Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Feeling uncomfortable yet?

Your paper is posting reader comments after stories, and probably hosts some bloggers who aren't staff members. You're getting calls and emails fairly regularly now asking how the Bugle Intelligencer can possibly allow some of those people to say such things.

It's libelous. It's scandalous. It's ... oh, my God ... inappropriate.

And by now you may also have learned that one of those opinion bloggers once got fired by the politician she's now criticizing, or that the guy co-hosting the Outdoors blog was convicted of hunting out of season 14 years ago, or that .... well, you get the drift.

Are you feeling uncomfortable yet?

If not, I'm worried about you. If you're not squirming in uncertainty from time to time nowadays, you must not be close enough to the edge. In response to a question in the Sacramento Bee newsroom last week, Melanie Sill said, "If you're in a newsroom and the editor doesn't say that change is needed, you should leave." I think that same sentiment applies to our need to loosen up, let go of some control and learn to play by the changing rules of the new game we're in.

Jeff Jarvis (following up on an issue mentioned below) explores two contrasting experiences in this useful post on BuzzMachine.

In Cleveland, a political blogger was dismissed over making political contributions. In Newark, a former politico was allowed to blogstalk a staffer at the Star Ledger. Check Jeff's post and related commentary for some intriguing discussion.


  1. The University of South Florida just had a panel discussion about new journalism and bloggers a few days ago. I wrote about it on Sticks of Fire (, and the readers of Sticks seem to get it. Readers get it; journalists don't. From the journalism students who attended, it's clear that even many members of the new guard are stuck on the same hang ups older reporters are. Surprisingly enough, out of the many students and industry people I talk to every day, the most enthusiastic people ready for change are some members of the old guard, like Gil Thelen and Howard Troxler. Even some of my younger professors are out of touch; one has been against teaching about blogs because they weren't professional enough for her.

  2. Great post, Howard. Along similar lines, I recently heard Jennifer Carroll of Gannett say something very smart: Rather than focusing on controlling objectionable speech in comments, newspapers should be digging into the underlying tensions in their communities that may be causing that kind of discourse.

    And let's face it: Newspapers' tendency to play everything as safe as possible doesn't really seem to be working in the marketplace. Maybe a little more acceptance of disorder will attract audiences, not drive them away.

  3. Thanks for this perspective, from "the other bloger" who left the Wide Open blog.

  4. LOL make that "blogger"

  5. Are YOU feeling uncomfortable yet?

    Green reporter, Green Zone dispute, red-hot rhetoric

    Crikey, "no personal blogs". Is that the right answer?