Thursday March 23, 2006

The new Miami Herald blogosphere

Infomaniac reported on two new Miami blogs back on March 9th; I just got around to linking to them yesterday, and wondered why one was on the herald’s url, the other not. James Burnett, author of Burnett’s Urban Etiquette one of the blogs in question, replied in the comments:

[my blog] is hosted on blogger (along with a half dozen other new Herald blogs), because the paper is in transition between it’s old software platform for blogs and a new system being set up.

This is interesting for a number of reasons (some of which are technical, and those I’ll leave alone). One is that the recent change of ownership of the Herald makes the newspaper much more of a wild card in the online news-delivery game [1] , and what the Herald does with its web site over the next couple of years could be the most historically important action the Herald will ever do. The other is that it turns out that the Herald has a bunch of new blogs(!) we get to look at (scrutinize?). Fun! Let’s look at each individually; but first, let’s make some comments about them as a lot.

Even though these must, to be effective, be driven by what blog-interested staff are interested in blogging about, the overall mix is a look at what the Herald considers important. During hurricane season, there was a hurricane blog. There’s a celebrity blog. Etc. Also, annoyingly, points to Dave Barry’s blog, not to a Herald blog directory. For that, you have to go here. Let’s run them down:

I wonder, finally, what the Herald is thinking of with these offerings. (Of course “The Herald” is an amorphous concept in this context; we’re really talking about the Herald’s editors along with (I suppose) their new owners.) To some extent, of course, they’re throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. And no doubt they’re trying (and considering trying) all sorts of things, many of them non-blog (Why not let us post comments to all Herald articles?), and many of them so new and daring that they’ll require some time to implement. Let’s hope there’s a lot of interesting stuff to look forward to.

[1] An e-mail I received from a spouse of a Herald employee after my harsh words re the Herald’s online operation indicated that a lot of the crappiness came from Knight-Ridder higher-ups, and that the local staff was doing the best they could under the circumstances. I agreed that this seemed quite plausible.

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  1. Val Prieto    Thu Mar 23, 10:37 AM #  

    ”(Why not let us post comments to all Herald articles?)”

    I nearly choked from laughing so hard. This would require some kind of accountability for the Herald, etal.

    Maybe we can suggest a blog the Herald may be in dire need of:

    The Miami Herald Retracts Blog

  2. MM    Thu Mar 23, 11:12 AM #  

    I’ve yet to read any of the Herald blogs, but if they’re as riddled with grammatical and spelling errors as the regular news site is, I’d rather skip them. Because that just drives me crazy.

  3. Manola B    Thu Mar 23, 03:23 PM #  

    I’m relatively new to the blog world, so after reading this post, I’m still trying to figure out why a reporter needs a blog. Why don’t they stick to reporting and leave blogging to the rest of us who don’t write for publications? They’re getting published anyway! Isn’t that what blogging is all about? The voice of the little people? (Val, the Davids of the world against the Goliath giants!)

    Now, if a reporter wants to have a blog “separate” from the newspaper, perhaps making additional, personal comments, observations and so on … that makes more sense. Sort of like JB’s blog, which I like, by the way, because it’s written somewhat informally and it’s about his experiences in the area. Nonetheless, said reporter would always be beholden to his employer, right?

    I also wonder, are these reporters/writers/contributors getting paid extra for the time they are spending on their blogs, or is it a public relations campaign to attract more readers to the newspaper? I mean if blogs get MORE interesting than the articles in the paper—and they often do—it will have the opposite effect.

    Whereas, most “newsy” bloggers I know aren’t getting paid (or are they and by whom?) It’s a labor of love.

    The other problem is, dear bloggers, is that if you’re going to spend time reading the local publications, why would you then go to a reporter’s blog? Wouldn’t you want to spend the rest of your time reading your favorite blogs by non-reporters?

    For my Cuba news, nothing can live up to Babalu and 26th Parallel. I like Rick’s blog as a news digest of sorts along with the “news of the weird” aspect. Critical Miami for everything it is … including what to do on weekends, even though I’m still a recluse! And everyone else I log on to … you know who you are … add something special to my reading day.

    Someone please enlighten me.

  4. alesh    Thu Mar 23, 10:15 PM #  

    My best guess (at least two of the Herald bloggers read CM, so they can correct me if I’m wrong or they have a different opinion on any of this) is that the blogging staffers do get paid for doing their blogs (that is, they do them on Herald time, with the herald’s blessing and encouragement, if not assignment). For the reporter, the appeal is being able to delve into some of the nitty-gritty that may be too specific for their regular columns or stories, and be able to to experiment a little. For the newspaper, it’s part of a multi-pronget experimental effort to stay relevant in a new media world (i actually no longer thing that the status of newspapers as newsgathering/contentproducing organizations is in jeopardy).

    They certainly have a different perspective from independent bloggers, but I certainly thing these sort of efforts should be welcomed, and given a chance.

    If you enjoy a perticular wirter, do you read her regular column or her blog? I suppose that anything truly interesting the writer has to say would find its way into both, though in different forms. The Herald would certainly want you to think that the regular columns are more “important;” they are the polished, finished version of the thinking that forms in the blogs. In the long run, the answer may vary from blogger to blogger. The obvious segmentation suggests that the Herald doesn’t expect you to read all of their blogs. They probably want you to read the one blog that covers the topic closest to your heart, and read the abridged, “pulp” version of the rest of them (without all the thinking and guts exposed). On that level, I find the enterprise worthwile (actually it’s sort of great).

    Incidentally, if you want a great example of a journalist blogging in a way that’s NOT part of his regular job (again, “i think!”), check out The Daily Pulp, all about newspaper reporting in South Florida. Bob has been plugging away for months, and he deserves credit for a really great watchdog service re local media. SNAP! I take some of that back! Turns out Bob has a new address which seems (to my eye) to reveal that he IS, in fact, blogging on the New Times’ payroll. Not that there’s anythign wrong with that; just it’s worth noting (also might be worth noting that NT is doing the same mistake as the HErald, of letting their default /blogs directory point to their “star” blogger, Dave in the Heradl’s case, Bob in the NT’s).

  5. Robert    Thu Mar 23, 11:45 PM #  

    Thanks for the plugs everyone…

    As far as the Herald blogs go, I like Greg Cote’s and James Burnett’s the best. Cote because he adds quite a bit of his personal opinion in there, and Burnett because it is unique. The Cuban Connection is good, but it’s not much more than a rehash of a news story you would read in the Herald. There’s no personal opinion thrown in with the article. Perhaps Corral has been told to not disclose any personal opinion since he isn’t a “columnist”?

  6. Kent Standit    Fri Mar 24, 09:03 AM #  

    Greg Cote is what the Miami Herald hired to save money on a sportswriter.

  7. Jonathan    Fri Mar 24, 02:48 PM #  

    Manola wrote:
    The other problem is, dear bloggers, is that if you’re going to spend time reading the local publications, why would you then go to a reporter’s blog?

    Good point. Also, if you get much of your info from blogs, how much extra do you gain by reading the newspapers too? I rarely read the local papers, because articles are often poorly written, I don’t like the “we have no political bias” kabuki dance, and I don’t trust the reviews. With bloggers things are generally more open: it’s one person whose biases soon become clear. And I can follow individual bloggers over time, so I know that this one is good on this topic and another one’s good on another topic and so forth. Sure I could get some of the same thing by closely reading the paper and following individual reporters, but there’s only so much time in the day, and the better bloggers tend to be better than the better journalists at many papers.

    One thing the local papers could do to really distinguish themselves, and of course this isn’t my idea, is focus exclusively on local news and not try to be all things to all readers. For example, The Herald has no particular expertise in national or most foreign news, so why do they even bother. Anyone can read the same wire-service articles about Iraq or whatever elsewhere. And the Herald’s opinion page is a waste of space except on some local issues. But if the Herald concentrated on Miami and the local Caribbean they would have a real edge, not only because of familiarity but also because they have substantial resources that most bloggers lack.

    One of the purposes of the press is to help make government accountable by exposing what really goes on, particularly corruption and abuses of power. There is a lot to expose beneath the rocks of American local and municipal government, and there is plenty of stuff that isn’t hidden that also deserves more scrutinty. I think blogs may be better suited for this than are newspapers, because the papers tend to become dependent on local governments to supply newsworthy information, and this leads to conflicts of interest.

    Whatever happens it is clear that newspapers are under a lot of competitive pressure. It will be interesting to see how they adapt.

  8. Ysatis De Saint-Simone    Sat Mar 25, 09:33 AM #  

    the holy grail exists! i had the holy grail in my hands! the cup’s history can be traced back all the way to joseph of arimathea and the documents that validate it are sealed by the court of england. i have kept silent until now because sacred things are intimate, but i feel obliged to come out public becasue the da vinci code’s theories are not only false but misleading – the holy grail is not a ‘flesh child’ called sarah, or a bunch of bones of mary magdalene! the holy grail is surrounded by many, many mysteries, it nurtures the living portion of the human soul that can help the dead part live! it is not o.k. to theorize with sacred things like this. if the herald is interested in seeing photos and evidence i will be very glad to provide it. send me an email and i shall do. this is an important subject due to the fact that a film is going to be released. i have started a movement to boicot the film, all those who love jesus should think before they contribute a $ to anything that ofends his memory and limits the vision of that which is sacred by turning it elemental.

  9. Manola B    Sat Mar 25, 02:02 PM #  

    Thanks to everyone for replies! Everyone makes very interesting points that clarified my questions.

    It will be very interesting indeed to see how newsdom adapts to the blogosphere and if the line will ever become blurred between traditional newspapers and blogs.

    As someone who has only been blogging (and my blog is not really a blog, but a collection of anecdotes and stories, really) ... I find it fascinating that in such a short time I have “met” people I would’ve never met, from around the world and from my community. Even talked to some folks over Skype from as far as Scotland. Exchanged ideas in a non-academic, low-pressure “environment.” Opened my mind to new issues and not to mention, had some great laughs while having the pleasure of making others laugh too.

    I think this is a wonderful thing!


    PS … the holy grail bit … WTF?