Note to the Town Talk: You're Not a Blog (And You Shouldn't Try To Be One)
I know, I know. I've given the Town Talk a hard time before. I've called them the Clown Talk. It was just a joke, guys. I promise.
But their latest foray into the blogosphere has me scratching my head. Not because I fear the competition. (Because they're not really competing against anyone other than themselves. I don't blog for money, and neither does WeSawThat or Cenla Antics). The reason I'm confused by this StoryChat option is that it denigrates real journalism into a sounding board for anonymous posters. And that is not be the function of a newspaper; it is the function of a blog.
Gannett, gentlemen, you can't just takeover the blog culture by manufacturing your own. I know, you're going to say, "Look kid, that's not what we're trying to do. We're just adding a feature for our readers and subscribers."
"But to those of us who like our news delivered to us straight, without the commentary (leave that to editorials), allowing anonymous bloggers to comment on a story like "Natchitoches Marine Killed In Iraq" directly under the headline, it just doesn't sit well."
"Well, we're not calling ourselves a blog," they'll claim. "It's a StoryChat function, and many other newspapers in similarly-sized markets have implemented the same technology with great success."
"And how do you measure that success?" I'll ask.
"Ad revenue," they'll say.
"Exactly. If you can just take over our local blogosphere, you can make our active bloggers make you money. It's genius."
As WeSawThat points out, this has been done in other Gannett-owned papers throughout Louisiana, and it seems to behave in a fairly predictable fashion. Every post appears as an anonymous one, unless the writer includes his or her name in the body of the text. Opinion letters and political stories get the most feedback, a rough facsimile of what we're doing here.
To be honest, part of me thinks, "Either way, this could be fun. Like when they had Sound Off!" But Sound Off had its problems, remember?
I have no doubt that this feature will be used, but in order for this to happen, the paper must relinquish some of its journalistic authority in the process. Blogs work best as an independent reaction to the news, not as a part of the news itself (unless it's an individual reporter's blog).
Am I the only one skeptical of this? Here's an example of how this will function: From the Gannett-owned Battle Creek Enquirer.
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