Your Take Roundup::Newspaper Blogs Must Break Social Control of Newsroom

    by Mark Glaser
    June 8, 2006

    Something about the juxtoposition of the words “newspaper blog” doesn’t ring true. Newspapers and blogs don’t seem to fit together naturally unless you’re thinking of a blogger who likes to rip apart the bias of a local newspaper.

    Yet, if you can set aside the early combative relationship between bloggers and newspaper folk (and other mainstream media types), you can find some natural ways that blogs can fit into a newspaper’s website. Breaking news blogs. Or a blog that asks for readers to debate the issues of the day. Or a blog on the local college sports teams.

    So I asked you what you thought about newspaper blogs, which ones you liked and whether they were worth checking out. The response was rather tepid, with a couple people saying they don’t like newspaper blogs at all.


    Before I get to your responses, I also queried Jay Rosen, PressThink blogger and associate professor New York University’s Department of Journalism. Rosen had his students at NYU report on, and rank, top newspaper sites for how well they blog. He told me via email what he liked about newspaper blogs and why they don’t always fit into the culture of newspaper newsrooms.

    First off, Rosen’s list of favorite newspaper blogs include:

    Dwight Silverman’s tech blog at the Houston Chronicle
    Dan Froomkin and Joel Achenback at the Washington Post
    Steve Johnson’s Hyptertext at the Chicago Tribune
    USA Today’s On Deadline
    Antonia Zerbisias on media for the Toronto Star


    Rosen’s take on why blogs don’t always fit in with newspapers:

    A blog is a little First Amendment machine. Invent blogging and you are going to have the problems of free speech on your hands. A newspaper isn’t organized to provide its newsroom people with free speech; it is organized to control the information flow, restrain the individual voice, and channel it within safe, reliable, verifiable and therefore (we think) ‘credible’ bounds.

    Journalists don’t necessarily experience it this way, but every social scientist who’s ever studied the professional newsroom sees how it’s a regime of social control. Maybe after 15 years reporting time, proving that you can confine yourself to verifiable fact and down-the-middle analysis, we’ll give you a column and you can say what you think. By that time, are we worried that you’ll go off the reservation? We’re not. That’s social control.

    How did Josh Marshall get into blogging? He wanted to be a columnist, and he didn’t have 15 years to prove he could handle it. Blogging threatens people with newsroom unbound. That’s what doesn’t ‘fit.’ Newsroom bosses sense this. Rather than confront it, the newsroom without meaning to makes tame blogs. Then the threat goes away. Only problem is: blogs suck.

    Rosen has three theories on ways that blogs can work in a newspaper setting: 1) find the fanatics in the newsroom and let them write about topics the newspaper never writes about; 2) create blogs for reporters who can engage their audience to help in the reporting; and 3) recruit people from the community with “drive and knowledge and moxy” to blog, similar to what Silverman has accomplished at the Houston Chronicle.

    As for your comments on newspaper blogs, two people — Todd Zeigler and someone named Scout — both said they flat-out didn’t like them or read them. Frank Bruno, a “small-time media mogul” who does the Bruno and The Professor podcast, tried to explain what he didn’t like about mainstream media (MSM) blogs.

    MSM blogs are a mixed bag,” Bruno wrote. “Too often, they come across like diaries and not contributions to a conversation. They tend to be unidirectional (as old media is), as if to say, ‘I’m going to pour my thoughts out and completely ignore the vibrant discussion on this subject that may or may be not going on in the blogosphere.’”

    But Bruno did mention that he liked the Seattle Times’ political blog, Postman on Politics, because it linked out to local political blogs.

    Kamla Bhatt, who does a podcast about telecom and Indian issues, said she checks out a variety of Indian and American newspaper blogs.

    “I browse through a bunch of other newspaper blogs in an almost random manner,” she wrote. “The reason they are random is because I read on specific subjects like technology, telecom, Web 2.0 and movies…and news items on these subjects are aggregated from a variety of newspapers.”

    Ged Carroll, who blogs at Renaissance Chambara, said that newspapers should focus more on taking time to report what goes into print.

    “It doesn’t matter to me whether newspapers have blog sites or not,” he wrote. “A blog is a method of publishing content. The more challenging issue is for a newspaper to publish relevant content, taking advantage of the time it takes to go to print in order to provide a more thoughtful take on things. Would Seymour Hersh or Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein be better news reporters because blogs enable immediate publishing?”

    Perhaps we’re focusing on what newspapers were and what blogs are too much. Maybe it would help to start thinking about what newspapers might become in the future, and how blogs might well shape that future.

    UPDATE: Michelle Nicolosi at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has this to say about the newspaper’s blogging efforts:

    We promo to the latest blog posts (from reader and staff bloggers) prominently from our front page. We set up blogs on the fly to cover sporting and other events, and also have a [email protected] blog, where we post breaking
    news going on at night in the city (among other things). Some of our blogs get 100,000 page views a month. Maybe they aren’t much like what most blogs were like when blogs were first born, but they are equally good, in their own way, I think: They give staff writers a voice and a little more freedom than they have in the paper, they give readers a place they can come for content that’s devoted to their favorite topics, and they give highly engaged readers a chance to write for fellow readers. We give our reader bloggers a platform that gets 1.7 million unique readers a month — and they give us new (unedited) voices that appeal to our readers.

    • I was interested to read that the early relationship was contentious between News orgs and blogs. Michelle Nicolosi writes that “[Blogs] give staff writers a voice and a little more freedom than they have in the paper.” I can definitely see how New orgs wouldn’t want that liability. However, since blogs are so popular, and cheap, its only natural that the relationship is becoming more collaborative. The future is definitely moving away from physical papers, as evidenced by the constant reduction of traditional paper features like stock listings.

    • Manchester Evening News blogger Graham Hardcastle flew out to Brisbane on Friday and will be filing regular reports for the paper from Australia. As England attempt to get through the Ashes series without suffering any more injuries (and who knows, maybe actually retain the damn urn as well) Graham will be reporting for the paper and he’ll also be sharing his thoughts in his own blog on this site

    • Declining (media ad) sales figures; increasing pressure from multimedia news deliveries; citizen journalism; Philip Meyer’s assertion that newspapers are heading towards redundancy; and the BBC’s plans to introduce a more localised form of news in the regions, what do you do if you’re a newspaper publisher?

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      and i personely also it is quit informatic artical

    • I don’t like newspaper blogs either as each newspaper has an agenda they try to push on the public through their blogs.

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