To Blog or Not to BlogDecember 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).