The alternative weekly Austin Chronicle says its rival daily American-Statesman "blunders with bland blogging" and has failed to engage the public with its public blogs, which it says have "the communal energy of the Yarborough Branch library on free beer nuts night." It's the usual alt-media sniping but there are some points to be found.
One is that blogging is its own art form that demands a different tone than that which prevails in newspapers. No question. (I could also argue that newspapers need a different tone than the prevailing winds.)
I tracked down Fred Zipp and Rich Oppel's tandem blog, "Rich & Fred" -- with no help from the Chronicle's writer Kevin Brass, who didn't provide a link. Not a lot of buzz, but I didn't see anything from that set off my arrogance detector. Still, the caveat is a good one for any newspaper staffers who stick a toe in these waters.
The other has to do with the Austin newspaper's effort to support blogging by the public on its own sites, which may indeed be failing.
Austin360 sports a shiny new design that's entirely built around calendaring. Where are the public blogs? I have no idea. I'm sure they're out there someplace, but neither of the newspaper's two websites treats them as a centerpiece.
You cannot succeed in this space by treating public blogging as a third-tier sideline when others -- such as Blogger, Myspace and LiveJournal -- focus on it.
But I find the Chronicle's article off-base here: "While the idea of 'citizen journalism' is a quaint idea for college professors to bat around over lattes at Starbucks, the best bloggers – the ones drawing interest and audiences – tend to be, at the very least, semiprofessionals, laser-focused on a particular industry, company, or community, not soccer moms with a zest for writing newsy diaries."
That just reeks of newsroom arrogance. The kind of organic citizen journalism (I prefer the term "participation") that we're cultivating at BlufftonToday.com happens to be largely powered by soccer moms. If you don't think soccer moms are laser-focused on their own communities and very capable of discovering what's going on and talking about it online, then you probably don't actually know any. Daily Kos and Wonkette are fine for obsessive political nerds, but that's not the life of real people.
Thanks to JD for pointing to the Chronicle item.