The Oregonian Wants to Know...

Buried deep in a footnote in the public editor's column about blogs, the Oregonian's Michael Arrieta-Walden asked...

Please let me know: How much doyou rely on blogs for news and information? Which do you think are best?

To that we'd add... also let him know: what can the Oregonian learn from blogs? What blog-like features could they add to the newspaper?

Send an email to [email protected] and post a comment here to let us know what you said.

  • (Show?)

    Well, here is what I said about what the paper might want to learn regarding a specific story they've "covered".

  • (Show?)

    [Here's what I wrote to the Oregonian... -kari.]


    Since you asked for comment, I'll share my thoughts.

    Your column on Sunday largely focused on the way that blogs are changing journalism through the democratization of publishing. And while that's interesting and true, there's another effect going on.

    Blogs are also the democratization of commentary on publishing. In other words, a blog allows anyone to instantly post their comments on the article written. With instant commenting, conversations can ensue, community is created, and the original author is held to account for their words.

    Newspapers have always known this. That's why we have letters to the editor. But letters to the editor suffer from the delay inherent in receiving the letters, editing them, selecting them, and then printing them. Conversations don't happen, and because you can't print them all, people often feel as if their words don't count. The Oregonian's "scorecard" feature is one good, small attempt to counter that perception.

    If the Oregonian wanted to do something truly radical and interesting, the paper would build an online community around its coverage. By simply turning on a commenting feature on every article (not in the 'blogs section', but for every single article), you would attract massive readership, generate extraordinary goodwill, and make the Oregonian the center of conversation in our community. People would have an outlet for their praise, their critiques, and they'd be happier with the coverage. Your reporting would be better, because news tips would come in via the comments, and reporters and editors could respond to controversial items directly.

    And here's the best part. The cost of such a system is negligible; probably in the high-four-figures or low-five-figures. That cost would be dwarfed by the additional revenues brought in through the additional traffic. (Yes, I know, Oregon Live is a separate legal and financial entity. The real world out here doesn't care.)

    It's always been true that the newspaper serves as the starting point for conversations, not the final word. Every day, thousands of Oregonians say the words, "Didja see in the paper this morning..." By bringing that conversation online, you can empower the community, connect those conversations, and begin to rebuild our civic infrastructure.

    Meanwhile, over at, we've gotten started without you. We're small, but we're already the political blog with the greatest reach in Oregon. We've had 600 editorials posted, 7900 public comments, and 280,000 page views. And that's just since July 17th.

    Imagine the possibilities if the Oregonian, with its marketing reach and volume of content, threw open the doors.

    It would be revolutionary.

    I'm happy to help, in either a volunteer advisory capacity or in a professional code-writing capacity. After all, it's what I do for a living - help good people change the world.


    p.s. If you haven't yet, pick up Joe Trippi's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". TV is dying as a news medium, and the written word is making a comeback. Newspapers can be part of that, but only those that embrace these new audience-focused technologies that will survive.

    -- Kari Chisholm Mandate Media Portland, Oregon


    Read the "Politics & Technology" blog at

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    My credibility on the issue is zero, but I thought the whole piece rang with disengenuity (if that is indeed a word) for not having mentioned the effect of local blogs on the Oregonian. The piece didn't mention the Oregonian's own relationship to blogs, and a reader unfamiliar with the topic would likely have concluded this is a national phenomenon.

    But of course the local press reads Blue Oregon, the Communique, and Jack Bogdanski daily (just check our own site meter stats--rarely does an hour pass that a visitor doesn't visit the site from the domain.

    A better article would have been to hear how Arrieta-Walden thinks the paper is handling blogs and what blogs' role will be in the future in Oregonian coverage.

  • (Show?)

    A better article would have been to hear how Arrieta-Walden thinks the paper is handling blogs and what blogs' role will be in the future in Oregonian coverage.

    On the upside, he asked for feedback, information, and suggestions -- as much of a conversation as can ensue via The Oregonian without Kari's "comments on everything" functionality.

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    BTW, Michael responded within the hour - and we've started a meaningful dialogue. I'll let him post his thoughts here if he likes...

  • (Show?)

    BTW, Michael responded within the hour - and we've started a meaningful dialogue. I'll let him post his thoughts here if he likes...

    Well, at least he responded to someone's email. Never did see a response to an inquiry as to what he views as the role of a newspaper's op-ed page.

  • Ron Beasley (unverified)

    Sent this

    Dear Mr. Walden I think your editorial on blogging and bloggers was one of the better ones I have seen. I use the Internet for most of my news and I am a news junkie. Having access to foreign Newspapers is one reason. The US press has failed the people of the United States. I hear Bush Republicans still ranting about the liberal press and it's almost amusing. The reason is it has become corporate media and the interests of the big corporations seem to always come before the truth. As for blogs I read about 20 on a regular basis and probably have over 100 bookmarked. In addition I have a blog of my own that after about 9 months is getting over 100 hits a day and growing. I also post on a group blog on the east coast. I know someone from the Oregonian checks my blog several times a week, sitemeter tells me I have a hit from Blogs have grown because the MSM has failed. I think the blogs are like the pamphleteers of old, and yes, I'll be the first to admit there are lots of falsehoods flying around all side of the blogosphere. In spite of that you are still more likely to find the truth reading the blogs than you are reading the Newspapers; not so much because of what is printed but because of what isn't.
    Recieved this reply:
    Dear Mr. Beasley,

    Thanks for taking the time to read my column and to respond to it. I appreciate your feedback.

    I still believe that the press is incredibly important to democracy, but the blogs are a healthy addition to the community debate and discussion.

    Good luck with your blog!

    Thanks, Michael Arrieta-Walden

  • Ruth (unverified)

    This is what I sent in:

    Thanks very much for your column today discussing the rising significance of blogs as sources of news/analysis. I hope the Oregonian and other traditional newspapers will heed you r suggestion to include blogs among their potential sources of news. Of course the stories/tips need to be vetted by professional journalists, but to continue to ignore the very real stories coming out of the blogs would be a bad mistake. Traditional media can no longer afford to dismiss the blogosphere as "conspiracy theorists," to cite the tired cliché we heard over and over when the mainstream media was ignoring the voter suppression and election irregularities in Ohio and elsewhere.

    As a side note, I continue to be frustrated by the mainstream media's false "balancing" act in which viewpoints from right and left are carefully included, but without any kind of context, analysis, or fact check. As if simply citing a "he said/she said" automatically provides "fair and balanced" coverage, without any further obligation on the part of the reporter to analyze or assess the veracity or validity of each side's claims. I believe this is partially due to fear of being attacked as "liberal."

    For example, in your blog column, you present the Gannon/Guckert story from the left, and the Eason Jordan flap from the right, as equivalent stories, tit for tat. Yet I would argue that a single off-the-cuff comment (which perhaps was misinterpreted) is not the equivalent of over two year's access to the White House by a male escort operating under a phony name with possible links to the outing of a CIA operative. "Let the reader decide, we just present both sides" is not an excuse. If the reader never gets the full story, and everything is presented as simple equivalents, how can they make a well-informed decision about the issue?

    Similarly, the front cover story about Social Security fight going "into the gutter" presents as equivalents the liberal ads that publicize a congressman's campaign donations from the Wall St. firms that will benefit from Social Security changes; and the USA Next smear campaign that lies about AARP supposedly promoting gay marriage, in order to slander and discredit it, a la the Swift Boat Vets. Is the liberal group's ad presenting false information? No. Is the USA Next ad presenting false information? Yes. Who is really "in the gutter"? It would be far more accurate to say that the liberals are playing hardball, by the rules, while the USA Next group (in lockstep with the Bush White House) is in the gutter.

    My message to the supposedly liberal media: Please do not be afraid to exercise your judgment, and speak the truth.

    Thank you again for bringing up the blog issue. I hope to see an evolution in the Oregonian and other papers as they adapt to reality. Blogs are here to stay.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    I have too much to say for people to have time to read. Besides, what time there is could go to reading my source(s), like I did, and reaching your own conclusion. And probably end up the same place as if you had read it from me. But without the ardor and fatigue of my sweated syntax.

    Anyway, so much to say I think it's better if I chop it into bite-sized units, one point per comment. (Reserving the right to revise and extend ...), in this one the point is I told you so. I have commented here multiple times from various approaches, that blogs need not waste energy appealing to old-line media, like The O., to put our blog words in their ink, so as (if only they'd hear us!), to get blog sense into the thoughts of everyone still 'glued to' the media they have been reading ( /watching/getting thoughts from), by channeling the new 'news' through the old 'news.' I say forget feeding description of what blogs are doing, or going to do, through the mainstream media to digest and excrete to everybody, the 'general public.'

    Instead, just do it. Blog what we got to blog. And let MSM come to us blogs, to discover, and study, and make sense of and report if they dare. Or, don't report it if they dare not.

    So no, I'm not sending my comment to Arrieta-Walden. He can come here to read it. Which he is and most of the people in MSM are already doing -- going to blogs and reading the comments and trying to figure out what's going on. What does it all mean? What does it all mean to them? After all, they've individually got a stable good-paying job, and a mortgage, and a family, and a life that works for them and is keeping survival together. Is blogs, the internet, going to impact that? Are they goners? That's the extent of their concern behind their question. What does it all mean (to them)?

    And they didn't ask even that, weren't even concerned, until preliminary indications started trending that way, (against MSM's pat hand). (Cf. Mark Twain (not his real name): "The serene confidence a Christian feels in four aces.") Indications: Ad sales down, subscriptions down, employee count down, reader mutiny up, neighbors friends and relatives invading Iraq and getting killed and nobody's quite sure Why, What for, What's going on. Does this involve me?

    That's the first point I took from Arrieta-Walden's headline, 'Blogs deserve consideration by newsroom.' Then, in turnabout, newsrooms deserve consideration by blog.

    It is a difficult admission for people (neighbors friends and relatives) set comfortably in their ways and habits of 'traditional' media operations, to admit they might gain to listen to blogs. Because listening risks getting into suffering the pain of having to change with the new. So I heartily applaud and support Arrieta-Walden asking for input. It's hard and awkward for him to make that small conciliatory gesture. Bravo! Accordingly, with such an opportunity to speak a piece and be heard, blogs should feel the obligation of responsibility to be wellspoken, thoughty, put the best foot forward, write up the stuff worth reading.

    'They' are reading 'us' already, just like I told you so. Stop worrying about it and concentrate on writing what you (we each) know, and what that knowledge means, and what's a person to do as a result. You know: the 'news.' Bring it. Do it. Join it. Have it.

    (Personally, I do not share the experience some commenters describe of a lack of response to contacting ('messaging') Arrieta-Walden. I have had good response from him. And Hortsch before him. And more especially, Helen, whoever she it. She's sharp, like most of The O.'s people, but she is stretched over so many job responsibilities so thin it can break her, like most of The O.'s people, and then it takes even more wasted effort trying to keep body and soul together, nevermind job responsibilities. The business employment model sorely must recalibrate its q/q ratio -- quantity to quality. Hire a new person to do half the work each person there now has, and, yeah, they both 'do' less (only half-a-job), but they both do that half better. Business (capitalism) needs to pay for some waste and inefficiency. Put back the 'waste' that they just spent ten years trimming out. Don't run so lean, don't run so mean. It's a life-or-death matter. For both the life of persons and the life of businesses.)

    Understanding that the Public Editor and everyone else (there) is stretched to snapping, I minimize my contacts (complaints, plaudits, comments) to him. But the few times there have been, I picked up the phone and dialed, (forget writing in, it just makes it worse, makes his job harder), he answered, we talked, and when we were done we both felt better, like we had accomplished something. And we had, in fact -- it was Communication. Which is, though, good development. Encourage and nourish that growth. Communication.

    And, to the question: How much of my news do I get from blogs?

    For the last year it's been like this: Before breakfast I print out MediaChannel's blog (a misnomer for the site) of Danny Schechter, (a friend for thirty years), and read his pages over my citrus, flapjacks and sausage. Afterwards, it is awfully less important -- it doesn't mean anything -- if I don't see any newspaper the rest of that day. I already know what's in them. They ain't much news to me. Fuller disclosure: I also scan the AP wire every twelve hours and cherry-pick what matters to me to read fully. From such perspective, when I do read a paper I mostly notice the articles that are missing which I know were available on the wire for them to choose, and they chose not. Tells me more about how the paper thinks than what the paper prints.

    So club this thing and stop it. It just keeps flowing out of my pen. Ink possessed. >Snip< to the tease to get you to click on the Danny Schechter, news dissector channel now, and try it ... 'leap, perhaps to dream.'

    [copyrighted material zapped. link above. - editor.]

  • Terry (unverified)

    Has "We The Media" by Dan Gillmor been mentioned yet at BlueOregon? I'll investigate Joe Trippi's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" on Kari's behest.

  • Edward (unverified)

    You recently asked about how much readers rely on blogs for their news.

    I'm at my computer off and on 24 / 7. I have come to know and love a news aggregation web service called bloglines. (check it out: Using RSS feeds, I read the headlines of a number of leading national news sources (from NYTimes to MotherJones), the foreign media (like the BBC and the Guardian). I also use RSS feeds to keep tabs on a number of blogs, some local, some national, some international, and some topic driven (like techie blogs or legal blogs like groklaw).

    I subscribe to the Oregonian. By the end of breakfast, I've finished as much of it as I'm usually going to read for the day (although I tend to leave it on the table until dinner -- just in case). I used to read the newspaper to get my news. Now I read the newspaper as much to see which stories you choose to cover as I do to get the local news and peruse your Op-Ed page offerings. By the time your paper reprints an associated press article or NYTimes article, I've pretty much already read it if I had any interest in doing so.

    Unfortunately, my preference for RSS feeds means that a news source without an RSS feed no longer gets my regular attention. I hardly ever check on my hometown papers back in Montana, nor do I read international sites that lack an RSS feeds as often as I used to do. The news field is so competitive, I don't waste my on-line time on web-sites like the Oregonian's -- er I meant OregonLive's. The site is far too cluttered with annoying blinking and animated advertising. In the event that I actually desire to read an old Oregonian article, I just find it cached somewhere else on the web -- or I don't bother.

    Both blogs and traditional news outlets have their advantages and disadvantages. Mostly, blogs are just a ton of fun.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Another point: In a 'pure capitalistic,' 'free market' economy what is the competitive (advantage) element of news media?

    It seems to me there are two candidate attributes by which news media could 'compete' for media-consumers' dollars: - The characteristic of a medium's news, such as earliest ('scoop') reporting, style (wordcraft) of writing, thoroughness ('in depth') of reporting, and/or other parameters which comprise 'quality,' in a word. - The content of a medium's news. Which would be competing by niche or monopoly exclusivity, such as a medium being the only source for 'complete' stock-trading results, or the only 'premier' source for medical news or business (journal) news or ... GOP news. (Content-committed competing could also be effected in reverse fashion, in the negative, such as the only medium with no stocks, no medical, no business, etc., news.)

    Which brings me to question Arrieta-Walden: What does The O. consider is its competitive element -- its qualities of its information's word-work, or its privileged 'inside' exclusive informations?


    Another point: The question of what news we (Oregonian readers) get from blogs, can be logically re-worded (contrapositively) and submitted for reconsideration, thus: What news can newsrooms NOT get?

    I imagine Arrieta-Walden has a web browser on his desk right in front of him all day, 'always on.' I speculate that there are websites and blogs that he is (programmatically) blocked from seeing, that is, there is newsworthy information that is censored from him, (and all the web browsers in the building, on the 'enterprise-wide' network).

    I propose a way to test my guess. From Arrieta-Walden's browser, reading this blog, at work, click on this site, and this site, and this site. They each load fine for me, but on some 'corporate' networks I have browsed with, the second and third choices give error messages or redacted blank displays. Most often (four trials) the second one.

    The first one is only photos. The second one has photos and words, and many of its words have been Bush-administration censored, for example in the 911 Commission Report. Here are words posted three link-clicks deep in the second one, words which say that Newton's laws of physics, (you know: 'every action has equal-and-opposite reaction,' as so on), prove it was physically impossible for one of those planes by only its own total (action) potential energy to knock down one of those towers of known mass. (I think these words also test whether reporters can read and comprehend standard English sentences in scientific terms; perhaps another reporter-comprehension test could be composed using 'evolution' and 'creationism' terms, but that's not here, this is. Emphasis added:) "The official explanation that the Twin Tower collapses were gravity-driven events appears insufficient to account for the documented energy flows. site:"

    I've also seen blogs with photos of military coffins arriving at Dover AFB and military funerals in Arlington Cemetery, and perhaps those are censored from The O.'s in-house internet access. What news can the newsroom NOT get?, seems like a related question to the question posed in Arrieta-Walden's survey.

  • Mark (unverified)

    None of those sites is blocked by The O, and I have never run into one that is. Also, not only does The Oregonian not block sites that have military coffin photos, the paper, like many others, ran photos of coffins arriving at Dover last April when The Memory Hole got ahold of them. I even wrote about it on my own weblog, and I've never had a problem reaching it.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    Thanks, Mark, for the straight poop. My bad about The O. I have found site blocking on some in-house web portals.

    Erratum: In previous comment, read total (action) kinetic energy for "total (action) potential energy." My bad, again. Got my kinetics and potentials crossed.

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