First off, welcome. There’s a good chance you’re here because you read today’s Ledger. At least, I’ll assume you read the article, Bloggers Take CSX Debate to a Worldwide Forum.
For those of you who’ve never been interviewed, it makes you nervous. You want to make sure you say what you mean, and that the reporter gets it right.
In my case, the Ledger reporter, John Chambliss, got it right. Mostly. I’ll clear up a couple of points further down this post.
My thoughts? I liked the article. Chambliss did a good job keeping his audience in mind. Most of the Ledger’s readers don’t read blogs. A good number barely have heard the term. He introduced the concept and how it was relevant to his readers. Right off the bat he explained what blogs are.
That said, any sentence that starts out “Blogs are….” is set up to fail. You want to know what blogs are? Blogs are exactly what you want them to be.
See? That didn’t satisfy you. Chambliss quotes USF professor Susan MacManus. If she had said, “Hyperlocal blogs are often…” the rest of the quote would have spot on.
Lakeland Local is a hyperlocal blog — an online report of the activities of a community. It’s my goal to write about the people, events, issues, and nuances that are Lakeland. Many hyperlocal bloggers will simply report events, and point to items important to the community. Sometimes, a hyperlocal blog is the work of a group of citizens, but they usually reflect a single voice.
Lakeland Local is the work of a single person. It’s going to reflect my values and concerns. Stories covered are going to be filtered through my education and experiences.
For example, from an early age I was taught to ask questions. I was born during a time when the average citizen started questioning politicians. Many wondered if the people running the country really did have their best interests at heart. My opinion is that most are in politics truly say what they believe, but I think some politicians and business leaders believe in Plato’s Noble Lie.
That’s where reporters, and concerned citizens must come in. There has to be someone outside the power structure who asks, “Why?”
And that, dear reader, is what I love to do.
Since I’m talking about Chambliss’ article, let me ask “Why?” Why a story about bloggers now?
I have no idea who first got the idea for the story. Chambliss called me out of the blue and asked some questions. I know he had already spoken to Bob Gernert, because he wanted a reaction to one of Gernert’s points. He told me he was going to call Josh. That was at least two weeks ago.
Chambliss told me Bob Gernert admitted he had a bias, but that so did the others. I agreed. I don’t believe neutrality exists. You may not have a bias on a very particular subject. However, I think everyone has a set of biases. It’s just important to note them early and often.
And that leads us to the first point I’d like to clear up. I’m not anti-CSX. At least, I’m not to this point. The company is just another in a long line of companies I’ve questioned. All those companies had the same goal — make a profit. I don’t blame them for that. It’s their nature.
Over at the Polk County Rail Hub, you can find links to every story I’ve found about the CSX/Winter Haven project; all the local media, the national media, and even the small amount written by CSX. I did that for a single reason: so a concerned citizen could better track the story as it developed. So that citizen can come to his or her own conclusions.
So, if I’m not anti-CSX, what am I? The CSX story has taught me more about select persons in Winter Haven and Lakeland than CSX. If anything, you could accurately say I’m anti-B.S.
So, why did I start writing about the CSX story? Remember, I cover Lakeland. As far as I was concerned, the Winter Haven CSX story was in Josh’s realm. It was only after reading the work of Tribune reporter Billy Townsend that I realized this was very much also a Lakeland issue and Lakeland officials were not on top of it.
So I looked into it and started asking, “why.” And “what?” and “who?” and “where?” I won’t restate all that here. If you want to see exactly what I’ve written, the CSX tab above will link to every CSX story on Lakeland Local.
So, to be clear. I’m not anti-CSX. I just have found the words of some local politicians and business leaders disingenuous. I also don’t believe Lakeland government officials were in front of this story as well as they should have been. Plus, for a period of months, the Ledger didn’t cover the story well enough. But, check out the CSX archive to see what I’ve written. Decide for yourself.
And that leads to a point that I’d like to emphasize. Chambliss quoted me, “Now I can write something and over three or four weeks, I might get 40 people,” Welch said. “It’s a chance to have activism like the 60s, without having the rallies.”
I think that was in the middle of a discussion about the influence of hyperlocal blogs. I seem to remember adding that though the audience was small, they were concerned. And they’d talk to their friends, who would talk, and so on.
I’ve no illusions about the size of my audience. I’m not writing in Washington DC on a hot topic. But sheer numbers isn’t the point. Chambliss was correct. I don’t check my numbers. As I told him, I write this blog for myself, and if there is ever anyone I want to impress, it’s my wife.
But, I feel a hyperlocal blog can keep a small town issue on the front burner while the local media jumps to the latest news of Anna Nicole Smith. I told Chambliss that small community hyperlocal blogs probably influence reporters more than anyone. Often, hyperlocal bloggers add points the media missed or couldn’t cover due to space concerns. Hyperlocal bloggers tend to stay focused on a subject longer than the media does. For example, how often do you see the CSX story on the front page? We keep the story simmering until they come back to it.
As I said, I just had a couple of points of clarification with Chambliss’ article. If you have any other questions, please feel free to comment below.
Please, check back tomorrow, for a report on tonight’s CSX-themed meeting of the Florida Bipartisan Civic Affairs group. I’ll also have a post exactly why Winter Haven Blog does not equal Polk County News Blog does not equal Lakeland Local.
Oh, I just had a friend call and ask why I wasn’t pictured. Chambliss called, but I successfully dodged that bullet. Thank you very much. I hate photos of myself. If you must see me, take a look here.