Friday, September 12, 2003

Blogging Coverage Hits Critical Mass

First bloggers covered blogging. Then technology geek pubs covered blogging. Then, just a month or two ago, a few brave mainstream pubs began doing so as well, albeit (in most cases) poorly, with general assignment folk giving it the same kind of assembly-line glancing look that they might take with, say, a story on the annual apple-picking festival. What's different about the last 10 days or so, however, is the quality of pubs that have jumped in, and the quality of their coverage and analysis. In a word, it's become far more knowing. I've told you in recent days about the Harvard Business Review's and the Columbia Journalism Review's seminal pieces. And I somehow missed this great piece in the Economist from last month. It notes that "because blogging is becoming so popular, people are belatedly pondering its economics." Written from San Fran, the piece goes on to say that blogging "creates small, tight groups of readers that could make ideal target audiences for advertisers."

The Washington Post added nicely to the conversation yesterday with this smart look at business blogs, clearly taking its lead from the HBR piece. " most everything else that begins existence as a hip underground trend, blogging has gone corporate," argues the piece, which springs from a meeting of about 50 people who call themselves the New Media Society. And like Editor & Publisher's Steve Outing, whose last column argued that email marketing is all but dead (because of spam and viruses), this group agrees, arguing that blogs will take their place. Surely enough, Outing, quite influential in the newspaper industry, followed up that column with this one this week, in which he suggests that it's time for newspapers websites to pick up their pace to TV's metabolism by--you guessed--adding blogs. "It's time for increasing the speed of news sites--to that of television news--and weblogs are the way to do it. And it's time to stop thinking of blogs mostly in the realm of feature and opinion content, and move the concept into breaking news." But he does understand the newspaper culture, too, noting that the major thing preventing that from happening just now is the fact that editors are worried that their gatekeeping function would be reduced. And finally, the new editor of Wired, Chris Anderson, who comes from The Economist, was profiled in AdWeek's Technology Marketing the other day. Asked how he keeps up with tech issues, he responded: "I don't look that much to journalists, not directly. I tend to look at bloggers." In any event, we're happy to see that Barb Payne got so inspired by the HBR piece that she went out and launched this initiative. Good luck with it, Barb...

Good News for Crain's Readers: Jay to Stay. Old Reliable, Jay Miller, who has been filling in with Crain's Cleveland Business while reporter David Bennett serves a tour of military duty in Iraq, warmed our heart by reporting that he's agreed to stay on as a fulltimer again, even after Bennett (who will cover manufacturing) returns. For Jay, this is a return to his roots. Almost from the beginnings of the paper (founded in 1980), he served as a freelancer, joining the reporting staff in 1982 and later becoming an editor. He left in '92 to join a start-up, City Reports, and later went back to independent writing for such outlets as Ad Age, Investors Business Daily and Cleveland Mag. He also covered regional events for the news service Reuters, filing stories on everything from record-breaking dancing sessions to the conviction of Congressman Jim "helmet hair" Traficant and the shooting this year at the Weatherhead School. He even found time to throw in ghostwriting duties for a Florida book publisher on books about local success stories RPM and Invacare.

Some of you know him--or at least know of him--in his role with SPJ, where he was instrumental in planning the Blog Fest in May. And you've also been reading his stuff in Crain's, where as holder of the government and economic development beat he has been and will be covering issues at the center of everything crucial to the region's future. Which is why I'm especially pleased that he's staying on. Few if any other writers in this town have his blend of savvy, street smarts and deep, sedimentary knowledge of the region's business, politics and economy, and he'll be calling on every piece of that in covering this crucial beat. Hell, the guy can even write well, though one doesn't always get much room to let it rip in Crain's.

When I think of Jay, I especially recall two telling situations, each of which reflect his deeply centered and stalwart nature. A history nut, often called an amateur historian (though I think he knows as much Cleveland history as any professional academic), after leaving Crain's, he led a giant year-long initiative in the mid-90s to mark Cleveland's bicentennial with a package of many dozens of stories documenting the city's history, including its business history. The entire staff took part, as did a handful of outside writers, myself included, and it resulted in so many sparkling stories that there were plenty left over after the special commemorative issue was published. I have always loved digging into history, but it was that project that really brought me an even deeper awareness and appreciation for regional history. And it was Jay that was the visionary here, patiently selling the project to his former (and now once again) colleagues at Crain's.

Second item: I once ran into Jay at a now-defunct newstand on Coventry. I had heard that a muckraking story he'd written for Cleveland Magazine on a sleazy parking-lot operator had resulted in the guy suing the magazine. Not a big deal, Jay calmly answered. "It was all public record." So he simply assembled a binder laying out his reporting for the magazine's lawyer, and the suit was dropped soon enough. But it was his matter-of-fact reaction to a libel suit, which would scare most writers out of their wits (even as it also perhaps gave them a jolt of excitement), that really caught my attention. He knows what he's doing, knows how to play the game, and he just goes about his job with the kind of low-key, no-big-deal blue collar work ethic that we've come to treasure all the more since 9-11. So keep digging into your crucial beat, Jay. We'll be reading.


Post a Comment

<< Home