Done With Detroit

My stint with the Detroit News Politics Weblog is now done — it was a 30-day gig and today is day 30 — so long-time Whatever readers who couldn’t bring themselves to make that extra click will undoubtedly be relieved that all my political ranting will now once again be placed within these friendly confines.

I’ve also invited the people who’ve been reading the Politics Weblog to come by here, so on the off-chance you’ve actually followed that link here, hi there. Come look around. Right now as it happens I’ve got a nice mix of entries up here on the front page, so just keep scrolling and undoubtedly you’ll find something interesting (or enraging). And unlike the DetNews Blog, you can comment directly on everything I say, so, you know, don’t be shy.

This was the first time I’d ever done the “group blog” thing, and I found the experience fairly interesting. The Detroit News asked us (or asked me, in any event) not to make any personal attacks on fellow bloggers, and as far as I know no one did, but there was some interaction. I know I spent several posts (especially near the end of my run), whacking back at blog entries posted by Detroit News editorial writer George Bullard, on account the gentleman had a tendency to write short, punchy posts that showed what I think is a oft-used conservative tactic of trying to ignore reality by stating the opposite of reality as if it were fact (liberals might use this same tactic, but no one seems to pay attention to them when they do). So, for example, he would post about how Richard Clarke’s 9/11 committee testimony had completely fizzled, apparently oblivious to the fact that the Clarke testimony was so damaging to the White House that Condi “you can’t get me under oath nyah nyah nyah” Rice is now testifying to the committee in public and under oath. I have a real aversion to alternate reality fields, especially when they’re used in my immediate vicinity. This guy’s got one, and it uses up a whole bunch of nine volts.

Having said that, I will note that at least Bullard wrote blog posts in a style that wasn’t the skim-milk copy style of today’s newspapers, which the other DetNews staff members-cum-bloggers seem stuck doing. I don’t doubt that other bloggers who are Detroit News staffers have personalities and opinions, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from their blog posts.

Now, before it looks like I’m just slagging on them for no good reason, let me note that it’s highly possible these folks purposely keep their tone muted because their real-life jobs require them to approach news stories as evenly as possible; if the Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief rips Bush a new one in a blog post, she might have problems getting White House access later (oh, come on. This White House plays favorites. Every White House plays favorites). And I totally understand that — one of the reasons I don’t rant and rave on my By the Way AOL Journal like I do here is that it’s not really in the job description. I don’t care if I alienate people here; this is my personal space, I say what I want. But on AOL’s time, I’m more helpful and (heh) politic.

(It may also be that these reporters and editors have, you know, real jobs writing real news stories, and the blog comes as an afterthought. Having worked at a newspaper, I know things get busy.)

But if you have reporters or editors whose positions make it difficult for them to spout political opinions, why on earth would you have them contribute to a blog that promises “Political coverage with attitude”? Were I the Detroit News, I would ditch the staff members that can’t or won’t give attitude and opinion and replace them with staff members who can. I’d rather read the gardening reporter vent on same-sex marriages or taxes than read the Washington Bureau Chief plod through an entry. And yes, it means that if I were running the DetNews PoliBlog, I’d keep Bullard. Alternate reality field or not, he gets you going — and that’s what I’d want a political blog with attitude to do.

I think the Detroit News has done a pretty good job with the non-pros — a nice mix of people, opinions and attitudes, and not just because it was nice enough to invite me to do a stint. And I give the Detroit News high marks for inviting non-pros into their fold at all, which is something I’m not seeing a lot of other newspapers its size doing. This sort of thing is smart in the short run (it’s cheap content, since it’s not like the guest bloggers are getting paid, and I doubt the staff bloggers are getting paid extra), and it’s smart in the long run (it’s called making ties to your community, online and offline).

So in all, a positive experience for me, and I give the Detroit News a big thumbs up for the effort on the blog, with the caveat that it needs to get the staff writer side of the equation to loosen the hell up and actually blog, or find staff members for whom it’s not a problem. In any event, I’ll be keeping it on my bookmarks list.

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