. The Sun did no follow-up investigation into the allegations. A subsequent post by me claiming The Sun had forsaken its community responsibilities as The Fourth Estate was held by the paper for review. I received a personal email saying my pposting was being held pending investigation into the Budget Manager’s assertions. End result: my entry was never posted, no follow-up by the paper was published.

    You want to improve your blog? Find a way for entries to post in a timely manner. And quit attempting to shape the community conversation.

    Am I hopeful that will happen? No.

  2. Bob Meadows Says:

    Ditto about the delay between clicking “post” and the actual posting of comments. It is impossible to carry on a “conversation” when days go by between the click and the actual posting.

    The lady in New Mexico has her own opinion about the nature of a blog, but I figure a blog is simply a web log on which the “owner” posts entries of interest to the owner (and perhaps some readers). The entries can be whatever you want.

    Since comments on articles published online appear instantly, the blogs are not as useful — unless the “conversation” needs to continue for more than a few hours. The articles disappear from the home page (and sometimes don’t appear at all — like the article in today’s paper about the commissioners’ budget meeting). So, the “conversation” in the comments sections usually ends quickly (or never starts, when the fickle Sun chooses to hide an article rather than put it in plain view on the home page — hint, hint).

  3. Kathryn Simpson Says:

    I certainly agree with Blue Light’s first point. Having entries waiting days in the que to be posted is very frustrating, especially when one or more canted opinions are sitting out there for all to read with no challenge or ability to quickly post a counter point or correction of misstated facts.

    That is especially frustrating when those misstated facts are about an individual.

    I’m curious as to why you are willing to let comments post to articles immediately, but not to the blogs?

    As to Blue Light’s conspiracy theory, I would only agree that The Sun has a leaning and that is frequently evident. However, to my knowledge, anytime I’ve posted an opposing point of view, it has been posted (not always timely, but it did eventually get posted).

    The blogs are a great place to have real “discussion” of issues. The Sun’s willingness to offer their home and coffee table for these “conversations” is community minded and I appreciate it. So, Thanks, Kitsap Sun.

    I have only one additional suggestion for now. I understand the reason for allowing people to post anonymously. However, I would only ask that The Sun limit bloggers to only ONE registered alias at a time. If they choose to change their alias, so be it, but make them take a time-out for a week each time they do. That seems fair and reasonable to me.

    Nothing frustrates me more than sock-puppets who post under two or more aliases to avoid accountability or to play the online version of “good cop, bad cop”. The one alias rule and the week in the penalty box would at least help with some being more accountable for their positions and demeanor).

    Am I hopeful the evolution will be positive? Yes. ;=)

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  4. Monty Mahan Says:

    Funny commentary from Albuquerque… I’ve been following (and sometimes contributing to) a number of blogs for a number of years and I was completely unaware that there was a standard for composition and style. In fact I had labored under the mistaken impression that the whole point of blogging was individuality, and you vote for your favorite and least favorites with mouse clicks to and away from blogs. It always is nice to see instant posting of comments. Is the Sun required by some “blogettiquette” to do so? No. Are there legitimate reasons to hold and review comments? Yes. And one lesson I recently learned the hard way is that there is absolutely no way to register commenters. There are things called proxy servers that can defeat any attempt to identify who and where a comment came from. Blog viewers beware, even if you recognize a commenters name; this or that idiotic comment could have actually come from anyone.

    Monty

  5. Karen Says:

    I’m just amazed that a blog calling itself “South Kitsap Beat” has never written about the Young Life organiaztion. The Young Life organization has a stranglehold on both the South Kitsap High School and the Gig Harbor High School. Karen

  6. Michele Says:

    I have to agree that there is a delay in postings, as it has happened to me. However, what I find even more irritating is how what has been written is not posted entirely. Consequently, what has been written can be misconstrued, because parts have been edited. Also, when responding to ones posting to state facts, it is not posted, as this has happened on the Crime and Justice Blog. I feel the editors take liberal freedom in deciding from whom and what is posted and what should be cut out in order to appease others.

  7. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Well…while we’re at it…newspapers should be about information – accurate information and ideas about out community. The old paper version can’t last in its old format…. by the time the news is printed, it is old news.

    Christopher’s new blog is a sharing of important ideas and information about our world, our environment…our community… and now I can’t find it.

    It is not listed under “Blogs” nor is the new Sports blog listed.

    The problem with ‘Sports’ meaning only football, basketball, baseball… other, more important sports is ignored…common sports available to almost every child isn’t mentioned.
    Why isn’t individual ‘sports’ mentioned…in the sense that we happen to have a world class roller hockey team based at the local rink on the east side. The instructor is a World Class competitor… and the Kitsap Sun doesn’t mention it.
    The kids on the team compete and travel around the world…. why isn’t that newsworthy?
    Roller skating is something any child can do..alone or with friends…indoors and outdoors…competition or not.
    How many kids can any team have…to play on a football, basketball or baseball team? The best players play…and the others do what exactly…when the focus of attention is on a small group of people forming the team?
    Thanks for bringing this subject up…
    Sharon O’Hara

    .

  8. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    I forgot to mention that I think you do a super job, Chris…and one of the things you mentioned and this paper did – and others too during our historic storm….was to bring us together as a community with the Kitsap Sun as the hub. Bloggers posted conditions we needed to know about and were there to do whatever needed doing.

    Another thing is that I want to buy a photo of the rainbow and can’t find it in the list of outstanding storm photos…
    Sharon O’Hara

  9. Chris Henry Says:

    Sharon – Here’s the link to Chris Dunagan’s new Waterways Blog. I’ll see if I can find the rainbow picture. What day did it run? Chris

    http://blogs.scripps.com/kitsap/waterways/

  10. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Thanks Chris…I’ve found the photo.

    ..”…Staff photo by Larry Steagall Rainbow forms over Hood Canal and Tahuya in the aftermath of Monday’s epic storm…”

    … I don’t know what day it ran and I can’t find it in the list of photos to buy…maybe my eyesight isn’t up to the smaller photos shown …
    Thanks again…Sharon

  11. Mary Colborn Says:

    OK, I have been working with the cat lady, Linda Dennis, to trap all the feral kittens and cats in the neighborhood before the coyotes pick them all off.

    However, today we caught a raccoon instead. Does anyone know what to do with a trapped raccoon in a cage. And, please don’t suggest that I call the lug nut guy.

  12. Blue Light Says:

    Does anyone know what to do with a trapped raccoon in a cage?

    Let it go.

  13. Kathryn Simpson Says:

    Mary,

    I suggest putting the cage out on a quiet patch of grass or just at the edge of the woods, set a bowl full of peanut butter and SEEDs about 10 feet away (to entice the racoon to leave the cage), open the cage door, and leave for a few hours.

    See, we find common ground in the strangest things. Here is something we could agree is a useful purpose for SEEDs. (smile)

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  14. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Chris…thanks for your help …! I’ve got the rainbow photo ordered…even found a few for Christmas gifts.
    Never thought to use Sun photo’s on cups or mouse pads … good idea!
    Sharon

  15. Chris Henry for Mary Colborn Says:

    Mary – I’ve been off for a few days. Just found this comment in my e-mail, but, like Bob Meadows’, it didn’t post.

    Here’s another installment of the raccoon saga by Mary Colborn:

    Ah, the cat lady came with heavy gloves and a barrier and released the raccoon in the middle of the night. Brave woman. We managed to catch all the kittens. There were only two left that weren’t caught by the coyotes.

    The coyotes had gotten bold. I would find them lounging in my lawn, as if they owned the place.

    It’s a strange year for wildlife. Very strange indeed.

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