What next for the New Chron.com?
Over at the Brazosport News a few days ago, Banjo Jones stirred the pot a bit with these observations about the New Chron.com editorial page, and its linking of local blogs:
[T]here's a certain level of validation that comes with a link in the high 'n mighty Chron....
For those who never worked in journalism, the temptation may be to think, "Golly, professional journalists really like my writing!"
And there would seem to be some truth in that.
You have to ask, though, will they link to your post if you rip 'em a good one?
The link to Slampo today, for instance, may have been included since he made a flattering allusion to one of their reporters (or was that Slampo's patented sarcasm?) Slampo at times artfully eviscerates the Chron and so far I haven't noticed any links to those posts.
By the same token, Kevin Whited and Anne Linehan at BlogHouston take a fine tooth comb to the Houston daily on a regular basis and, I may be wrong, but I haven't noticed chron.com linking to any of their more pointed pieces while throwing a link to some of their less strident posts.
So is this the local mainstream media's attempt to co-opt Bloggerville? Is there a subtle, unspoken message being sent that says, "We will deign to link to you Pajama Nazis so long as you don't criticize our product too brutally?"
Banjo concluded by giving Dwight Silverman, who selects the blog posts, the benefit of the doubt (I think).
Silverman added the following in Banjo's comments:
I try not to link to posts that focus on Chronicle stories not because they may or may not be critical, but because there's often an element of redundancy. A lot of bloggers link to us, quote a big chunk of our copy, then finish up with a their own thoughts. In most cases, it doesn't add much to the conversation.
What I really love to see are posts that are completely original, don't rely so much on mainstream media, which are compelling, well-written and add to or help generate an online conversation.
Emphasis supplied by me.
Silverman has borrowed quite heavily from Jeff Jarvis' language about news as a conversation, but here he presents somewhat of a perverted view of the concept. Critical discussion of the day's news IS a big part of the conversation that Jarvis is talking about. The most interesting blog posts about news articles bring a perspective to bear on the news, they flesh out the news, they help to push the story in an interesting direction, they add context. Sometimes they may even point out the shortcomings of the reporting. Those sorts of blog posts are, by definition, an important part of the conversation about news.
On the same day that Silverman left this comment about his criteria for blog selections, it was interesting that he saw fit to link a blog post that contained 16 paragraphs of blockquoting (albeit from a source other than than the New Chron.com) and four paragraphs of original writing, replete (at the time) with spelling and other errors (since cleaned up a bit). So it's not entirely clear that Silverman always follows his own criteria all that closely. And that gets back to Banjo's wondering about the selection criteria, which don't seem to be as much an effort to co-opt local bloggers as simply whatever Dwight Silverman's whims are on any given day. A true New Chron.com conversation about local affairs should encompass more than Silverman's whims -- eventually.
In my view, the New Chron.com has taken a step in the right direction with its willingness to link local bloggers and to embrace the language (if not the full concept) of online news as a conversation. That's definitely a good start. But it would be nice to see the New Chron.com go even further and adopt the Technorati widgets used by WashingtonPost.com on their news stories (showing what the blogosphere is saying about those news stories), thereby relieving Silverman of the quandary of whether or not to link to blog posts critical of the Chronicle. It would be nice if the Chron's own opinion columnists were a little easier to find on the opinion page (they're hidden, but the blog posts Silverman selects and the rarely updated Reader Rep's blog get prime screen real estate, along with the never-updated Roundtable). It would be nice if the Roundtable that's generating NO conversation were either updated frequently with interesting topics or ditched altogether. And, of course, it would be great if the Editorial Board started a blog, with comments.
This post shouldn't be read as "glass half empty" criticism. We certainly appreciate the New Chron.com's willingness to be more interactive. We're just adding our little bit to the conversation about how it can be even better. Feel free to add yours in the comments.