Monday, April 19, 2010

And these reporters say they LIKE local blogs...

The "Blog Chat" video series on Texas Watchdog started out as an informative overview of some daily content for Houston's local blogs, sort of a video version of a link-post if you will. With multimedia journalist Lynn Walsh on board, the excellent news organization has promised to make video reports such as this an increasingly large part of their content.

Barely a month into the project and Mainstream media sources are dominating the video cast. Let's take a look at today's stories and their sources....

1. jail overcrowding: Off the Kuff and Grits for breakfast - (That's one for blogs. Granted, both blogs linked to held the same position, but that's probably more due to local Righty blogs surrendering the local turf to the InterLeft.)

2. Metro's financial malfeasance: Mike Snyder and KHOU & Mark Greenblatt. (Well, that's one linking to other paid journalists, birds of a feather etc. MSM 1 Blogs 1)

3. The latest Rasmussen Poll: Texas Tribune, Evan Smith (Texas Tribune is not a blog, they're an on-line, advocacy journalism agency that's doing a good job covering the State. There was a LOT of blog material on this one. MSM 2 Blogs 1)

4. High Fees for Sarah Palin: Star-telegram - (No I wouldn't pay that much money to hear Sarah Palin FWIW. However, the S-T is decidedly a MSM outlet and NOT a blog. MSM 3 Blogs 1)

5. NASA Funding: - (Important story but certainly not a blog. MSM 4 Blogs 1)

6. Buffalo Bayou Dredging: - (+1 for MSM. MSM 5 Blogs 1)

7. What to do this weekend: Texas Tribune. (It's a whitewash....MSM 6 Blogs 1)

I bring this up NOT to poke fun at Texas Watchdog, I consider them to be doing some of the best journalism in town, what I'm trying to highlight is how tall the wall is for local blogs to sustain the interest of journalists working for an MSM outlet. (Yes, I consider non-profit web outlets to be MSM, most of their employees worked for newspapers or TV stations at one time, or went to journo school.)

Certainly all of the stories highlighted were important stories, they were timely, relevant and *gasp* local in nature. They also did something that the blogosphere frequently does not: They broke new ground. Well, except for the first one, the Kuff story that was really just a blockquote of the Grits post which riffed on a story on jail overcrowding.

This is meant to take nothing away from Scott Henson and his terrific blog focused on Texas Criminal Justice. He's doing what all good blogs do (for the most part) he's taking a story that originally ran in an MSM source and expounding on it. Hell, that's what I'm doing in this post. As one person with a 7-5 job I don't have the resources to go out and break new news, so I rely on other sources to provide the articles that drive content. That, in a nutshell, is blogging. (opposed to reporting, which actually takes skill)

It's the problem that limits blogs to niche status no matter how hard they try to self-promote. Some bloggers, who work and play well with the journalists, may be incorporated into the mainstream to some level, but they're never going to be stand-alone content drivers. This means that, in order to be fair, video news reviews like those on Texas Watchdog are better served quoting the original story.

Either that or they're just not reading local blogs. In which case forget all of the previous bloggy-style navel gazing and move along. Nothing to see here.


  1. The sad thing is, some of the local blogs *are* generating original, relevant content (at least it seems that way to me.) For example, look at your "third party editorials" list. Hell, take a look at some of the stuff *you* put out, for that matter! Just stay far, far away from my blogs :-)

    I wonder if what we are seeing is a bit of laziness on the part of TW, rather than a dearth of interesting stuff in the local bloggiesphere.


  2. Hey Cory,

    Sorry it's taken awhile to respond. Monday is when I prepare for our weekly Texas Watchdog story budget meeting and Tuesday morning is when we actually have the meeting. (And Monday night I had a meeting with a few vodka tonics, so hopping on the computer was just not in the cards.)

    Anyhow, I appreciate your thoughts and your points are legitimate and well reasoned. Know this, I guess... the Texas Watchdog team is relatively new to video and we're just sort of splashing around with it. We named our weekly program "Blog Chat" and hoped to highlight the stuff we saw on local blogs that got our attention. But that's not always going to be the case. There was certainly an abundance of mainstream media chatter this week, but if you look at past shows certainly we take a look at what bloggers are talking about much more often.

    Beyond that, though, any program we put out there is experimental. I don't know if we will keep the program going or if it will evolve into something else. Frankly, the Blog Chat program has more to do with the Texas Watchdog team getting used to putting together a program and making sure that we can produce something quickly and easily so we can expand into more programs down the road. I, ultimately, would like to have a whole network lineup of programs, but that is a long ways off.

    Also, before each program we post a blog item on our own blog asking for suggestions on what we should feature. We would encourage you and any of your readers to do that. We want to have a dialogue with local bloggers, albeit for selfish reasons: We don't have a huge staff and having lots of interested people providing us ideas and news tips is key to our success.

    But your key point about the difficulty of bloggers breaking through the static of mainstream media is well taken. I don't have any easy answers for that one. That said, know that we read lots of blogs each day. Yours is a daily read for me, for example, usually in the morning with a cup of coffee. And the bloggers we take seriously, who have the most to say and fit into the theme of what Texas Watchdog does are included in our "Related Blogs and Media" feed. I say that only to point out that we do not separate the mainstream media and blogs into their own categories. It's all in one location and I guess that's how I see the world: I take Harris County Almanac and many other blogs as seriously as I do the Houston Chronicle. So do many other journalists, i would guess.

    On niche status... I may be missing your point here, but I don't know if that is a bad thing, necessarily. There is so much information out there that many of the really successful media outlets lately are niche. (I don't hear about big layoffs at industry journalism outfits, for example.) One problem, in my opinion, with the major metro papers is that they built themselves into being all things to all people. And now that there is so much info out there for people to pick and choose from, I think the bigger papers are struggling to figure out how to be relevant to their audience.

    The biggest example for me is close to home: Texas Watchdog is built on being a niche product. We report on issues dealing with government transparency, government waste and abuses of power. If you want sports scores, the weather report or a photo-montage of runway models tripping on high heels, we're not the place for you. We're also not a place you'd nessecarily come to for breaking news. We wouldn't even try to compete with the Chron or the television networks on that. But on the issues we do tackle, whether it's the airport or publicly funded travel or stimulus, we hope to provide a deeper report than you would get anywhere else.

    If you have any other concerns, or if I've missed the point completely here, please give me a call. The best bet is my cell. I can be reached at 832-316-4994.

    Trent Seibert
    Editor, Texas Watchdog

  3. "I take Harris County Almanac... as seriously as I do the Houston Chronicle."

    The sound you just heard was that of Cory hitting the ground after he passed out from reading this.*


    *Just kidding. No actual Corys were harmed as a result of reading this comment, to the best of my knowledge.

  4. "No actual Corys were harmed as a result of reading this comment"

    Except after my wife punched me and warned me to not get all haughty (after reminding me that ChronBlog is going under)


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