Tuesday, September 26, 2006

vita.mn therapy

I've flagged the Minneapolis entertainment website vita.mn for you before. As you know, it's now in a soft launch phase, and there are still some features (like good RSS feeds) to attach, but the reviews have already started to come in.

Believe me, you're gonna want this for your own sites. It's worth you while to pay attention now.

Ken Doctor puts it this way in his blog Content Bridges:
Maybe there's just enough time for newspapers to reclaim a fundamental "things-to-do" franchise and grow it in the age of citizen/eater involvement. One bright light that bears attention: the new stealth-mode, very tag-friendly, user-gen-oriented vita.mn product planned by the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.
Here are a few other links worth following:

* gridskipper loves the use of the .mn domain. (It's Mongolia, btw.)

* A robust pro-and-con at mnspeak, where users debate vita.mn's utility.

* Another Minneapolis blog thread, likewise with mixed reviews, is here at Metroblogging Twin Cities.

The idea of content and commentary supplied by users is central to the vita.mn concept, and there haven't been that many users during this soft launch. So it's unspruising that early reviews won't reflect the whole concept.

As more users discover the site and the fabulous tools that let them customize and manipulate it, that will change. You heard it here first.
–Howard Weaver

Sunday, September 24, 2006

More about civil debate

There's a fascinating thread over at The Big Question, where Eric introduced a discussion about how we might avoid the fever swamps of political extremists and engender real, two-way discussion. He concluded:

If there is to be any communication across the divide, people of good faith on both sides have to find each other, find a way to exchange views, try to learn from each other, and use evidence and logic to define their differences down to the philosophical nub.
Chances are this does not lead to a magic moment when all join hands and sing kumbaya. But it does mean we can still converse, still challenge the other side and defend one’s own, still hear the best facts and arguments that are inconvenient to our pre-existing beliefs and, in the best cases, consider whether those facts and arguments require us to rethink what we think we believe.

Amongst the many thoughtful comments from readers, I liked this one:

On a serious note, unfortunately the nutty extremes of each party become the mascot of said party. coulter, michael moore, o’reilly, sheehan. perhaps if the media cease printing the diatribes of these extremists, it would approach normalcy again.
–Howard Weaver

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A blog explosion

How are your blogs doing? From the sound of this post, it seems like they're doing fine at the Centre Daily Times. You should check out the remarkable activity there, and at powerful, creative blogs being written and hosted throughout the company.

Share links to some of your success stories in the comments below, and we can all have a look.
–Howard Weaver

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Civilizing your blogs

I want to commend to your attention the first two comments appended to the Big Question post below. They are from a civilian reader named Anna, and she offers some thoughtful notions and many useful links to other discussions.

Any of you who are thinking about how to manage the new interactive relationship with readers -- and that should be ALL of you, of course -- will be interested.
–Howard Weaver

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ask & answer The Big Question

In line with the two posts below about different kinds of campaign coverage, I also should have mentioned Eric Black's pioneering blog/reporting effort at the Star Tribune, called The Big Question.

It's kind of tough to describe (the website's boilerplate is appended below), but it's easy to judge Eric's vigor and to appreciate the robust, mainly civil discussions that it generates. I'd encourage you to have a look, and to share your own ideas and experiences here.

[Remember: anybody can comment here; if you'd like to post -- and please do -- just email Jill Christensen (jchristensen@mcclatchy.com) for an invitation to "join" the blog.]

What is the Big Question?

The Big Question is an experiment by the Star Tribune and StarTribune.com, one based on the belief that our reporting will become stronger and more relevant by inviting you, our readers, to join us in the pursuit.

Whatever the question, our hope is that this blog can serve as a forum for finding and testing facts, with a minimum of rancor or partisanship, in the pursuit of answers, big and small. Despite the often-overheated rhetoric about the mainstream media, it's our belief that those answers will be more convincing and more complete if they are drawn from the insight, expertise and critical assessment of everyone. And that means you.
–Howard Weaver

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Strib readers join the debates

Take a look here for Anders Gyllenhaal's blog post explaining a new feature of election coverage that the Star Tribune calls Debate Tracker:

The idea is that the coverage of every significant debate through Nov. 7th will include a summary and highlights that will be used to build a special page online that tracks the course of debates. This will let readers look at the ebb and flow of debates over time, and also add their thoughts and commentary to the feature.
–Howard Weaver
21st century election coverage ...

I thought you'd be interested in this recent post from Tribal Fires, a blog that exists mainly to bedevil the Anchorage Daily News. Coming from that generally begrudging source, this seems even more impressive.

Slouching towards immediacy

Isn’t it interesting to see ADN transforming itself as this election season wears on? It seems to be changing from a factory that produces a single big slug of news product every morning into something resembling a round-the-clock news operation – like a wire service, or CNN, or an old-time, honey-get-me-rewrite urban tabloid that published several editions a day.

Two cases in point:

1. At 5:35 p.m. Saturday, reporter Kyle Hopkins posted a story on the ADN home page about NEA-Alaska declining to endorse any of the three governor candidates (though it endorsed Knowles only two years ago when he ran for U.S. Senate against Lisa Murkowski). Back in the day, this story would have been all over TV and radio for better than twelve hours before ADN hit our doorsteps in the morning. Now, thanks to the Internet, ADN can be as immediate as the broadcast media.

2. Kyle’s campaign blog. Its biggest effect is to feed the cravings of Billy and other political junkies for a constant flow of info and comment on what the candidates are up to – stuff that, however much we in the blogosphere eat it up, is too insiderish and arcane to make print. But the other effect of the blog is to keep that information coming pretty much in real time, if you allow for the necessity of some time to write and edit. So, not only does the big stuff – like NEA’s non-endorsement – get out immediately. So does the little stuff.

From time to time, media pundits fret about how the dinosaurish old print media can possibly survive in the Internet age. Well, maybe we’re seeing the answer before our very eyes as ADN covers this campaign.

It’s simple (if not always easy) and it’s the same thing newspapers have always done: You go out. You get the story. You write it up. You put it out there. The only thing new is, you don’t wait twelve hours to take that last step.

I know most of you are extending your election (and other) coverage in a variety of ways. Anything special that you'd like to add here?
–Howard Weaver

Friday, September 08, 2006

Like many of you, we here at The Packet are having occasional issues
involving bloggers at who get in the gutter. Lately, some have even threaten
folks here.

We want our blog to be civil but not boring. We do not want to discourage
people who may be outspoken or even just a little extreme in their postings.
We do not want to be overly active in filtering/editing blog posts because
we know that can have a flip side legally. But we do want to discourage the
wing nuts.

We of course have a blog code of conduct, but the handful of wing nuts
routinely violate it.

As a result, we're trying to decide under what circumstances troublesome
bloggers should be booted and a procedure for doing it. How many chances do
you give them? How many warnings? If you boot them, do you do it permanently
or for good? Who at the newspaper decides? (We're considering a "progressive
discipline" approach.)

I'm sure many of our papers must have a written guidelines addressing all or
some of this. If you do, could you please e-mail them to me at
fmcaden@islandpacket.com or post them here. They will help us come up with a
protocol of our own.



Monday, September 04, 2006

Lessons from ‘Modern Times’

I’ve been listening all weekend to Bob Dylan’s new release, “Modern Times.”

What a remarkable thing this is: in the 45th year of a storied recording career, here’s a singer and songwriter opening new doors, building confidently on a canon that has long since passed from legendary to unparalleled, touring more than 100 days a year to hone a sound and style that is fundamentally, undeniably his, but keeps evolving and changing along with the artist and his times.

His last great album, “Love & Theft” (2001) was a candid conversation about age and limits and regrets; this one is none of that. It’s deeply informed by a lifetime of experience – songs only a mature master could have produced – but manages nonetheless to be fresh and contemporary.

So what’s that got to do with a newspaper blog? Well, nothing of course.

And everything.

You see, this is about constant reinvention. Dylan was fantastic in 1966 at the Albert Hall, but that performance wouldn’t be Dylan today, or resonate with listeners today the way it did then. Lots of the other musicians who captured our attention in 1966 kept playing and singing the same way, and today they’re playing pathetic gigs at Holiday Inns in Billings and Greensboro …

You want to avoid the Holiday Inn? You have to keep your news report fresh, tuned, contemporary. You have to realize that people are watching TV on mobile phones, posting their own restaurant reviews, reading little snips of five different newspapers on RSS feeds several times a day.

Those bands replaying their 1966 performances are dead. Bob Dylan lives on.

In fact, wasn’t it Dylan who said, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”?

Saturday, September 02, 2006


A rowan, like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes.
There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.

–Seamus Heaney

Friday, September 01, 2006

Asking about news

It sounds a bit simpleminded, I know, but lately I have taken to asking people – friends, barristas in coffee houses, guys smoking outside a restaurant – where they get their news, and why. I'm more forward then I used to be when I see Google News of their computer screen or see them reading the alternative paper, or hear them mentioning some blog they saw.

Do any of you do this? What are people telling you?
–Howard Weaver

A killer's confession

News & Observer editors faced an extraordinary decision Thursday night: What to do with a teenaged killer's videotaped confession and monolog that had been delivered exclusively to them?

There's no way words alone can describe the impact of the four video segments they finally decided to post online. You can can read the story and find a link to the clips here.

Melanie's thoughtful blog post about their decision-making is well worth your attention; you can find it here. For one thing, as Mel points out, while this was the first time they had to make decisions about how to handle incendiary video, it surely won't be the last. Your time is probably coming, too.