Thursday, January 22, 2009

When It Comes to Bloggers, Mancow Doesn't Get It

UPDATE, FEB. 11, 2010: Pink slip for Erich 'Mancow' Muller - Chicago Tribune I was interviewed this week by one of the newspapers here in Chicago. The topic was blogging, bloggers and their effect on local politics. This morning, I wrote the following to the reporter who interviewed me, and I wanted to share it with you. I wanted to briefly add something to what I said on the phone. I think it was Monday of this week when I heard Mancow on WLS; he dissed bloggers in a typical and unfair way. To paraphrase Mancow, he said that bloggers just copy a few lines out of newspapers' online articles and add a few snarky comments. Uh huh. Prior to that, Mancow's show was all about him making snarky comments about items in the news, on which he provided no original reporting. After his remarks about bloggers, the rest of his show was (you guessed it), more of the same snarky comments about stories in the news, all of which he learned about in precisely the same way that your average blogger does. There is the hypocrisy of so much of the criticism of bloggers: It's okay if a Mancow or a George Will make snarky remarks on current events that they learned about from news organizations, but for some reason, when a blogger does exactly the same thing, he/she is criticized for it. Furthermore, for a blogger to use information from a newspaper to base a blog story on is, in practice and effect, virtually no different from a newspaper using news wire copy [e.g., Associated Press or Reuters]. The obvious differences are these: The newspaper pays the wire service for the copy, whereas both the wire service and the paper consciously put the story on the web, where they not only know it will be picked up by bloggers, but they also hope it will be picked up by bloggers because that gives the story more eyeballs. Not only that, but the better bloggers out there are very conscientious about giving proper credit to sources and will link directly to a source, which in turn gives the newspaper's web site many more clicks (and more eyes for their advertisements) than it would get without links from the bloggers. Conversely, newspapers are frequently tipped off to news stories by reading about them on blogs, but rarely credit the blogger as the original source. The starkest example of this that I can think of is the coverage of local politics. In 2007, the Trib and the Sun-Times provided scarce and scanty reports of the aldermanic races. In many neighborhoods, that information void was filled by local bloggers. Mancow, however, either misses a crucial piece of the picture or chooses to dismiss it. That piece is the fact that virtually all of the bigger bloggers (I include myself in that, although I like to say that I'm at the bottom of the top) include significant original content on their blogs. The commentary that I might add to an article in the Chicago Trib, for example, usually adds more information to the story (often by drawing from other news orgs, but frequently from my own information or direct observation). We add to the conversation and fortify the information that's out there, while providing what amounts to an aggregation service for the readers of our web sites. Mark Josephson, CEO,, summed it up well in a commentary he published on June 4, 2008 about hyperlocal news coverage by bloggers, ( is the organization that designated Rogers Park as the fifth bloggiest neighborhood in the U.S.) Josephson wrote: "We are huge fans of the incredible group of individuals blogging about their local communities. The quantity and quality of these hyperlocal bloggers is exploding, and their ability to cover more news and information at the hyperlocal level far outweighs that of a hand-picked, full-time “traditional” editorial team. We are tracking more than 140 discrete hyperlocal content sources in Chicago alone, for example. (Great examples of hyperlocal news coverage are here and here.)" Josephson's article is available here. Kind regards, Tom Mannis Chicago News Bench Subscribe to Chicago News Bench