Saturday, July 16, 2005

Blogging As Public Service

A lot of people operate under the assumption that blogs are largely the product of cranks without much of a social life, or that blogs don't offer much in the way of insight or public good. Others think that blogs are a revolution in how people read and distribute information and informed commentary.

But no matter which camp you fall into, you have to hand it to the Rapid City Journal in my home state of South Dakota. For a newspaper, they definitely understand how this whole blogging thing can (and should) operate. The Journal's latest venture is a blog detailing the efforts to fight the Ricco wildfire north of Rapid City. It's a treasure trove of information on the fire, and features lots of photos and updates. In short, the blog performed a very useful public service. (The fire is mostly contained at this point, but as Bill Harlan points out in this post, any future fire will also be blogged. Cool!)

Also of note is the Journal's Mt. Blogmore, a fun and free spirited endeavor that thrived in large part due to reader feedback due to each post being open to comments. During the 2004 Daschle-Thune race for example, Mt. Blogmore was a great place to hang out.

Now, it should be obvious to anyone why blogs can complement newspapers: the news never stops, and neither do people looking for news. For those reasons alone I don't understand why more newspapers don't utilize the blog model to deliver timely news to their readers, and to allow those readers to comment and discuss the news. (Anyone at the Omaha World-Herald or Lincoln Journal Star listening to this?)

Blogs are also quite useful when they're at their most playful, as anyone who reads Mt. Blogmore can tell you. And what would be wrong with a newspaper engaging in a bit of fun with its readers?

As the Rapid City Journal has shown, you don't have to be a gigantic metro daily with millions of readers to get in the game. Simply put, if you build it and run it right, people will come. It's obvious that any smaller daily or weekly newspaper could complement their news distribution with blogging as well.

No matter how you slice it, I still find it odd that in the year 2005 more papers haven't supplemented their online presence with blogs.

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