How Not to Respond to Local Bloggers if you’re a Newspaper

Filed as Editorial on February 13, 2009 3:10 am

West Seattle Herald is either really freaked out about the competition from local blog West Seattle Blog, or they simply just don’t get it. Probably the latter, or perhaps it is a matter of being frustrated by the fact that they just can’t break news from events anymore, since it is being liveblogged. I don’t know, but I think Eat Sleep Publish is dead on, and would like to quote this from an editorial by the West Seattle Herald who questions local blogging:

Professional journalists don’t waste your time

Professional journalists perform a very valuable function in a democratic society. They sift through the information and, when they are good, provide as unbiased a view as possible. That’s the job.

Instead of 3000 words about a community council meeting that was ‘live blogged’ with updates every seven minutes, wouldn’t you honestly prefer 300 words that tell you what happened and what was decided?

While I probably wouldn’t read a liveblogged council meeting, I still find this offensive. Let’s say I’m really interested in local politics but can’t attend, then the live blog is a great way to keep up to date as it happens. Is it the perfect way to cover a council meeting? No, of course not, but it is live and happening right now.

Think about it. If you’re an Apple nut, you’ve been reading the Engadget liveblogs, haven’t you? And then you went on Twitter and said what you thought, or commented it, or whatever.

West Seattle Herald just doesn’t get it. If I was a less delicate person I’d just point to their website, a perfect example of old media going online but not realizing that there are, in fact, demands here as well.

The scary part is that they honestly seem to think that they are worth more than local bloggers. If I had a subscription to this particular newspaper, I’d cancel it.

Just to further illustrate the “not getting it” part, here’s another quote from the same editorial:

Print vs. Online Advertising

Newspapers and Web sites both sell and display advertising. But a Web site ad is only worth about 10 percent of what an ad is worth in print.

This is so because print advertising actually WORKS. You can say more, show more, and it is often seen multiple times in the same home or family and kept around. Weekly news-papers have staying power.

Oh it works does it? That’s funny, because 2009 will most likely see a far more drastic slump in print advertising, than it will online. Why? Because with online advertising you can track your results – how’s that not working really?

This post, the one you’re reading, is an editorial. That means this is my opinion, and not necessarily the opinion of the Blog Herald staff, or the owners. In the same way, the West Seattle Herald editorial is the opinion of, well, someone in the editorial staff, credits aren’t available. That makes it even worse, since it implies that it is in fact the newspaper’s point of view.

What do you think about the West Seattle Herald’s editorial?

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  1. By Big Slick Design posted on February 13, 2009 at 8:31 am
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    I can’t help but feel that this editorial was written by someone who had their ego smashed by an online source of news such as a blog.

    I mean.. They are basically attacking the blog and online advertising industry’s, in an effort to convince readers of their own validity.

    Quite ridiculous if you ask me.

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  2. By Barbara posted on February 13, 2009 at 9:46 am
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    Our local paper has embraced blogging as an additional reporting resource. There are always a lot of extra details that don’t make it into a story: large charts, graphs, minutia and other tidbits. By blogging all that extra information can still be provided, but the newspaper article can be kept to a 300-word synopsis.

    Rather than being irritated by the live-blogging, they should embrace it and provide the feature themselves as well. I tend to read the blogs of our local reporters more than the articles themselves and only get an actual newspaper Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Things change, if they want to continue to be relelvant they need to adjust. Seriously, who keeps newspapers around after they’ve been read for the ads… no one.

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  3. By Kathy | Virtual Impax posted on February 13, 2009 at 11:03 am
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    Newspapers are running scared. The times they are a changin’ and if there’s one thing newspaper publishers fear, it’s changed. Their 17th century technology just isn’t cutting it anymore and they don’t know how to adapt.

    An animal is never more dangerous than when it’s cornered and perceives it’s life is in danger. Rather than be pro-active, they’re being reactive – which is NEVER a good online strategy!

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  4. By Jason Preston posted on February 13, 2009 at 12:23 pm
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    I normally hate to do this, but I think it’d be useful for people reading the editorial, like the opinion I espoused on Eat Sleep Publish.

    And basically my point is this: you can’t scold the market into buying your product. As a publisher moving online, you need to emulate the successes of other businesses, not avoid them.

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  5. By Janette posted on February 13, 2009 at 3:22 pm
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    “Instead of 3000 words about a community council meeting that was ‘live blogged’ with updates every seven minutes, wouldn’t you honestly prefer 300 words that tell you what happened and what was decided?”

    What’s wrong with BOTH being available. Let the market decided. If I’m short on time, maybe I only want 300 words of what a reporter and editor thought was valuable. If I have more time or something I’m really interested in is up for discussion I’ll be grateful for the 3000 words live blogged with no “filter”.

    The interesting thing is that the editor thought that THIS subject was worth an editorial. I mean, we live in pretty interesting times, the best the editor can do is to whine about local blogs?

    My opinion is that someone was recently chewed out for declining circulation and advertising and decided to demonize bloggers. I can only imagine that local buggy whip and saddle proprietors were just as upset with Henry Ford.

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  6. By Janette posted on February 13, 2009 at 3:24 pm
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    That should be “Let the market decide.”

    Obviously, this would be one of those times that having an editor would be of great benefit.

    ;-P

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  7. By Cynthia posted on February 13, 2009 at 7:22 pm
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    I live in West Seattle and haven’t subscribed to the Herald in a long time, because the West Seattle Blog is running circles around it. I am far better informed about my neighborhood than I ever was reading the dailies and the Herald. Between all the posts and comments on WSB, yes it is a lot of words, and yes there is some ambulance-chasing, but you know what — it’s easy to choose what I’m interested in, and I can analyze and draw conclusions myself from this material better than I could from the Herald’s 300 word columns. A week later.

    I think this is what journalism is struggling with — how to add value when the news “cycle” has reached a vanishing point and readers in a “Web 2.0″ world when people expect access to information and are less and less dependent on a professional mediator between them and the information.

    It’s hard to see what an editorial like this is going to do for the Herald. It’s preaching to their (shrinking) choir, annoying those who find value in WSB, and taking up space they could have used to do some of that good journalism they think we need.

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  8. By Tracy @ WSB posted on February 13, 2009 at 8:40 pm
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    Just for the record, since you highlighted that excerpt, we do not routinely “liveblog” (publish live updates on) community council meetings.

    We do COVER community council meetings, and at the most recent meetings of nine of them (for the locals: Fauntleroy, Admiral, Alki, North Delridge, Pigeon Point, Morgan Junction, Junction, Westwood, Southwest), our reporter was the only journalist there (myself, my husband/co-publisher, or one of the freelance journalists we pay for assigned coverage when needed).

    We HAVE published live updates (in what might be called “liveblog” style) recently from the following meetings of regional import:

    –Citywide School Board: several meetings involving school closures, first which ones were on the list, then which ones were on the revised list, then the final vote on whether they would indeed go ahead with the closures (several of these iterations involved schools here in West Seattle)

    –Briefings and announcements (involving the governor, mayor, and county executive) during the closely watched yearlong process of figuring out what would replace a mile-long bridge (The Alaskan Way Viaduct) that is our area’s main route to downtown Seattle and beyond.

    And we of course publish quick bulletins/updates when decisions are reached at other important meetings, such as design review votes on controversial development projects. Plus many other kinds of breaking news!

    My 30 years in “old media” was largely spent in broadcast, and so live/rapid-response coverage is part of why we are proud to be West Seattle’s first and only 24/7 news source and the first independently online-only neighborhood-news organization in Seattle to be operating, as a self-sustaining fulltime business, “in the black.”

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  9. By Jack Mayne posted on February 14, 2009 at 1:20 pm
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    As a former editor of the aforementioned West Seattle Herald (and Ballard News-Tribune) I was saddened at the total lack of understanding of the real world revealed in that editorial written by a son of the owner. The Robinson’s actually do believe in what they wrote and that readers of the paper agree with them. That is the sad part of it. But you must know that here is a family with five sons who mostly get their livelihood from the founder and owner of the company, the venerable Jerry Robinson, and are seeing the family castle in grave danger. It is as Kathy said above, a cornered animal does not react with measured consideration, but uncontrolled anger. It is sad to see such editorials, sadder to know they actually believe what they are saying.

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  10. By AnnMarie posted on February 14, 2009 at 8:57 pm
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    “While I probably wouldn’t read a liveblogged council meeting, I still find this offensive.”

    What precious, hysterical drivel. Grow up.

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  11. By ian in hamburg posted on February 15, 2009 at 8:53 am
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    I’d rather read a well-written summary of a city council meeting any day of the week rather than sift through a boring tick-tock. Who has the time for that? Same thing with sports. A good highlight show is much more enjoyable and time-efficient than sitting through hours and hours of games. When I think of the time I used to waste watching sports, I shudder.

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  12. By Kate McA posted on February 15, 2009 at 11:18 am
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    Now, now… I can understand where “offensive” comes from in the above post. The Herald’s editorial made it sound like West Seattle Blog is an outlet for pure editorial from local busybodies to tattle on the comings and goings of our community, and it certainly is not. It is a great source for up-to-the-minute local happenings. Furthermore, the editorial staff member who wrote this seems to think that we as consumers of the local media are too stupid to sort out for ourselves what news source best fits our lives and to understand the differences between a newspaper and a blog. Frankly, the entire editorial sounds like a whiny plea for more advertising in their paper rather than online.

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  13. By mimi bell posted on February 23, 2009 at 8:57 pm
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    I objected to the “reporting” in a recent S. Shay “article” depicting the adult murder suspect, Amanda Knox, as “local girl”, replete with a childhood photo of her,taken in West Seattle. I went to the Herald’s website to post an online comment, pointing out that their take on this story continues to ignore the fact that the accused is an adult, was one at the time the crime was committed, and attempts to rouse local sympathy for her “plight” do not constitute journalism, nor do they further the porocess of determining her guilt or innocence. Interestingly, I can no longer bring up the paper’s online site, so either they are “experiencing technical difficulties”, have been hacked by the Italian prosecutor ( or his heavies) slandered in a previous S. shay article, or I have been “blacklisted” and barred, for being unsupportive of their poster child. I am not paranoid or egotistical enough to believe that they are really sweating over what I think in my girlish head ( I am just a few years older than Amanda, after all) but have to wonder… Is anyone else being bounced from the Herald’s site?

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