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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Local newspaper displeased with blogs

That may be putting it mildly. I considered naming this entry, "Local newspaper declares war on blogs." However, I'll refrain from that until there's more rock solid evidence.

Lately, I can't help but notice an attitude coming from our local newspaper, the State Journal-Register, that is very much anti-blog. The reason for this, assuming it's not imagined on my part, must be that blogs and the people who write them are perceived to be the enemy. Eh? Well, not this blog, but some.

The first instance I recall of a possible vexation with blogs was a few weeks or so ago. The paper printed an editorial off their news service about the so-called impending demise of newspapers. I can't remember who wrote it. I believe it was by a woman. The link* is more than likely dead by now, anyway.

Therefore, I won't try to recount the details. But, it left the impression that print media was very much aware of the threat posed by online journals. No. Let me rephrase that, because as yet, said threat is only in their minds. It left the impression that print media was going to stir up trouble for online journals. Ar. I wish I had the article so I could refresh my memory and quote it.

This week, there are two instances of the SJR's annoyance with blogs.

The most prominent example was pointed out by Dave at 11th Hour, in an entry entitled, "Blog Bashing." Dave refers to a Wednesday editorial enveloping politics and blogs and an incident that occurred at the Capitol Fax Blog, where an anonymous campaign worker for the governor was outed as a double agent.

In the SJR editorial, the usually liberal columnist makes haste to try and convince his readers that newspapers are reliable and blogs are not.

In a separate item in Wednesday's paper, there's an almost obscene inference that blogs are not to be trusted. Obscene, because it's as if in one breath the writer is making love to blogs, and in the next breath attempts to strip them naked in front of the whole world. One might be wondering where this obscenity occurred in the newspaper. It was in the food section, of all places.

The article is entitled "I eat, therefore I blog," with the sub-heading, "Want to read a restaurant rant? Particularly fond of bacon? You'll find that and more online."

The writer got a local blogger, Iggy, to make some comments for the article. Also, the article even quotes a nice portion of an entry from Look Back Springfield about the old Chick-fil-A restaurant.

Strangely, the article ends with this italicized footnote:

*Blogs may contain opinions or language that may be considered inappropriate by some viewers. The blogs listed do not reflect the opinions of or the State Journal-Register. The blogs listed are not affiliated or associated with the State Journal-Register and

I've never seen such a disclaimer in the newspaper before.

And, viewers? They're now referring to people who read as viewers? When did this start?

Hey, I'm not going to sit here and say bloggers are honest, or blogs can be relied upon. That would be akin to the beauty contestant saying, "I'm so pretty." Or, the politician saying, "Trust me." Or, the newspaper columnist saying, "I'm credible." Let the reader decide for himself.

Thanks to Iggy for pointing out the food article, which I completely missed.

* Here's my own footnote: I stopped linking to the SJR some time ago, and will continue not to link to them, for the simple reason its website contains annoying pop-up ads. If and when they get rid of that, I'll resume linking. Until then, ugh.

EDIT Friday, 16 Dec 2005 late night to add:

Posted by Marie at December 15, 2005 11:58 PM


I can understand why newspapers feel threatened by blogs and sympathize with them, since reading newspapers is one of the joys of my life (and has been since I was about 13). And I believe newspapers, in general and over time, are going to be much more credible than blogs. I'll pay more attention to analysis and endorsements of the Baltimore Sun, WaPo, NYT, and SJ-R if I could get it than I will to Wonkette or Daily Kos. Blogs have no accountability whatsovever whereas most newspapers try - and for the most part succeed - to maintain journalistic standards in terms of both reporting and writing quality (despite what people think). Blogs are also ephemeral and can shut down and be gone in an instant. Newspapers try to sustain themselves and I think most feel a connection and responsibility to the community they happen to be in. And most newspapers I look at have blogs themselves. Joel Achenbach, one of my favorite WaPo writers, has a very entertaining blog ( on the WaPo site.

I can't explain why your local newspaper would have such antipathy toward blogs (although Springfield does seem to be a nexus of blogging). Just tell them to get on with good reporting and writing and the blogs will take care of themselves.

Posted by: Kem White at December 16, 2005 9:12 AM

Good post. We have similar snarky attitudes showing up here in the Peoria Journal Star. Of course, both are owned by Copley Press.

BTW: Nice new theme! Very fresh and crips and easy on the eyeballs.

Posted by: Bill Dennis at December 16, 2005 1:43 PM

Blogs will not go away.

Watching Bill Moyers speaking on CSPAN the other day before the National Security Archives he was asked about the growing consolidation of ownership of mainstream media into fewer, and fewer hands.

He metnoned that some believed that blogs held promise as the last hope for a free, and investigative media, but he had doubts.

He asked who will pay the bloggers to spend the time, and pay the financial cost of researching stories?

He asked a very important question. Bloggers don't have the resources mainstream media has.

Yet mainstream media has been shown time, and time again to have failed to play the role which many assume it does - protectors of speech, and revealers of corporate, and government corruption.

Bloggers may be outside looking in, they may be underfunded, but thank goodness blogging exist. Blogging may in fact be the last gasp of a dying republic, and perhaps the first breath of a rising democracy.

Blog On!

Posted by: jeromeprophet at December 16, 2005 1:53 PM


Was the disclaimer in the paper edition as well? (we get recycling pick-up on Thursday so my copy is on its way to reincarnation) The reason I ask is that such wording isn't uncommon on Web sites. If it was in the paper edition, I agree that it is a little strange. Nick Rogers will endorse a movie without the paper having to disavow themselves from the viewpoints of its director.


Posted by: Dan at December 16, 2005 8:46 PM

Looking at the hardcopy edition - meaning newspaper. No I am not seeing the disclaimer anywhere in the article ( maybe I'm missing it ). I did a post with my opinion on this subject earlier this evening. Thanks to both sites that have linked back to my original article on the story.

Posted by: Iggy at December 16, 2005 11:14 PM

Having spent a good part of my adult life as a newspaper editor -- how's that for credibility? -- I think what you're seeing is an industry groping its way forward with a whole host of problems besetting it. In a sense, online enterprises -- more than blogs, services like Craigslist that can hit newspapers where it hurts by making ad sales vanish -- are just the latest crisis for newspapers. Most of your readers seem to be of the generation that can remember even middle-sized cities having several dailies (San Francisco had six at the end of World War II; one paid daily today); well, "changing readership habits" (read: TV news) eventually killed the audience for virtually every evening paper in the country. Now, even the biggest cities have a two or three paid dailies, if they have that many.

The potential challenge blogs pose is creation of an alternative information channel. Moyers's observation cited above is obviously true: The best newspapers -- a handful -- maintain all the resources necessary to fulfill their presumed public-service function: not only the money to hire the best reporters and editors to gather and report the news, not only the physical wherewithal to publish and distribute their product, but the professional culture that keeps the spirit of aggressive inquiry and the public mission mostly first and foremost. I say mostly, because even the strongest news institutions stumble. I think most of the great papers, like the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal are among those who are responding best to the challenge of figuring out where they fit into this new online media ecosphere.

Of course, the great majority of papers are not run on this basis. More and more, they're being treated as assets that must perform for investors the way an auto plant or oil well does. One of the great chains, Knight-Ridder, has been gutting some of the country's greatest papers (the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury) because the head of the company decided some time ago that the company had to deliver an arbitrarily set return to shareholders. The Tribune Company is in the process of doing the same number on papers it owns, including the Los Angeles Times. Companies and papers like that are committing slow-motion suicide, because eventually the product they sell will become so generic and mediocre no one will care; and no one has to buy the paper anymore to read the classifieds.

And then you have papers that are already mediocre, like the Copley papers. They should be doing everything in their power to understand blogging and exploit it. Instead, they're weirdly resentful and defensive about their turfbecause *they* are the professionals and *they* know how news is done. It's a real small-timer's attitude, and they'll reap the reward for it sooner or later.

Posted by: Dan at December 17, 2005 9:31 PM