Tag Archives: blogging

How I want to redefine my role, and the reader’s role, in the newspaper

Once the equipment arrives, I’ll be starting in a new position at The Patriot-News as a mobile journalist, or mojo.

What that means is, correctly, still to be determined. We do know it’ll involve video, still photography, print stories and a lot of updates for the Web. We know I’ll have a laptop and an aircard, will file most of my stories from my car and coffee shops, and will aim to be in the office as little as possible.

What we don’t know is exactly what stories I’ll be covering. I’ll be one of three mojos, and the other two will focus more on being first responders to fires, shootings and other cops-related happenings.

Which leaves an interesting question: What exactly is my role going to be? Why am I better off as a mojo instead of going back to the newsroom in a more traditional role?

To me, the opportunity to take this blank piece of paper and figure out the answer is tremendously exciting. It’s an opportunity to discover a more efficient reporting model that pumps great stories into the print edition, while simultaneously feeding my need to discover building blocks to future news models.

And I think I’ve got an idea that will do both.

If I can sell my editors on the concept, I would be the author and community manager of a new blog. My stated goal will be to have at least one originally reported story per day, usually some combination of text, photography and video. Sometimes it’ll be a three-minute video with 200-word text, sometimes it could be a great photo with 800-word text.

The stories I’m looking for are next-door slices of life that are usually the first to go because of shrinking staffs. A new museum exhibit, an innovative classroom project, a personality profile, a soup kitchen gearing up for a busy time, a little-known hiking trail, a new business opening, etc.

If you check this new blog every day, you will always learn about one new wrinkle in your community. That’s a wonderful promise for a news site to make.

That’s the content. But the fun part is who decides what that content will be.

Every day I’ll solicit story ideas from my readers via comments on the blog. At the end of the day, I’ll post their story ideas in poll form, and my readers will vote on which one they want me to cover tomorrow. And that’s the one I’ll do.

I’ll no longer have an assignment editor. The collective community will be my assignment editor. What a strange concept: Asking our readers what stories they want, then giving it to them! Yes, we’d maintain veto power for outlandish stories (write about why councilman Jones sux!!!) and needs of the newsroom (if no one’s around to cover a court case), but we’d try to limit that as much as possible.

By forcing myself to write one story per day, I’m creating a reliable pipeline of stories that can be repurposed for the print product (this is where you should pay attention, my skeptical editors). No matter how cool it may be on the Web, and whether or not it succeeds in being an important step in our future, at the very least it’s producing a lot of stories for print in an efficient way.

I could also produce some great long-term enterprise through this, while packaging it in a completely new way. I think of a story I did last year in which I occasionally followed a four-year-old around for six months while I documented her transition to a new school. What if I took a video each time, wrote a short story each time, teased to the long-form print story that would eventually come each time? It’d be great to watch the process, and would build a lot of anticipation for the final project.

As for the form of the blog: Very conversational, with a persistent focus on cultivating user participation. Lots of voice, personality, maybe even wit if I’m lucky. Every day I would also offer a bevy of links: The day’s best content from The Patriot-News, interesting posts from local bloggers, thought-provoking material from around the Web, maybe even some funny videos. It would rely on a totally new skill set for journalists, one in which I practiced somewhat at my now-defunct Ning site, the Hershey Home. It’s a skill set I’d love to have a part in figuring out and teaching to other journalists.

For the reader, it’s an unprecedented amount of access to the pages of The Patriot-News. If you called up now and told an editor about the science project your child is doing, you probably wouldn’t get very far. Make that same pitch to the readers of this blog, and make it a convincing argument, and that project will be in the paper. It could be a rewarding feeling to think that you’re actually playing a legitimate part in the news.

For journalism’s future, the goal of this blog will be to foster a self-sustaining, invested community around it. We’ll implement rules aimed on creating that culture (which could be several blog posts in itself), both through the level of conversation and making clear what kind of story pitches we’re looking for.

Community-building is a skill we must, must, must master in many forms, and we’re not spending enough time practicing it. Even if it doesn’t succeed, it’s the kind of trial balloon we need to be sending out, and it comes at little to no cost.

I have my own reservations about the idea, of course, but I’d really like to hear what you all think. if you’ve heard of similar ideas at other papers, if you have any recommendations for improvement, if you’ve found any trouble spots, etc., anything would be appreciated. I’d like to allow for a day or two of comments before I e-mail a link to this entry to my editors, so your feedback could be very valuable.

UPDATE 1: I forgot to make one important point: By virtue of me taking my time to do these slice-of-life stories, that allows all the other reporters to pass their slice-of-life stories off to me and opens up time for them to do the meaty enterprise that we really need to be producing.

UPDATE 2: Wondering if it would be a trademark infringement to use the tagline: “You Decide. We Report.”

UPDATE 3: Jeff McCloud makes an important point in the comments section about ceding editorial control. He writes:

I like the idea. I just wouldn’t want to be framed in to always writing what the majority of your blog readers want. I think you need to reserve your news judgment for yourself and your editors. Of course, the rub is in the balance of that and making readers happy to know they are participating. The rub is also in making sure that readers feel they don’t “own” you and your assignments.

And I respond:

Jeff, your point about reserving news judgment is an important one and probably the trickiest thing to balance here. I think that’s likely to be developed as the process goes along. My feeling, though, is that editorial judgment is best exercised not by yanking control from the readers after it’s promised to them, but by story placement in the physical newspaper. If my readers led me to a great story, editors will see that and put it on A1. Total waste of time, and it’s relegated to B10. I just fear nullifying the entire concept if we say “You have total control…unless we don’t like your idea.” That’s kind of what the current model says.

Now if it turns out all the story ideas are bad, bad, bad, we’ll re-evaluate. As of now, I’ve got faith in the readers.

UPDATE 4: Colin Lenton weighs in via Twitter:

@bydanielvictor nice that youre excited for new role, but why do the work of 3 by yourself? won’t you diminish quality by doing too much?

And I respond:

@colinmlenton Time is probably 2nd-biggest concern. I don’t think it has to be the work of 3, though. I’ll know if I’m stretching too thin.

Colin also expanded his thoughts in the comments section, wondering whether this is the best use of staff time.

UPDATE 5: Via the comments, Daniel Klotz wonders:

I’d like to know more about how you would plan to handle more “hard news,” political, and investigative stories. You’ll get people asking you to report on things they believe are under-reported, and often those stories have a (local) political bent. How will you proceed if that’s what you’re given, rather than a more human-interest topic?

So I say:

I think my moderation skills will have to make it clear that it’s not what we’re looking for. I anticipate cutting-and-pasting the same kind of disclaimer on each entry, clearly stating the purpose of what I’m doing and what stories we’re searching for. And if I’m going to put it in poll form, there’s a little bit of active selection involved on my end.

UPDATE 6: I’ve had to work on some of those pesky newspaper stories today, so I haven’t had a chance to go through most of today’s comments to respond or highlight them. But Meranda Watling offers this interesting idea via Gmail chat:

I can’t remember if I read it somewhere or someone told me but I remember hearing about an editor who would hold office hours kind of at a local cafe.

You could try something like that as a complement.
Posting well you’ll be in certain areas and encouraging readers to come visit, tip you off to ideas.

Thursday at the Online News Association conference: “I think I’m following you”

(For more on ONA08 as it’s happening, check for Tweets here. And I’ll be updating Twitter myself throughout the day. This is a quick, non-exhaustive recap as I don’t have much time before I need to catch my metro.)

Among the bloggers/Twitter users I’ve long talked to or read online and finally got to meet in person Thursday: Erica Smith, Elaine Helm, Patrick Thornton, Greg Linch, Kevin Koehler, Jay Rosen, Jim Ogle, Patrick O’Brien, Patrick Beeson, Josh Korr, and Chrys Wu. I’ve spotted a few more, and hope to track down others in the next few days. Always great to place a face, handshake, and some semblance of their off-line personality to a Twitter account.

The main highlight of Thursday — aside from meeting those folks — was the job fair. (Don’t worry, current employers, it was mostly out of curiosity and to see the state of the industry. I told everyone I like my current job.)

It really was an interesting glimpse.

The big newspaper Web sites — washingtonpost.com and nytimes.com — weren’t really seeking reporters with Web skills. They sought either a reporter OR a web person. As a reporter who has spent a long time developing my Web skills, that was disappointing to hear.

It was an enlightening conversation with Nancy Sharkey, the the senior editor of recruiting at the New York Times who also recruits print journalists. She said the Times hires most of its reporters as twenty-somethings, enabling them to grow up in the New York City pressure and the Times pressure, instead of subjecting them to it late in their career. She also offered this three-part checklist for any reporter who dreams of making it to the Times, saying that your clips should display:

  1. Strong analytical skills.
  2. Reliable breaking news skills.
  3. A unique, personal voice.

Other events of the day:

— One of the more interesting conversations came over lunch with Jim Ogle, who I’ve long followed on Twitter. As the general manager of , he’s found that using social media has really launched the participation on his site past the bigger stations in his chain. It was fascinating to hear what he’s done, and if I have time I might try to get him on camera to talk about it.

— Greg Linch delivered the line of the day when he spotted someone sit near us in a session. “I think I follow you” was his greeting. Greg effectively Twittered most of that newspaper-based session if you’re interested.

— I love the awkwardness of introducing yourself to someone who you follow, but the other person doesn’t follow you back. There’s just a quick head nod and an “Ah…” that’s priceless.

–At night, I walked over to a reception at the Newseum with Linch, Koehler and Thornton. It was a bit swankier than this small-to-mid-sized-town boy was used to. I’ve never walked in to an event through a tunnel of at least a dozen waiters staring at me and offering trays of wine.

But despite the fact that the money spent on the reception likely could have paid my salary for a year, it was great having a social opportunity with all the aforementioned bloggers and meeting a few more.

Meet a blogger: Run up the Score

Run up the Score, in my humble opinion, is the best of the many Penn State football-themed blogs out there. Though my particular newspaper, in my humble opinion, offers the best Penn State football coverage out there, RUTS has become required reading.

I swept the pigeons away from my typewriter long enough to e-mail the author some questions. He was kind enough to answer those questions, mid-air, while doing some kind of trick on his skateboard. (Try Fire Joe Morgan or Deadspin for an explanation of that ridiculous image.)

It was an effort to show that bloggers aren’t the inherently evil, newspaper-reader-stealing, ethics-depraved leeches that some newsroom dwellers paint them to be. A lot of thought and passion goes into their craft, and the sooner journalists understand that, the better.

(Any italics are my own, to emphasize what I believe are key points. I cut out parts of his answers just so it wasn’t too long; if anyone is interested in reading the full Q&A, I’d be happy to forward it to you.)

BDV: At what point, and why, did you decide you wanted to blog?

RUTS: Personally, Run Up The Score started as a general sports blog with a moderate concentration on college football. It didn’t take long for it to become a college football blog with a heavy Penn State concentration. Now it’s a Penn State blog that occasionally dabbles in other areas. Nobody succeeds with a blog, certainly not on a personal satisfaction level, if they only passively care about the subject. That’s why so many blogs pop up and disappear after a month. The writer finally says to himself, “wait, why the hell am I doing this?” and quits.

I think anyone who takes the time to start a blog and maintain it on a consistent basis feels that the entire story isn’t being told. It doesn’t matter if the chosen topic is college football, politics, or baking. Blogging gives a potentially loud voice to people who don’t have access, and there’s certainly a place for writers who don’t get too intimate with the people and subjects they cover. The best blogs fill in the gaps that newspapers, television, and radio can’t always cover for whatever reason. They can’t be everywhere. The Associated Press is never going to pick up a Joe Paterno road rage story unless he kills somebody. Why would they? But if you type “Joe Paterno road rage” into Google, I guarantee that 95% of the stories on the topic are written on blogs, and they did it with an informality and sense of humor you can’t get from traditional media sources.

That’s also part of why blogs published by established news outlets are often so awkward — there’s often an editing process and the writer doesn’t get to write stories predicting Anthony Morelli’s performance on the Wonderlic Test at the NFL Combine. They’ll state that he’s in Indianapolis with three other players for the NFL Combine, which is something that 80% of Penn State fans already knew. Newspaper blogs usually end up being exactly what they shouldn’t be — another source of the same news found elsewhere, not to mention there’s hardly ever any evident joy in the writing.

Credibility issues iron themselves out in the blogosphere, especially because the best bloggers are sensitive to the constant, uninformed criticism that all blogs are written by people with no regard for fact (especially because newspapers so often bungle or conceal significant parts of a story). Sure, some sites are like that, but who reads them on a consistent basis? If I posted tomorrow morning that I had an inside source in Old Main stating that Joe Paterno will resign on Thursday morning and Jay Paterno will take over as head coach, it won’t take many more of those mistakes before I squander whatever readership I’ve built up over the past two years. In a weird sense, this is my baby. If I blatantly plagiarized or fabricated something, I’d eventually be called on it in a very real, public fashion. Consumers of traditional media don’t often get the opportunity to lash out at reporters, at least not for the whole world to see.

BDV: You give a great definition of what newspaper blogs shouldn’t be. So what should they be? What do you think reporters could learn from the best bloggers?

RUTS: There are any number of ways a newspaper can go if it wants to get into the blogging game. Blogs can be heavy on opinions, or play a straighter role. They can be text, audio, or video. They can be live-blogs of the game as seen from the press box or a couch somewhere in Scranton. Really, they’re all just different forms of supplementing the newspaper’s usual processes.

Sometimes, the blogs can be completely independent of what’s happening elsewhere on the site while still being a complement to the traditional coverage — Dan Steinberg’s “D.C. Sports Blog” is a great example of this. Sports fans have a thirst for intimate details of their favorite teams, even if those details aren’t something that would normally work their way into a Michael Wilbon column.

PennLive actually does a very good job with their bloggish coverage, especially with regard to the press box videos and weekly preview videos from the office. That’s something that no other media outlet has provided with respect to Penn State football coverage.

Using a Penn State example, we know there are a number of stories that will come out of any game. There’s the standard game recap, and a handful of stories that are dictated by the smaller events within the game — individual performances, coaching decisions, all that stuff. A live-blog of a Penn State game could include descriptions of the parking lot atmosphere, the excitement within the stadium, emotional swings within the game, an ability to immediately post analysis, pictures, and video. Reporters who venture into blogging have to realize it’s a different medium that opens up innumerable opportunities to infuse technology into the reporting process. Happy Valley Hoops is a tremendous example of that.

This is all just an unnecessarily wordy answer to a simple question, though. The very nature of blogs and the internet allows news organizations to augment their traditional coverage however they see fit. Some are more entertaining and informative than others.

BDV: How did you go about growing readership? Have any stats to share?

RUTS: Growing readership is a tricky business for a blog. The art of “blogwhoring” — posting links to your site in comments of other sites and message boards — is universally frowned upon. Some people attract readership by sending in tips to bigger sites like Deadspin or Every Day Should Be Saturday. That’s a good way to solicit extra attention, because it allows the owner of the bigger site to decide whether to link to your tiny blog, instead of you clogging up someone else’s comment section with what is essentially an unpaid, unwanted advertisement.

As for my stats, they’re modest. RUTS usually attracts around 2,000 readers a day during the work week, give or take a thousand depending on incoming links from other sites and Google searches. It tapers off during the weekend, and of course, during the off-season. More importantly, the quality of the comments has increased, which naturally leads to higher interest and return visits. And hey, 2,000 people stop by to read my thoughts on Penn State football. That’s more than I’d get shouting at passing traffic on Front Street in Harrisburg! Again, to compliment the PennLive.com folks, they added links to what I suppose could be considered the “big three” PSU blogs — Black Shoe Diaries, The Nittany Line, and RUTS — and eventually added a few others to their main PSU Football page. That’s been a great help, especially because none of us really asked to be linked. PennLive totally did that on its own, which I believe is extremely rare (and quite frankly, gracious) for a newspaper site.

I could pepper Deadspin, The Big Lead, EDSBS, and other sites and plead for links on a daily basis. With the exception of sending a tip to EDSBS once a month, I try not to beg. I don’t like to get too caught up in site stats, though. Anybody can tailor a site to attract readers without necessarily providing quality content. Lots of people do it, and can generally carve out a nice secondary income in the process.

Where are all the college bloggers?

I was delighted to find Jessica DaSilva’s blog (via Pat Thornton). Jessica, a journalism student at the University of Florida, had a recent entry about her internship at the Tampa Tribune that took me back to the good old days of unadulterated enthusiasm.

Reading through Jessica’s blog shows you don’t have to be an expert with years of experience to have something valuable to offer.

So why aren’t more students blogging? I suspect it’s because, all over the country, students are still being taught to have a fear of blogging, bloggers and blogs.

I talked to a group of students at Lebanon Valley College this spring about blogging, and the professor challenged each of the students to start their own blog.

Some of the results: Popcorn Nation, A Mess of Youthful Innocence, PA Press Watch, Over the Counter, Not Just Another Indie Hipster, Today’s Menu.

Some of them are really impressive offerings. PA Press Watch was a great read in the Pennsylvania primaries, as he dissected how different newspapers covered everything. Popcorn Nation and Not Just Another Indie Hipster have been embedding videos and linking with the best of them. Over the Counter and Today’s Menu have given interesting looks at working in a pharmacy and restaurant, respectively.

These are difficult subjects to maintain blogs on, but they need not be professional. What’s really cool about the project is that the students are beginning to understand the culture of blogging. You see them leaving comments on each other’s entries. You see them linking to each other, or leaving comments in other blogs.

These students, once they find themselves at a news organization, will be much better suited to starting a blog on their beat. Having maintained a blog while in college was one of my big selling points in being hired for my current reporting job.

So let me ask: Do you know of any other students blogging about journalism, like Jessica DaSilva? If you are one, please make sure to let me know you exist.

UPDATE (12:22 p.m.): Jessica makes two great points in the comment thread:

And I agree that more students should be blogging. I’ve noticed that in keeping up my blog, it forces me to keep abreast on my news to ensure I know what I’m talking about.

It’s also teaching me how to combine my own personal flair with what I know. Later, when I have a beat to blog about, I feel like it’ll help me connect with readers so they know I’m not a robot.

When protesters are outside, Twitter beats local newspaper site

A little past 9 a.m. today, a long fleet of truckers roared down the central business area of Harrisburg, all incessantly honking their horns. Some had signs taped outside their windows, revealing that they were protesting gas prices at the Capitol.

Interesting story, as anyone who lives or has an office downtown surely has heard them.

So let’s compare “coverage” from Twitter users and the local newspaper’s Web site, shall we?

Dani_PA Dani_PA PA truckers “convoying” to Capitol today to protest gas prices.Gas is too expensive, so they’re spending mucho $$ to drive w/o pay? (9:10 a.m.)

Daniel Victor bydanielvictor Trucks blaring horns on 2nd Street in protest of gas prices. Normally I’d be amused but they woke me up. Was looking fwd to sleeping in.

Daniel Victor bydanielvictor Thought it was a Three Mile Island alarm or some other apocalypse notification system.

Aaron Gotwalt gotwalt Hundreds of tractor trailers driving by the office honking their horns to protest gas prices. It’s like a hangover simulator.

Larry Marburger lmarburger I’m sure a horn-blaring truck convoy will lower the price of gas. Thank you, Harrisburg.

Greg Newman 20seven @bydanielvictor Is it that crazy downtown?

Daniel Victor bydanielvictor @20seven A bit quieter now, but still hard to hear my TV. Pennlive says they’re going to Capitol: http://tinyurl.com/2sxq25

Greg Newman 20seven @bydanielvictor yeah, all inlets to harrisburg are supposed to be backed up, plus a overturned TT on 81 north on or at the bridge

Dani_PA Dani_PA I HATE PA TRUCKERS AND THEIR HORNS. Nonstop for 30 min. Doesn’t Harrisburg have a noise violation policy? Why aren’t they getting ticketed!

Maurice Reeves MauriceReeves @Dani_PA LOL. you must be hearing the rally at the State Capitol building. I’m glad I’m not in Harrisburg right now.

Now let’s compare that all with what readers would find at the local newspaper’s Web site at 9:55 a.m.:

Traffic around The Capital Complex could be complex this morning when 75 truckers bring their rigs without trailers into downtown Harrisburg for a 10 a.m. rally. (emphasis added)

The newspaper’s update has more details, of course. But I italicized “could be complex” because it’s predictive, where as Twitter is immediately reactive.

Twitter showed me a variety of sources, and I laughed out loud at the “hangover simulator” comment.

Twitter allowed @20seven to ask a witness — whether or not I’m a reporter, I’m sure, was irrelevant — about what’s happening right now.

Twitter allowed me to link to our newspaper’s Web site for details.

And Twitter allowed @20seven to tell me, and any of his other followers, about traffic details I wouldn’t know about any other way.

Now I’m not criticizing my newspaper’s handling of it. In fact, it shows we’ve come a long way in that a morning newspaper can tell people why there are a bunch of horns blaring outside their window at 9 a.m.

The newspaper’s Web site did as well as it could under how we currently operate. Problem is, this experience on Twitter shows how the supposed immediacy of blogging just won’t be immediate enough as more people find their way to services like Twitter.

Is Mark Cuban reading his blogs in binary?

Really, I won’t dwell too much on Mark Cuban in the future. I only pick on him now because I normally enjoy his blog and he’s written two blog-themed entries lately, and he sounds eerily like a lot of misguided journalists in writing them.

So normally I’ll leave him alone, but his follow-up to his previous much-discussed post needs to be picked apart, too. And I’m in a snarky mood, so I’m going to channel Ken Tremendous and go Fire Joe Morgan style on this one.

Whaddayasay, Mark?

Much is being made of my decision to ban bloggers from the locker room. To me its pretty amusing. In particular I find it amusing that there is a presumption that if a blogger works for a big company, they must be better. The logic extends to the conclusion that if only I would evaluate the different blogs and make a qualitative selection, then big newspaper bloggers would be chosen as among the best. Let me just say, that should I go that direction, that I find quite a few individual bloggers to be far better than those earning a salary to blog . In fact, some of those blogs are written anonymously.

Let’s rename “newspaper bloggers” to “journalists hired by news organizations with long-established credibility.” Then you can realize that it’s none of your business to decide in which medium we’ll report.

Which leads to my firm belief that newspapers having “bloggers” is easily one of the many bad decisions that newspapers have made over the past 10 years.

This should be fun. Oh boy, he’s about to say something in bold. I bet this is the money shot:

Never, ever, ever consider something that any literate human being with Internet access can create in under 5 minutes to be a product or service that can in any way differentiate your business.

I just drew a picture of some mountains. Metropolitan Museum of Art, you’re screwed.

Then I made myself a sandwich. All restaurants within 20 miles of me immediately closed down.

A blog is a blog is a blog is a blog.

No it isn’t.

If I worked for the NY Times, or any other media company with any level of brand equity, I would have done everything possible to define the section of our website that offers ongoing as anything other than a blog. I would make up a name. Call it say…..RealTime Reporting.

And the motto could be: “Journalists: We’re so much better than you. We’re going to do the same thing the rest of you lowlifes do, but we won’t lower ourselves to your level by calling it the same thing.”

RealTime Yankees: Catch in depth, up to the minute reports on the Yankees as only the NY Times world re known staff of Sports Writers can bring up

RealTime City Hall: The NY Times has more journalists covering the action at City Hall than anyone else. Catch in depth, up to the minute reports on NYC politics as as only the NY Times can.

Brand it RealTime. Brand it anything. Make sure you market it as having the characteristics unique to your staff that NO ONE ELSE on the net can bring.

I’ll almost sort of agree with that. There are plenty of newspaper blogs out there that have truly unique content, but they don’t do a good job of showing why it’s unique, or marketing itself as such. I’ve seen way too many newspaper Web sites where the staff blogs are jumbled together with the community blogs. Credibility is the most precious commodity a newspaper reporter has in any medium, and it ought to be fully leveraged.

So now we’re on the same page, Mark. It’d take something really stupid for me to start critcizing you again…what’s that you say?

If I were marketing for them, I would be doing everything I could to send the message that “The NY Times does not have blogs, we have Real Time Reports from the most qualified reporters in the world. Like blogs we post continuously , 24x7x365 to keep you up to speed, unlike blogs, we have the highest level of journalistic standards that we adhere to. A copy of which is available at…..” You get the picture.

“Journalists: It’s ridiculous how much better than you we are. We talk, you listen, and you’re gonna freaking like it. We wouldn’t even let you read us if we could figure out how to make money without you.”

I would also market it as an extension of the print version. All the news that cant fit in print. In the sports world, I think this is where main stream media really has dropped the ball. There is no shortage of speculation and opinions on the net. There is an incredible lack of depth when it comes to game and team coverage.

Having a blog with depth = good. Having a depository for all the crap that wouldn’t be interesting in the paper but for some reason would be interesting online = bad.

When I see content branded as a blog, I’m probably not going there unless its via a link from some other source. If I happen to find my way to a given blog multiple times, Im probably going to subscribe to the RSS feed. Even the, I don’t ever consider a blog an authoritative source. I don’t ever expect that all sources were confirmed and facts were check. Regardless of who hosts it. That’s not a good thing for newspapers.

And here we get to the core of Cuban’s fundamental misunderstanding of blogging.

Blogging is a medium. There is no inherent set of rules, or lack thereof, in blogging. Blog A is very different from Blog B and Blog C. You just can’t make any kind of assumption about blogs as a whole.

Cuban seems to be reading blogs as though they’re written in binary; apparently, they all look pretty much the same to him. He has apparently not taken the time to evaluate how one could be more credible than another — a skill all the more important when you’re reading blogs.

Ooooh, a final burst of boldface:

They still have a chance to assign some level of authority to what they produce for their websites and calling it a blog is a huge mistake.

Separating newspaper Web sites from where the rest of the conversation is happening on the Web would be a much bigger mistake. Not embracing the overwhelmingly dominant medium for conversation on the Web would be a huge mistake.

A better idea would be to lend what newspapers do well — credibility, accuracy, unceasingly high standards — to the medium that the people have chosen.

Sorry Mark Cuban: A blogger is not a blogger is not a blogger

Mark Cuban’s consistently thought-provoking Blog Maverick had a doozy yesterday.

He wrote about the situation that arose when he realized that one of the Dallas Morning News writers who was covering the team was — gasp! — a blogger. When he discovered this, he tried to revoke his credentials:

Not because I don’t want this blogger in the locker room doing interviews. What I didn’t like was that the Morning News was getting a competitive advantage simply because they were the Dallas Morning News. I am of the opinion that a blogger for one of the local newspapers is no better or worse than the blogger from the local high school, from the local huge Mavs fan, from an out of town blogger. I want to treat them all the same.

Later adding:

(I)t comes down to something very simple. A blogger is a blogger is a blogger and there are millions of us. . The name on your check, if you get a check, is irrelevant. BlogMaverick, Belo, xyz.blogger.com, we is what we is, and as long as there is limited space in our locker room, we is going to be outside in the Press Interview room getting comments.

It’s a fascinating topic, and worth reading the entire post.

At first I found myself agreeing with him. Then I started to disagree. Then I was thoroughly confused.

I still don’t know what I think Mark Cuban should do about the bloggers in the locker room. What I do know, though, is that Mark is wrong about blogging.

And he sounds like a lot of mistaken journalists in his opinion of them.

NBA teams let newspaper reporters into their locker rooms because they have the highest reach, not because they have an affinity for paper. It’s all about eyeballs, not the medium.

So let’s strip away the medium and put bloggers and newspaper reporters in the same bag. They’re all just collecting information. Now can you say that an “information gatherer” is an “information gatherer” is an “information gatherer?” Of course not. From a business perspective, the Mavs would be insane to give press credentials to Johnny Highschool Blogger, with a readership of a few dozen, over the Dallas Morning News, with a readership of several hundred thousand.

If you were to remove newspaper reporters from that discussion, why would you use the same logic with the remaining bloggers? Why should Johnny Highschool get the same access as a popular Mavs blogger who has built a steady readership over several years?

People treat information sources like a democracy, and page views are the votes. The mindset that all blogs are created equal is insulting — and it’s shared by a lot of people in journalism. It’s that attitude that prevents journalists from seeing the value in blogs, and why we need to understand them to see why we’re losing so many votes.

CLIPS: Live-blogging ’06 election night from Rick Santorum’s HQ

(NOTE: This is a compilation of my posts in a blog that had several reporters contributing around the state. It originally had links in it, but they were lost in translation.)

Santorum HQ gets the party started

Not heeding the polls or pundits who had largely declared the U.S. Senate race over before it started, the Santorum camp here is putting its shoulder down and preparing to shake some booties in its victory celebration.

Red, white and blue balloons are bunched together throughout the ballroom in the Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. A band just practiced its lively rendition of “(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty” by KC and the Sunshine Band.

Santorum has not yet arrived in the ballroom, filled mostly by journalists preparing for the long night ahead. CNN and Fox News, perhaps doubting the competitiveness of the race, are conspicuously absent.

In case you’re wondering which 24-hour news network the Santorum team prefers, you guessed it: Fox News. A big screen TV has been tuned to the channel throughout the day.

Santorum spokesman rejects exit polls

Santorum spokesman Robert Traynham didn’t give much credence to CBS News calling the race in Bob Casey’s favor based on exit polls.

“We don’t believe in exit polls,” a still-confident Traynham told a press gathering just minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m. “We believe in every single vote being counted.”

Traynham said Santorum had spent the afternoon calling undecided voters and getting a haircut with his family, making sure they all looked good for the cameras.

Santorum spokesman says don’t count him out

As if to say “No, really, we mean it,” Santorum spokesman Robert Traynham gathered reporters and urged them not to count Santorum out, despite several news organizations calling the race in Bob Casey’s favor.

“(News organizations) have gotten it wrong in the past, and our prediction is they’ll get it wrong again,” he said.

A television that had been tuned to Fox News throughout the afternoon and early evening has been replaced by a smiling picture of the senator. Fox News is among the news outlets that have declared Casey the winner, but Traynham said that wasn’t the reason for the change. A staffer said she expected to show a video on the screen soon.

The band is offering easy listening as the ballroom begins to fill with supporters. Santorum and his family have not yet made an appearance.

It Ain’t The OC

Supporters are filing in to the ballroom here and sipping drinks. And no one knows more than college students that nothing gets a party started like a montage of political ads.

That’s right, the current entertainment in the Santorum headquarters is a video collection of all of Santorum’s ads. P-A-R-T-Y.

University of Pittsburgh freshman Lou Ruffalo said he isn’t fazed by the numerous news organizations calling the race. But there isn’t exactly a winning atmosphere here, he said. No chants, cheers, waving signs or anything.

“I’m confident personally, but I’m not feeling it from the atmosphere here,” he said. “I don’t think even the most loyal supporters, and I am very loyal to Rick Santorum, expect (a win) now.”

Pitt senior Kimberly Stiles is still wearing a big smile. An intern for Santorum’s campaign, she spent all afternoon calling registered voters who hadn’t gone to the polls yet.

It wouldn’t be the first time Santorum has narrowed a deficit when no one expected him to, she said.

“I don’t think any of us are ready to give up,” she said. “You never know until everything is counted.”

Santorum says he’ll spend time as husband, father

As Rick Santorum publicly conceded the race at about 10 p.m. tonight, he pledged to help new senator-elect Bob Casey Jr. through his transition into office.

He encouraged a reluctant crowd to give a round of applause for Casey. The crowd obliged, though unenthusiastically.

“I know he is a fine man, and he will do a fine job for Pennsylvania,” Santorum told hundreds of gatherers, who went silent when Santorum told them he had called Casey minutes beforehand. Someone shouted “Oh no!” from the crowd.

Santorum was led on stage by his wife and six children. At one point, his daughter Sarah Maria burrowed her head in his left arm. He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek.

“Now is going to be a great opportunity for me to do more of what I write about and talk about, and that’s to be a better husband and father to this wonderful family,” he said.

Dude, you (sorta) rock

The Santorum team said repeatedly in the weeks and months leading up to tonight that they wouldn’t acknowledge the possibility of defeat. Nothing could make this more clear than the post-concession playlist for the band.

In addition to cheery Abba hit “Dancing Queen,” one of the first songs to play after Santorum finished was The Four Seasons’ “December ’63 (Oh What A Night).” Talk about rubbing it in.

Patriot-News reporter Brett Lieberman just noted that the same song played after Santorum’s victory in 1994. But no one was in the mood to hear it this time.

The senator-elect, Bob Casey, isn’t exactly winning the pop culture war when it comes to choice of music.

As he entered the room to make his victory speech, he was preceded by the double shot of Van Halen’s “Right Now” and Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”

Santorum ’08?

Deborah Weiss reluctantly obliged when Rick Santorum asked the crowd to applaud for Bob Casey Jr., but she wasn’t happy about it.

“I applauded, but it was out of politeness,” she admitted.

A 9/11 survivor, her office had a wall blown in, and she was left homeless for two months afterward, she said. Now living in Washington, D.C., the Santorum volunteer couldn’t help but be upset about losing an official whom she considers one of the most valuable leaders against terrorism.

“He was one of the few senators that understood the threat and tried to do something about it,” she said.

Despite upbeat music that was crafted for a victory celebration, the mood was solemn after Santorum’s concession speech. Supporters had been ready for an all-night proverbial stake-out, waiting for the voting results to prove several outside predictions wrong.

But hope ended, and the room’s mood deflated quickly after Santorum’s speech.

“To me, it’s incredible loss, not just to the state but to the world,” said Brandon Walecka, a political science student from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth who campaigned in Pennsylvania because of his love for Santorum.

” ’08 is in my head,” he said. “He’s not gone. He’s not forgotten. He’ll come back.”