This is No Joke

Longtime readers will remember last year’s April Fools shenanigans. To throw a little levity onto the local news gathering community, I announced that the Ledger had purchased Lakeland Local and changed our name to The Local. We even put together a home page similar to the then Ledger home page.

I bring this up because it is barely March and this year’s April Fools joke has already gone awry. I’d planned to announce that due to today’s tough newspaper climate Lakeland Local had purchased The Ledger and turned it into the hyperlocal community focused newspaper I crave. (Surely, you’ve read my various posts on the subject.*)

Yesterday, the owners of The Ledger went and ruined the joke. Reports surfaced that the New York Times is launching two sites that “will mix contributions from New York Times journalists and community members on news and information and tips on everything from property taxes to deer hunts.”

In other words, a pair of hyperlocal news sites. What’s more, they found an eerily familiar name for the project: The Local.

The idea is while many newspapers can’t continue to support the staff to compete with large news outlets on national and international news, they can own what happens in their backyards. — Wall Street Journal

“It’s not the size of the community, it’s the focus of your blog that makes one hyperlocal.” — Lakeland Local

So, New York Times, welcome to the hyperlocal world. Let’s sit down over iced tea and talk pointers.

* – Just a few….
02/02/2009 Buy a Newspaper Today?
10/19/2008 Using New Media Tools to Evolve Old Media
01/24/2008 A Perspective that Matters
10/10/2007 Your Hometown Paper
06/20/2007 Blogs: Hyperlocal Corporate Media
06/18/2007 So, why are you in the paper?
11/22/2006 Attention Lakeland Ledger

25 thoughts on “This is No Joke

  1. But, the most important question of all, are they paying you anything for stealing your idea?

  2. But, the most important question of all, are they paying you anything for stealing your idea?

  3. Even if The Ledger does begin offering some sort of local blog, it will be heads and tails over any other blogs because of the checks and balances. People, such as yourself, who contribute to blogs normally just write what they want and cover what they want. What the public then gets is the writer’s ‘take’ or opinion. These bloggers have no editors. There are no checks and there is no balance.

    If The Ledger does launch a blog, other than fluff like the opening of a city park, you’ll probably see both sides of an issue covered.

    This is not meant to be a criticism. A newspaper is objective. A website such as this one is subjective. The Ledger is covering a story. You’re giving us your ‘take’. Big difference.

  4. Even if The Ledger does begin offering some sort of local blog, it will be heads and tails over any other blogs because of the checks and balances. People, such as yourself, who contribute to blogs normally just write what they want and cover what they want. What the public then gets is the writer’s ‘take’ or opinion. These bloggers have no editors. There are no checks and there is no balance.

    If The Ledger does launch a blog, other than fluff like the opening of a city park, you’ll probably see both sides of an issue covered.

    This is not meant to be a criticism. A newspaper is objective. A website such as this one is subjective. The Ledger is covering a story. You’re giving us your ‘take’. Big difference.

  5. Bob,

    You make a point of stating newspapers are “objective” and this site is “subjective.” To make sure we have the same understanding: objective – “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased” and subjective – “pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual”

    I’ll stand on my soapbox and simply state: if you believe any news organization is 100% objective, then you have a subjective definition of the word.

    You prefer editors to make the decision what is covered. I ask if you can name the editors of your favorite newspaper? Do you know why they choose to send reporters after certain stories while others gather dust? Have you asked why a certain story is on B1 and another makes B5?

    I’m not implying any editor makes these decisions out of malice, but each has biases. Each believes some stories should be played up and others played down. Each assigns reporters based on the needs of the paper, and their understanding of the reporter’s abilities, knowledge, and experience. Some believe editors make those decisions based on what sells papers, some because he (or she) has an ax to grind. But even the best must admit to themselves there are stories and reporters they prefer. A newspaper can’t cover everything, so they use their resources to give the best return.

    And resources are the key. Both newspapers and sites such as Lakeland Local cover what they can according to their resources.

    As of today, most newspapers have more resources than we do. Therefore, they cover more than we can.

    The articles you read on Lakeland Local are factual. Contributors contact sources, sit in meetings, investigate paper trails.

    At the end of the process, we craft an article containing facts. Do we also give analysis? Often. Is analysis biased? Of course, and it is biased no matter where it is published.

    Where citizen journalism has taken a large step…that many traditional media have followed…is to explain our backgrounds and biases as often as possible. We take you through the steps we took. If you come to a different conclusion, we open the comments for your response.

    You might want to take a closer look at the Ledger. They’ve had their reporters writing blog posts for many months.

    The Ledger understands that readers can tell a difference between a straight news story and commentary. Readers have had little trouble doing so through most of the 20th century. (I could take you on a journalism history tour from “yellow” to “gonzo” and all before, between, and after. But I’ll save that as an exercise for the reader.)

    Throughout that time we’ve all relied on the integrity of the reporter. Major newspapers, those with your checks and balances, have been burned. You might want to Google the names Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, and Jack Kelly. You’ll find “checks & balances” works only as well as the people that use them.

    Newspapers must trust their reporters will gather and return the facts. Many newspapers today have let go librarians, fact checkers, and copy editors to cut costs. The staff is overworked and still doing a pretty good job.

    I’m not saying newspapers are less trustworthy than when Blair, Glass, and Kelly worked the system. I’m simply saying it comes down to readers learning to read with a discriminating eye, and calling out when they find an error.

    That leads to one of commonalities between a newspaper and this site. We’re both willing to stand behind what we write. If one of us writes something you consider in error, say so in a comment. We’ll place a correction in the exact same place the original story ran. (Not even most newspapers will be that precise. Front page errors rarely are reported on the front page.)

    Many newspapers are failing. Those still making a go are cutting staff. That means governmental meetings go uncovered.

    Veteran reporters are complaining no one has the time to follow up on police shootings. That some reporters lack the experience with the law to understand when a governmental clerk breaks a law by stating “no, you can’t have that information.”

    There are citizen journalism sites sprouting up all over the world. Not to replaced newspapers. I don’t think anyone expects that to happen. We’re here to catch what the newspaper might miss, skip, or simply can’t cover. We’re here to do a little part to help. To paraphrase, “It takes a village to raise awareness.”

    I’ll stand behind everything I’ve written. That’s why I sign my real, full name. I cover the community where I live, work, and raise my child. If I wasn’t proud of what all of us do, I wouldn’t be able to walk these streets.

  6. Bob,

    You make a point of stating newspapers are “objective” and this site is “subjective.” To make sure we have the same understanding: objective – “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased” and subjective – “pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual”

    I’ll stand on my soapbox and simply state: if you believe any news organization is 100% objective, then you have a subjective definition of the word.

    You prefer editors to make the decision what is covered. I ask if you can name the editors of your favorite newspaper? Do you know why they choose to send reporters after certain stories while others gather dust? Have you asked why a certain story is on B1 and another makes B5?

    I’m not implying any editor makes these decisions out of malice, but each has biases. Each believes some stories should be played up and others played down. Each assigns reporters based on the needs of the paper, and their understanding of the reporter’s abilities, knowledge, and experience. Some believe editors make those decisions based on what sells papers, some because he (or she) has an ax to grind. But even the best must admit to themselves there are stories and reporters they prefer. A newspaper can’t cover everything, so they use their resources to give the best return.

    And resources are the key. Both newspapers and sites such as Lakeland Local cover what they can according to their resources.

    As of today, most newspapers have more resources than we do. Therefore, they cover more than we can.

    The articles you read on Lakeland Local are factual. Contributors contact sources, sit in meetings, investigate paper trails.

    At the end of the process, we craft an article containing facts. Do we also give analysis? Often. Is analysis biased? Of course, and it is biased no matter where it is published.

    Where citizen journalism has taken a large step…that many traditional media have followed…is to explain our backgrounds and biases as often as possible. We take you through the steps we took. If you come to a different conclusion, we open the comments for your response.

    You might want to take a closer look at the Ledger. They’ve had their reporters writing blog posts for many months.

    The Ledger understands that readers can tell a difference between a straight news story and commentary. Readers have had little trouble doing so through most of the 20th century. (I could take you on a journalism history tour from “yellow” to “gonzo” and all before, between, and after. But I’ll save that as an exercise for the reader.)

    Throughout that time we’ve all relied on the integrity of the reporter. Major newspapers, those with your checks and balances, have been burned. You might want to Google the names Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass, and Jack Kelly. You’ll find “checks & balances” works only as well as the people that use them.

    Newspapers must trust their reporters will gather and return the facts. Many newspapers today have let go librarians, fact checkers, and copy editors to cut costs. The staff is overworked and still doing a pretty good job.

    I’m not saying newspapers are less trustworthy than when Blair, Glass, and Kelly worked the system. I’m simply saying it comes down to readers learning to read with a discriminating eye, and calling out when they find an error.

    That leads to one of commonalities between a newspaper and this site. We’re both willing to stand behind what we write. If one of us writes something you consider in error, say so in a comment. We’ll place a correction in the exact same place the original story ran. (Not even most newspapers will be that precise. Front page errors rarely are reported on the front page.)

    Many newspapers are failing. Those still making a go are cutting staff. That means governmental meetings go uncovered.

    Veteran reporters are complaining no one has the time to follow up on police shootings. That some reporters lack the experience with the law to understand when a governmental clerk breaks a law by stating “no, you can’t have that information.”

    There are citizen journalism sites sprouting up all over the world. Not to replaced newspapers. I don’t think anyone expects that to happen. We’re here to catch what the newspaper might miss, skip, or simply can’t cover. We’re here to do a little part to help. To paraphrase, “It takes a village to raise awareness.”

    I’ll stand behind everything I’ve written. That’s why I sign my real, full name. I cover the community where I live, work, and raise my child. If I wasn’t proud of what all of us do, I wouldn’t be able to walk these streets.

  7. Pingback: Lakeland Local » This is No Joke at Bydio

  8. Tribune: One of our concerns with the Orlando rail plan is how it might affect Tampa and Lakeland. CSX told us they are moving more freight trains to this side of the state and wouldn’t allow passenger trains on freight lines here. What are your thoughts on that?

    Mica: That’s not true. What they have said is that their plans right now wouldn’t be to do anything. I don’t have a proposal from this area. That’s why I’m saying this area has to get in the mix. Most of existing rights of way are owned by CSX. If you pee on CSX’s parade in Central Florida, do you think they’re going to cooperate with other entities?

    Uh, yes it is true, unless you pay CSX giant access extortion fees and put it in complete control of all rail policy in the state and build it whatever it wants. Trust me, pee or not pee, CSX is not going to “cooperate with other entities.” It is going to dictate.

    Say this with me for the 8,000th time: John Mica doesn’t care a whit about commuter rail. Mica cares about using taxpayer money to construct a single, massive freight rail corridor through west Central Florida and otherwise putting in place CSX’s business plan for the state with no consideration for how it affects communities. The crappy Orlando system is a fig leaf.

    The above is an excerpt from an article on this website. Tribune: Is it true. Mica: No it’s not true.

    The author then goes on to write that it is not true. The author begins giving his opinion. This would never pass at a legitimate news-gathering organization.

    I may want to know why one side isn’t in favor of something. I also want to know what the other side has to say. But you don’t quote the other side then trash what they said. That is subjectivity not objectivity.

    If you’re going to call yourself a journalist, your job is only to inform.

  9. Tribune: One of our concerns with the Orlando rail plan is how it might affect Tampa and Lakeland. CSX told us they are moving more freight trains to this side of the state and wouldn’t allow passenger trains on freight lines here. What are your thoughts on that?

    Mica: That’s not true. What they have said is that their plans right now wouldn’t be to do anything. I don’t have a proposal from this area. That’s why I’m saying this area has to get in the mix. Most of existing rights of way are owned by CSX. If you pee on CSX’s parade in Central Florida, do you think they’re going to cooperate with other entities?

    Uh, yes it is true, unless you pay CSX giant access extortion fees and put it in complete control of all rail policy in the state and build it whatever it wants. Trust me, pee or not pee, CSX is not going to “cooperate with other entities.” It is going to dictate.

    Say this with me for the 8,000th time: John Mica doesn’t care a whit about commuter rail. Mica cares about using taxpayer money to construct a single, massive freight rail corridor through west Central Florida and otherwise putting in place CSX’s business plan for the state with no consideration for how it affects communities. The crappy Orlando system is a fig leaf.

    The above is an excerpt from an article on this website. Tribune: Is it true. Mica: No it’s not true.

    The author then goes on to write that it is not true. The author begins giving his opinion. This would never pass at a legitimate news-gathering organization.

    I may want to know why one side isn’t in favor of something. I also want to know what the other side has to say. But you don’t quote the other side then trash what they said. That is subjectivity not objectivity.

    If you’re going to call yourself a journalist, your job is only to inform.

  10. The post you quoted is found here: http://www.lakelandlocal.com/2008/12/tribune-attacks-spt-declares-it-wont-shut-down-after-the-super-bowl/

    It’s also by Billy Townsend. I won’t venture to say what Billy calls himself now, but for a long time he was a journalist with the paper he quoted.

    If you believe journalists never write commentary, or that editorialists never write news, then I can’t help you any further.

    The people that write for this site don’t have the luxury of wearing a single hat. We do everything from features to breaking news to commentary to sports.

    I appreciate you take the time to read us. I do hope you get a chance to follow more than the CSX/Winter Haven pieces.

  11. The post you quoted is found here: http://www.lakelandlocal.com/2008/12/tribune-attacks-spt-declares-it-wont-shut-down-after-the-super-bowl/

    It’s also by Billy Townsend. I won’t venture to say what Billy calls himself now, but for a long time he was a journalist with the paper he quoted.

    If you believe journalists never write commentary, or that editorialists never write news, then I can’t help you any further.

    The people that write for this site don’t have the luxury of wearing a single hat. We do everything from features to breaking news to commentary to sports.

    I appreciate you take the time to read us. I do hope you get a chance to follow more than the CSX/Winter Haven pieces.

  12. Even though I live in Winter Haven, I do read your website and read more than the CSX stuff.

    Journalists do write commentary. However, when they do, it’s on the Op-Ed page.

    Locally, at The Ledger, Lonnie Brown writes a lot of the editorials. However, were he to write an editorial that came out against a Lakeland City Commission candidate, then covered a news conference on the race, you would not be able to tell from his news story that he wrote an editorial opposing a candidate. In other words, his news coverage would be obejctive. You would not be able to tell where his biases lay.

  13. Even though I live in Winter Haven, I do read your website and read more than the CSX stuff.

    Journalists do write commentary. However, when they do, it’s on the Op-Ed page.

    Locally, at The Ledger, Lonnie Brown writes a lot of the editorials. However, were he to write an editorial that came out against a Lakeland City Commission candidate, then covered a news conference on the race, you would not be able to tell from his news story that he wrote an editorial opposing a candidate. In other words, his news coverage would be obejctive. You would not be able to tell where his biases lay.

  14. Sad, isn’t it?

    I think you’re just too used to knowing what you’re reading based on the location in the paper. You have to be careful when those columns and commentary show up somewhere other than Op-Ed.

    Here, you have to look at a column and ask yourself, is this commentary? a column? an article? sports?

    The beauty of hyperlocal writing on this site is the transparency. I have no doubt you know which is which, no matter where you find it on Lakeland Local.

    I’m not sure of your job. If you’re retired, or have a free hour or two, would you consider covering the Winter Haven city meetings? We could use someone doing that for MetroI4News.com. Sadly, I couldn’t pay you. We’re all doing this for free. It’s more of a calling than a profession these days.

  15. Sad, isn’t it?

    I think you’re just too used to knowing what you’re reading based on the location in the paper. You have to be careful when those columns and commentary show up somewhere other than Op-Ed.

    Here, you have to look at a column and ask yourself, is this commentary? a column? an article? sports?

    The beauty of hyperlocal writing on this site is the transparency. I have no doubt you know which is which, no matter where you find it on Lakeland Local.

    I’m not sure of your job. If you’re retired, or have a free hour or two, would you consider covering the Winter Haven city meetings? We could use someone doing that for MetroI4News.com. Sadly, I couldn’t pay you. We’re all doing this for free. It’s more of a calling than a profession these days.

  16. “It’s also by Billy Townsend. I won’t venture to say what Billy calls himself now…”

    Uhh, late for dinner?

    Honestly, I don’t really understand this definitional obsession that some people have. I am what I do, not what I call myself. I happen to be quite proud of that passage mentioned above. I’m happy to defend it either online or face-to-face. That’s all that matters. If you must define me as something, define me “as a dude who writes what he thinks for free on a non-profit, non-income blog and can back it up – or retract if he’s wrong and called out on it – and will engage any critic not taking psychotropic drugs.”

    I guess that doesn’t fit well on a business card. oh well, neither do I.

  17. “It’s also by Billy Townsend. I won’t venture to say what Billy calls himself now…”

    Uhh, late for dinner?

    Honestly, I don’t really understand this definitional obsession that some people have. I am what I do, not what I call myself. I happen to be quite proud of that passage mentioned above. I’m happy to defend it either online or face-to-face. That’s all that matters. If you must define me as something, define me “as a dude who writes what he thinks for free on a non-profit, non-income blog and can back it up – or retract if he’s wrong and called out on it – and will engage any critic not taking psychotropic drugs.”

    I guess that doesn’t fit well on a business card. oh well, neither do I.

  18. OK, that’s exactly what our new cards say..except Cat, Darby, and Lorrie have “Dudette” on their cards. I did bold “psychotropic drugs” after that phone call I received.

  19. OK, that’s exactly what our new cards say..except Cat, Darby, and Lorrie have “Dudette” on their cards. I did bold “psychotropic drugs” after that phone call I received.

  20. Unbelievable. Now, the Ledger gets your creds, so hard fought for, and sometimes won.

    I have a vested interested in Lakeland news/NY Times group, even though about a year ago, I made the decision to discontinue paying for my local NYT affiliate newspaper. If any of your readers believe editors don’t kill stories – for political, social, space, or ideological reasons, you’re deluding yourselves.

    Okay, Lakeland Local, “Keep on keepin’ on,” as the old hippie days poster stated.

    I know I will get just as objective an opinion out of Billy and Chuck, as I would get out of the Ledger, or my Star-Banner – on any given day.

    I read left- and right-wing stuff, and decide how much of which side is bull – an old agrarian term – and how much might just have a thread of truth.

    “Trust no one” as Mulder would have said.

    Did you have the presence of mind to do a copyright, or trademark registration, Chuck? You may be a wealthy man in the not-too-distant future…

    Just my opinion, worth just what it cost ya.

  21. Unbelievable. Now, the Ledger gets your creds, so hard fought for, and sometimes won.

    I have a vested interested in Lakeland news/NY Times group, even though about a year ago, I made the decision to discontinue paying for my local NYT affiliate newspaper. If any of your readers believe editors don’t kill stories – for political, social, space, or ideological reasons, you’re deluding yourselves.

    Okay, Lakeland Local, “Keep on keepin’ on,” as the old hippie days poster stated.

    I know I will get just as objective an opinion out of Billy and Chuck, as I would get out of the Ledger, or my Star-Banner – on any given day.

    I read left- and right-wing stuff, and decide how much of which side is bull – an old agrarian term – and how much might just have a thread of truth.

    “Trust no one” as Mulder would have said.

    Did you have the presence of mind to do a copyright, or trademark registration, Chuck? You may be a wealthy man in the not-too-distant future…

    Just my opinion, worth just what it cost ya.

  22. Chuck,

    Thanks for the offer. I do consider that a compliment. Unfortunately, I do work and could not do it.

    Please put an aspirin in an ice cube tray and, when it freezes, give it to Mr. Townsend as a chill pill.

    I wasn’t questioning his manhood. I was merely stating that his article would have been on the Op-Ed page of a newspaper.

    You bring up a good point about transparency, though.

    By the way, the word definitional is a noun and should, therefore, not be used as an adjective.

  23. Chuck,

    Thanks for the offer. I do consider that a compliment. Unfortunately, I do work and could not do it.

    Please put an aspirin in an ice cube tray and, when it freezes, give it to Mr. Townsend as a chill pill.

    I wasn’t questioning his manhood. I was merely stating that his article would have been on the Op-Ed page of a newspaper.

    You bring up a good point about transparency, though.

    By the way, the word definitional is a noun and should, therefore, not be used as an adjective.

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