Topic of the week: Sunshine

In the spirit of blog-love, this week's topic is Online Sunshine, happily borrowed from our friends at Under the Dome. To kick things off, I ask the following question: Why is it that official newspaper bloggers almost never post on other blogs?

Comments

Momoaizo has an official blog at our paper

but as with most other things, Momo is a category by herself.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Heh.....I'm a LINDA!

we're a category unto our own!

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions

That's the truth!



Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Sunshine

It's out today.....my gardening jeans and genes are calling me. My fingers are itching to dig in the dirt.

As for official newspaper bloggers........eh....they're too good for us, I guess.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

The reasons

1. Because I'm pretty busy on my own blog.

2. Because I hardly need to give you guys another excuse to bash me.

3. Because I keep forgetting my password.

Now that we've got that out of the way, I welcome any suggestions on your favorite / least favorite state Web sites. What information should be more publicly available online?

— RTB

If you visited more often we would be nice

....I promise. Heck...I get bashed here and it is my blog home. I give you credit for linking to the things you read on other blogs. There are reporters who do not do that as often. Also, I don't really think of you folks as bloggers. If you have press credentials, you are a reporter. Plain and simple. You have automatic access I don't have. I do enjoy your blog/column, though. It's one of the better ones in this state. (You, Binker, Betts and Morrill........when he posts)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Hey now.

We have really let up on you recently ... haven't you noticed? In fact, I would argue that the Dome blog is by far the most interesting, up-to-date and unbiased operation inside the McClatchy Clan. You're doing a really good job. You just need to add one small activity to your workday: Spend 5 minutes at the top of every hour spreading links to your own posts on other blogs. In six months, you'll steepen your growth curve dramatically ... and be in primo position with the general election coming up.

Thanks for stopping by!

James

PS I'm a marketing genius. You should listen to me.

What you need, is twitter.

N&O has an account, under the dome blog needs its own.
https://twitter.com/RobertP

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Public records

should be more easily available. A great niche for newspaper's websites to fill.

Mountain Xpress in Asheville is starting a section of their website for city, county, state and federal relevant public documents.

Check it out. They call it Xpress Files. I think they've started with what they had already posted.

I also think someone in each state (and why not you?) should post the public filings at the Congressional Record office of their state's congressional delegation. Some of those records (financial disclosures of the candidates, for example) are not available in the districts and they are not all on the OpenSecrets.org site.
 
See Pat Go Bye Bye. Support Daniel Johnson.

Good point. Mo's the best.

I actually don't know how the whole mainstream media blogging system works. The Dome guys are paid staff, of course, as is Mark Binker at the Greensboro paper, and Laura at WUNC.

************************

After centuries of being the only places citizens could turn for news, mainstream media say, "You come to us." They carry that field-of-dreams model, and to a large extent it works. I have to read their websites every day if I want to really know what's going on.

I think they'd be surprised, however, how much their readership would improve with a little external cultivation.

More to the point of this topic, their general view of sunshine is limited to a focus on government. They are in business, first and foremost, trying to make a buck. Sunshine as a universal premise ... the idea that transparency is inherently good ... is not part of their profit-motive mindset.

What's your question?

>>Sunshine as a universal premise ... the idea that transparency is inherently
>>good ... is not part of their profit-motive mindset.

This is the kind of needlessly antagonistic stuff that drives reporters away from blogs. If you spent five minutes in a newsroom, you would be surprised how little we reporters talk about profits, even given our current financial straits.

>>I actually don't know how the whole mainstream media blogging system works.

What would you like to know?

— RTB

This may be true, Ryan,

This is the kind of needlessly antagonistic stuff that drives reporters away from blogs.

but would you agree that the opposite (very low antagonism) might be a hindrance to mainstream media bloggers?

I understand the drive to be objective and neutral in reporting, but I think many visit blogs for something a little more/different than they get from the paper. It's okay to take a stand, and it's okay to be a little antagonistic. Blog readers don't expect you to form their opinions for them, but they do expect you to have an opinion of your own.

I know that makes absolutely no sense, and I can't back it up with a link or a footnote. But that's okay, because we're just talking here.

Steve, I think you're correct about at least this part.

Blog readers don't expect you to form their opinions for them, but they do expect you to have an opinion of your own.

And therein might be the problem - I think it would be difficult for a reporter whose job requires him to remain objective to use his employers' website/blog to express an opinion, particularly on an issue that is currently in the mainstream section of the news/franchise.

What a fine line to have to walk. I know I couldn't do it.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

low antagonism a hindrance?

No. I think a more dignified tone actually serves a blog well. Ryan manages well. He has a necessarily high tolerance for diversity but he can still exercise the DELETE option when folks get over-heated.

And Ryan did say 'needlessly' when he mentioned the kind of antagonism that drives reporters away. I think it drives other folks away, too. A good blog features serious writing, writing of good quality. Of course, that's admittedly all in the eyes of the readers.

As you said, it's ok to be a little antagonistic; but like the writing itself, the quality of the combat is what draws me to one or from another blog.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

I keep my opinions to myself

I keep my opinions to myself for several reasons:

1. After a decade as an MSM reporter, I've found old habits die hard.

2. Under the Dome is a group effort. It would undermine my colleagues if I threw out my opinion all the time.

3. It would be easy fodder for critics. Why court more abuse?

4. I honestly don't have a lot. On most subjects, I have more questions than answers.

That said, the blog has a looser writing style and more attitude than typical news coverage. When I post an analysis, it's usually been vetted with the help of my colleagues, whose knowledge of North Carolina politics impresses me on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

— RTB

Let me rephrase:

"The purposeful avoidance of antagonism" is actually closer to what was on my mind. In other words, writing as an objective observer about a conflict between two (or more) others, while taking care not to draw personal conclusions.

And I'm not really talking about Ryan himself; his choice of (blog) subjects alone could be seen by some as taking a position. I'm mainly talking about the conflict between the objectivity of the day job (reporting) and what the blogosphere expects/prefers.

In many cases (out here), if you don't take an easily determined position on a given subject, you're deemed to be shallow and/or underinformed, often by both sides. Which, of course, is unfair and subjective. But it happens, nonetheless.

Needlessly antagonistic?

Didn't mean that at all. I was pointing out the differences between government, public blogs and private enterprise. You're in that last bucket.

I have no doubt that what reporters talk about has nothing to do with profits. But what reporters talk about isn't the issue. It's what management talks about. It's how they measure your performance. It's what they expect. That's what matters.

But since you offered, let's get granular:

1. What's your salary?
2. How many hours a week do you work?
3. Does the Dome have any written policies and procedures? If so, what are they and how were they developed?
4. How do the Dome's operating margins compare to the N&O as a whole? How about to other McClatchy operations?
5. Does the N&O have in-house or external counsel? Do you ever meet with them to get guidance about risks? If external counsel, who?
6. Are you considering starting up a "weekend" edition?
7. What is your budget?

Please don't consider these questions antagonistic - needlessly or otherwise. I really appreciate your questions and perspective, and I am trying to understand what transparency means at the Dome versus what it means in government.

If you worked as the town manager here in Chapel Hill, I could ask all of these questions and I would get complete answers. That's what I mean by transparency.

Here are my answers:

1. No salary
2. 30+ hours
3. See "About us" tab. All policies and decisions discussed and debated here.
4. Negative margins
5. No legal counsel
6. Yes, we have a weekend edition
7. Less than $1000 a year

Thank you!

This gives me a much better picture of life at the Dome. You're kind to take the time to respond.

Much appreciated.

James

PS This is why you shouldn't post at other blogs. It's a huge sinkhole of time.

:)

how it works...

Can't speak for others, but for me anyway, my blog is sort of a strange, symbiotic franchise.

1. The Tavern was my idea. My bosses were initially opposed to letting me blog - it took me a year and a half to win them over. I had to promise it wouldn't cut into my radio news production.

2. It's a volunteer effort. The time I put into it - nights and weekends, mostly - does not count toward my work schedule. I just do it because I want to, and when I can balance it with my paying gig, which is still my radio work.

3. That said, my bosses have been amazingly supportive when I've made someone mad enough to complain. And I get the use of the site plus tech support, and they also promote it on the air, which has been really helpful.

Now, some of us do stop by here every so often to comment, but most of the time, I just lurk. (I figure you're probably sick of hearing from me, anyway.)

And I strongly disagree with the idea that sunshine doesn't figure into the media's "profit-motive mindset." First, WUNC is a non-profit. Second, more transparency helps us do our jobs better, too, and better reporting = more readers/listeners.

Laura Leslie
(Barkeep, Isaac Hunter's Tavern)

Laura Leslie
blogger/reporter for WRAL @NCCapitol
Former Barkeep of Isaac Hunter's Tavern

Laura, I love the Tavern.

I stop by regularly to belly up to the bar - I think you do a great job blending the volunteer blogging with the paying job.

The only other reporter's blog that I have on my regular rounds is Mark Binker. I almost never comment on any of them - I save my words of wisdom for BlueNC. Aren't you all lucky?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

What kind of dog?

Serious bloggers want to know. What kind o' dawg is that?

He's a mix? She's a mix? What kind of mix?

There ain't nuthin' better in this whole wide world than a dog.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

I disagree

There ain't nuthin' better in this whole wide world than a dog.

Two dogs. or Four. Our furry family consists of four canines - two who look like dingos, but they're not, one incredibly wonderful black lab, and a Australian Shepherd/something else rescue who lets us believe we adopted him, when truly it was the other way around. I would add more if my family would let me. I love my dogs.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Dingo got the baby

I grew up with a minimum of three dogs at a time, along with two cats, a bird, two ducks, a hamster and a bunny. We fostered a monkey, briefly, but much as he liked the female members of the household, he threw feces at all the guys, so it was just as well that he was able to move on.

But I don't have the budget my parents had, so for now my menagerie remains small!

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

We didn't start out making the decision to have 4 dogs.

They just happened. They needed homes, and we had the space and a fenced yard. Once you're past 2, it just doesn't seem to matter. The vet bills can get high, but so far, they're all healthy and only require the immunizations. We have 2 cats, also. It's fun and furry here.

My son wants a monkey. He thinks it would be awesome. He claims that every teenage boy wants a monkey.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Every teenage boy wants a monkey

And here I thought every teenage boy already had one. You know, to spank.

--
relocating from Indianapolis, IN to RTP, NC soon; got any advice for me?

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Um, he's a "designer original"...

That's Woody, the official Tavern Dog. He's from the Wake Co. pound. We think he's probably mostly "treeing feist," but it's hard to say, exactly. (He's far more interested in couches than in trees.)

He's also not a big fan of the whole blogging thing, either, as you can see. ;)

And thank you, Linda, for the compliment!!

Laura Leslie
(Barkeep, Isaac Hunter's Tavern)

Laura Leslie
blogger/reporter for WRAL @NCCapitol
Former Barkeep of Isaac Hunter's Tavern

well he's purty

But it seems he has human hands, so blogging couldn't be all that difficult for him.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

He knows he's "purty," too.

Just ask him sometime. He'll tell you.

Laura Leslie
(Barkeep, Isaac Hunter's Tavern)

Laura Leslie
blogger/reporter for WRAL @NCCapitol
Former Barkeep of Isaac Hunter's Tavern

Thanks for weighing in

Sorry for gumming things up. My definition of transparency is a lot broader than the "sunshine" version.

Transparency is a big deal in business today, and companies are really struggling to find their balance. Get too transparent and competitors get visibility into your strategies and financial fundamentals. Keep too many secrets and you erode trust. Executives are still trying to figure it out.

I shouldn't have plopped you into the mainstream media bucket. Sorry about that.

We're never sick of hearing from you.

J

PS A couple of years ago I had a falling out with your management team over the slow pace of getting involved in the blogosphere. For what it's worth, the only reason I'm back among WUNC's contributor base is because of your blog. I'm glad you prevailed in the Great Debate.

Thank you!

Can I quote you? ;)

I'd argue that reporters are just as invested in corporate transparency as anyone else, and not just when it's our own corporations, either. Sure, FOIA requests are nice when you have time, but on our current "15 minutes ago" news cycle, it's much better to be able to access information easily and quickly.

BTW, I couldn't agree more with your distinction between "accessible" versus "usable" public data. You see a lot of the former these days, but it often seems like an attempt to circumvent having to provide the latter. If a high-school kid can build a clean, usable database these days, why can't state government?

Thanks very much!
Laura

Laura Leslie
(Barkeep, Isaac Hunter's Tavern)

Laura Leslie
blogger/reporter for WRAL @NCCapitol
Former Barkeep of Isaac Hunter's Tavern

Databases Made Easy

radiogirl wrote:

If a high-school kid can build a clean, usable database these days, why can't state government?

Do they really teach high-school kids things like transactionality and data normalization these days?

If so, that's awesome.

Still, my impression is that management of public records is something that should be done by professionals (read: professionals, not "cronies"—be glad you don't live in Indiana).

  • proper data normalization is essential for data coherence and consistency
  • the database technologies used by, e.g., web bulletin boards—even large, successful ones—frequently don't scale well to the record volumes and/or complexity needed for state or large city government
  • in many cases the scalability is not due to deficiencies in the software itself, but poor data design—even the products of Oracle, the "shock and awe" proprietary DB vendor in the United States, can be made to perform like crap if given a rotten enough data design
  • God help the users of queries for a large database written by a naïve data "analyst" who hasn't mastered SQL joins
  • you need to provision serious hardware for serious databases—this means redundancy, which means expense, including the expense of an admin who knows how to administer high-availablity, fast-failover hardware configurations
  • if your DB is public-facing (and that's kinda the point of an interface to public records) you need to understand what an SQL injection attack is, have good safeguards against them, and a plan for when your safeguards fail

These are just my musings as a software professional. I know there are lots of smart kids out there—I used to be one1—but I would not apply for such a job myself. I only know enough about the problem space to be painfully aware of my own ignorance. People who aren't aware of their own ignorance need to be kept far away from roles integral to the public trust.

1 which part(s) of that statement no longer apply to me are left as an exercise for the reader

--
relocating from Indianapolis, IN to RTP, NC soon; got any advice for me?

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

--
Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

I wrote this for Sunshine Week

I had an 800-word piece appear in our mountain weekly, Mountain Xpress. Here's an excerpt:

"Transparency transcends partisanship, enabling people on various corners of the political street to come together in demanding that their government operate in the sunshine. When citizens on the right, left and center come together to call for more openness in government, it is incumbent upon elected representatives to respond to that call. Building trust in the workings of government is a responsibility of elected officials, even when operating openly is less comfortable than doing things behind closed doors. Openness provides a safeguard against the specter of corruption while ensuring that the people’s expertise is employed in solving local problems."

Scrutiny Hooligans - http://www.scrutinyhooligans.us

Excellent Gordon

nice work.....

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I don't think they care

In all honesty, I don't think the bulk of elected or appointed officials give a damn that the "specter of corruption" might lurk if they don't take the concept of openness in government more seriously.

Why should they? There is no real accountability. That specter hangs around for a little bit but it doesn't throw things or move furniture. And it fades fast.

The only thing elected officials worry about is the next election -- and since Easley isn't running again, he can afford to flip off the N&O and essentially laugh in everyone's faces while he declares this "Sunshine Week."

The N & O has raised a fuss, as is only appropriate, over the way Easley has bungled in his effort to distance his administration from the mental health fiasco, but I haven't seen a big response from readers.

As for appointees, I've personally witnessed more than one laughing(!) at the idea of having to explain one or another action to the public by saying, "Hey, the governor appoints me; he's the only one I'm worried about." These fella's got those appointments because they spent lots and lots and lots of money to be named, and THAT is all their appointing authorities were concerned about.

The grandiosity and the arrogance of these people is far more appalling than Powell or Trudeau have ever depicted in their editorial cartoons.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

I think you're right about this

And it'll take a lot more heat from the public before it really ignites as an issue. Right now it seems mostly partisan. Republicans slam Dems for being secretive in Raleigh. Dems slam Republicans for being secretive in Raleigh.

It's really only out there in the blogoworld that we're equal opportunity critics of secrecy and backroom deal-making.

Moore has elevated these questions of transparency and accessibility to campaign issues. I applaud him for that.

Howdy

I'm not really sure I can offer any more insight than Ryan or Laura have, but to answer some of the questions that came up:

* Ryan answered the salary question pretty well.

* Why don't I comment more on other blogs: I read more than I write. I learn more from listening to others than running my mouth (or keyboard). And if I commented everywhere I read my day could get quickly out of hand. Also, when I write, I'm very conscious that I'm representing my organization so I like to take the time to do it right.

* Hours per week blogging/working? I really don't know. I contribute to three blogs on our site (Capital Beat, Inside Scoop - a local political blog - and Decision 2008 - which I'm not sure why we started but is where I'm supposed to put election-related posts). My blogging is wrapped up with the other aspects of my job: reporting, writing and editing for the newspaper. I'll post on weekends; I'll post late at night. I'll post at times like now when I'm procrastinating about filing a story. No reporter I know works a 40 hour week, no matter what our timecards say.

* Capital Beat came about when I was sent to Raleigh in 2005. Basically, the bosses liked what I had done with a local political blog and asked for more of the same at the state level.

* Why I don't post more: There's only so many hours in a day. Blogging takes time to do right, as does reporting as does crafting newspaper stories, particularly longer stories/profiles/investigations that run on the weekend.

Not to give you a sob story, but if you want to know what my week looks like: Monday I pulled an editing shift (3:30 to midnight), today I've been reporting and writing, Wednesday I'll be out of town training, Thursday I'll be covering the Wright hearings (and blogging it) and Friday I'll be attempting to take one of a couple long-owed days off but probably fail because some story will need doing for the weekend.

Also: when I post I try to bring something novel and/or have something to say. I have a bias toward writing about things that or special concern to people in my circulation area. I'll leave the minutia of everyday politics to others.

* Policies? The News & Record has a terms of service for our website that I'm sure was developed by a coven of lawyers and I had absolutely nothing to do with them.

* Operating margin for the blog? No idea. We're a private company (until we're sold or whatever...) and the owners don't share a great deal of information that I would consider specific enough to give you a very good answer. Generally the website is a growing source of revenue for the company but still doesn't come close to matching what we earn from print.

* The News & Record doesn't have an in-house council but we do have a couple of lawyers who work for us on contract. And as Ryan wrote, we consult from time-to-time with lawyers for the press association on issues of open records/meetings.

* Budget? Budget? We don't need no stinking... Basically, my salary and the operating budget for the bureau is the operating budget for all my blogging activities.

Anything else you want to know: mark.binker@news-record.com or 919/832-5549.

mark binker
News & Record

Thanks Mark

Between you, Ryan and Laura I have a whole new appreciation for the crazy world you three operate in ... and heartfelt gratitude that I don't have your jobs. Goodness gracious!

James

PS I'll invite you again later, but I want to make sure that all of you know you're invited to our BlueNC Bloggers Barbecue Bash on April 27th here in Chapel Hill. You may not really want to put a face with a name (it's always very weird), but just in case you're interested, you all are welcome. Like I said, I'll make the invitation more official later.

Maybe Doug Clark will come along with you!

:)

Whatever you are doing, it works.

For some reason I have trended towards your blog over the other ones - sorry Ryan and Laura, I still read your blogs. Maybe its because the number of posts is not overwhelming! Or, maybe it's because you are a good writer.

What do I know.

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

wow, Robert.

Sheesh. I'll tell you what you know. You know how to suck up.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing
-Edmund Burke

Ha!

It's good to suck up to Binker. He has friends who have friends.

Ha! I can't help it if I'm truthful.

You could look at it that I just alienated 2/3 of the major news bloggers in North Carolina!

One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

The opposite of sucking up:

Unnecessarily insulting friends (and myself), which I'm about to do:

when I post I try to bring something novel and/or have something to say.

I agree with this wholeheartedly, and I've seen some trends here (BlueNC) lately that remind me more and more of Dailykos. And I'm not just talking about the "trash your candidate's opponent" diaries, although they pull my Hanes right up there deeply.

The sheer volume of diaries posted has gotten to the point I can only read a fraction of them anymore. Either I'm not missing much or I'm missing a lot, both of which bother me. ;/

so are you telling me this post I've been working on

could wait just a bit longer since there's already so much here? :D (Say yes, I have more roses to get in the ground.)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Yes.

Unless...the post is actually about getting roses into the ground, which has not been covered well here.

But you should still wait, so you can relate other important facts, like how hard/dry the soil was, whether that squirrel was specifically taunting you or if it was more about the birds hopping around, etc.

:)

:D

No...the post is actually a long drawn out affair on the NC presidential primary structure and a detailed look at each congressional district. We will have voted by the time I get it finished. Heck...at this rate the general election will be over.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.