RTD Blogging Follow-Up

RiverCity Rapids, a good blog on all things Richmond, has a few thoughts on yesterday’s Times Dispatch article on blogging.

First:

I am as disappointed as Norm at One Man’s Trash on the somewhat vague and incomplete T-D story about blogs today. Not for excluding us or some of the other area blogs I read, but for the mere fact that they mentioned 4 blogs directly, and inferred the existence of a few more, and only gave the links to two of them! Hello?

Why not list just the scores to the ball games but make the reader guess which team was which?

Norm is worried that they may not catch up to what blogs really are and write a good follow up until blogs are as outdated as rotary phones. He may be right with the onset of videoblogging, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

And a good point. While I don’t mind having been mentioned in an article (which made the front page), I’d would have liked something a bit more thorough, or at least a few more blogs to send people to so anyone new to the medium could get a better feel for what blogs are.

Then again, given the way blogs work, Matt and I are probably providing plenty of information to would be blog readers with these follow up posts. Thus validating my stance that blogs are good supplemental material to the MSM (wow, I actually used that term).

Snoopy at RiverCity then wrote about bloggers reporting, particularaly VCU Professor Jeff Smith’s comments about it:

“VCU professor Jeff South, who teaches classes in media ethics and in communications technology, said most blogs don’t contain any original reporting; rather, bloggers rely on mainstream media for fodder.”

This is generally true, but I’ll give an example of when it is not true: SaveRichmond.com, agree or disagree with them, was all over the Performing Arts Center story like a tick on a hound.

After the story broke that the financing was not there et al, SaveRichmond analyzed and published and linked to the arts group’s IRS 990 statement on April 27th. That was followed with a story on Richmond.com the next day using the same IRS form and interviews. Any reference to the arts center and the IRS filing has yet to appear in the T-D. It was available for two months just by asking, and it reveals that the group has less on hand then they claimed.

That is digging and that is original reporting.

The great thing about blogs is that they are in a prime position to report events quicker than the media because they always update. They’re closer to 24-hour news networks than newspapers in that they can be on the ball about things. Some papers update their websites when their new issues come out, not as the new breaks throughout the day, which not only hurts their readership but potentially boosts that of blogs.

That aside, it’s true that MOST blogs don’t contain original reporting. There are the handful that do and even then they only do it maybe 10% of the time. The rest of the content is commentary and links. There is still a reliability on the MSM for “fodder”.

And thought number three from Snoopy is about the quote on blogs being “so anti-establishment and anti-mainstream media, and yet they really need the mainstream media to feed off of”:

Sort of true, but not completely. I am not anti-mainstream media, but when the local paper and TV stations cover a story like the Braves rally and lead off talking about the protestors and giving them as much time as the rally (even though outnumbered) is that fair and accurate? The funniest part of the rally was the guy on the Harley revving his engine when the protestors chanted – even they were laughing b/c the Hog was so loud – and it did not get mentioned at all.

Papers and TV have space and time limitations. Blogs do not and can provide you with a link to a referred to article or document and the like and you can go and read and make up your own mind (see IRS story below). They usually are more like op-ed pieces, as Prof. South notes, but not always.

I was at the Braves rally, and wrote about it. I saw things that the papers and TV did but they chose not to report it. They wanted to report on the conflict because it sells. I had a friend who works for a station and they said they were mortified at the coverage, too.

If a reporter gets something wrong or leaves something out, and a blogger corrects him on it or adds to it because they were there too, is that a bad thing? If a blogger can add something substantial and vital to the story and can substantiate it, isn’t that a good thing?

To borrow from a classic old campaign ad, “You can’t be a watchdog if you’re not there watching.”

And they’re right. To say blogs are anti-establishment or anti-mainstream media isn’t entirely true. They’re critical of the way the MSM works but it’s because the MSM is limiting itself to old means of reporting the story. Like I said above, some newspapers run their websites like the front page of their newspaper and only update it when a new issue comes out. This not only limits their ability to tell a story in a timely manner but also limits their ability to elaborate on a story as it develops. Blogs and the internet are a perfect means for newspapers to go deeper into their stories than a column or a few paragraphs and until they utilize that, they’re going to be hounded and probably keep seeing their readership drop as people go elsewhere for their news, whether it be television or blogs that start to give more to the story.

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