Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Speaking of Blogging

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion before the Public Relations Society of America, Hoosier Chapter, along with several other area bloggers including A Commonplace Book's Steph Mineart, Taking Down Words' Jen Wagner and journalists Rishawn Biddle and Matt Tully from the Indianapolis Star. I refer to the latter two as journalists because, like Steph Mineart, I do not categorize them as true bloggers. I originally did not intend to post on this topic today, but I got the courage after Steph Mineart was brave enough to share her thoughts on the session.

By way of introduction, Steph Mineart really is the mother of Indiana bloggers. A web designer by profession, Steph has been blogging since 1994, which is about the first time I ever surfed the Internet. She founded the IndyScribe, which eventually became a group blog and later founded A Commonplace Blog. If anyone has a right to an opinion on bloggers, it is certainly Steph.

Sounding off on Tully and Rishawn, Steph writes: "The Indy Star 'bloggers' (I'm sorry, you can't "blog" inside a newpaper, no matter what bandwagon you're trying to get on) dominated a lot of the discussion and seemed a bit self-important about their status as 'real' writers. That's nice. I have a journalism degree, too, kids. I thought it was interesting that Matt Tully only has to write three articles a week. I should have stuck with that journalism thing, because that's pretty slackerish to me. I have to write a lot more than that at my job, and I'm a designer for pete's sake . . . When it comes to RiShawn Biddle, I think the 'doesn't know anything about blogs' is pretty fair of me."

While I agree with Steph that Tully and Rishawn aren't true bloggers, let me preface my comments with the fact that I am very pleased that they are doing their "blogging" thing. It does provide an opportunity for the Star's readers to interact directly with the Star writers and editors in a way that hasn't existed in the past. I'll leave Steph's comment that Rishawn "doesn't know anything about blogs" alone, but Tully's comment about having to write only 3 articles a week struck me the same way. It takes 2-3 hours of work to write one column, which means he puts in about 8 hours in a 40-hour week. No wonder newspapers are struggling so much financially. With such low productivity per writer, they have to rely on a much larger staff of reporters. If I were his editor, he would being producing a story a day on average or be out on his ass. He's a very capable reporter. If pressed, he could be much more productive than 3 columns a week. Even the Sun-Times' Robert Novak (who must be at least 80 now) is cranking out more columns a week than that, in addition to doing 2-3 talking head shows a week.

Don't get me wrong about Tully. I think he is the best writer the newspaper has, and I really enjoy reading his column. But I certainly picked up a little on the condescension Steph spoke of in her post. Tully said he reads very few blogs on a daily basis because his work schedule didn't allow him time to look at very many. The real kicker though came when he said "I only read blogs that are written by insiders" who really have insight into what is going on. That pretty much sums up why he isn't a blogger. He defined himself as an elitist. True bloggers are the outsiders. You can't be on the payroll of a major media giant like Gannett Newspapers and be a true blogger. Sorry Matt, but you're no Matt Drudge, whose Drudge Report became a precursor to the blogging craze that's swept the world. Drudge, incidentally, began blogging as a hobby while he worked days managing a gift shop in CBS Studios in Los Angeles.

If you still have any doubt as to whether Tully is a true blogger, you've got to hear this. The panel discussed how anxious your readers are for you to continuously update posts on your blog. Tully tries to get a post up per day (during the week) he explained. When AI Editor mentioned that he didn't post for an entire week, Tully became defensive and said he was on vacation. "You can't expect me to post while I'm vacationing at Mackinac Island." Yes, Matt. A true blogger would post even while he was on vacation.

Tully boasted that his blog gets at least 2,000 hits per day on average, although he conceded that the Star's Falcon Cam gets about 4 times as many hits on average as his blog. What he didn't explain is where those hits come from. Many area bloggers, including Advance Indiana, provide a link to Tully's blog site since he first launched it several months back. Whenever he has a post that catches our interest, AI, like other blogs, will mention it in a post and link to his blog, helping to drive traffic to his blog. You won't find any links to other blogs at Tully's blog. A true blogger always links to other blogs because that's what blogging is all about. To Rishawn's credit, he often discusses at Expresso what other bloggers are discussing and provides a link to their sites. At least he reads what us low-rent outsiders have to say.

While we're on the subject of mainstream media bloggers, WISH-TV's political reporter Jim Shella, who has his own blog, is not happy about not being invited to Sen. Bayh's luncheon with bloggers yesterday which I participated in along with more than a dozen other Indiana bloggers. Shella writes on his blog today:

Since you are reading this, you understand the whole blog thing, but not everyone does. When I addressed a gathering from the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns this morning, I mentioned how blogs are changing political discourse and, in some cases, political influences. I even expressed my desire that more blogs (like a good blog with some link to the state Republican Party) appear on the scene. Some in the audience shook their heads.

I referred them to Sen. Evan Bayh, who while in Indianapolis on Monday, chose not to meet with the "mainstream" media, but instead conducted a luncheon for bloggers. By the way, members of the mainstream media who blog, including yours truly, didn't get invited.

Incidentally, Jim Shella's blog, like Tully's blog, doesn't link to other blog sites.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you about Tulley's lack of links to other blogs. That's annoyed me about his site for sometime! Rather disheartening to hear that he doesn't read other blogs out there. One of my favorite parts of my day anymore is catching up on what other bloggers had to say about the topic of the day.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Yeah--that's what all real bloggers do.

Anonymous said...

That's an important point you're making about the role of "outsiders" in the political process. Tully and other "insiders" tend to forget that the political process exists on behalf of the community at large -- all those "outsiders" he dismissed with a wave of the hand. And forgetting that is what gets incumbents toppled and lets newspapers like the IndyStar get scooped.

Anonymous said...

I want to warn everyone in advance that I'm not blogging while I'm on my honeymoon next month.

However, TDW will have a guest moderator and writer during that time.

Does that make me obsessive?

Can't. Let. The. Blog. Die.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Jen--we'll five you a pass on that one, but I'll bet anything you won't be able to resist going online and reading everything that's going on, and you might even be inclined to put a bug in the ear of your fill-in moderator to post something--just a hunch.

Anonymous said...

Whether RiShawn links or reads other blogs or not, he has to be one of the most condescending writers I have ever read. Correcting punctuation and grammer. Telling people that he frames the debate, so he doesn't need to answer anything outside of his parameters. Ego drips off the page.