So, tell me about those fancy little podcasts you’re doing in Naples …

Boy, it's been awhile since I posted to this baby. Since my last post, I've left my beloved Lawrence, survived a hurricane, launched a couple of large local news sites that damn-near killed me and everyone else working on them, and hired so many people that we've all got to wear name badges.

The biggest thing that surprises me about the move from Lawrence to Naples is how much more gets written about us here, and — to be honest — I was always a little surprised about how much was written about us when we were in Kansas. Just in the last month or so, we've been discussed in the USA Today, Presstime magazine, Editor & Publisher magazine, Salon.com, Red Herring magazine, and we were the cover story in this month's Scripps company magazine.

And from what I'm gathering, there is a lot more coming over the next few months.

Another thing that's surprised me is the amount of visitors we get to our operation, which is kind of fun. Well, until you start feeling less like a journalist and more like a species that is being studied in its natural habitat.

The big news here in Naples is that we're about to launch our new vodcast.

No, we're not trying to be overly hip here and jump on the bandwagon of the latest new media term. 🙂

Naples desperately needs its own newscast. This place is substantially bigger than the last three places I've worked — Lawrence, Topeka and Augusta.

The county that we serve (Collier) has over 315,000 people in it. And no TV news. There are TV stations in Fort Myers, but their coverage of Naples is basically an afterthought.

But I'm not going to talk much about our new vodcast in this post. Instead, I want to talk about our audio podcast, which we launched probably six months ago — and gave us a lot of insight as to how we might approach our own video news reports.

In regards to landing our podcast sponsor, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Let me explain in a very long-winded way how we not only started our podcast, but had a sponsor in place before we had even one listener.

We began producing our weekly high school football podcast in September, I think. We have learned a lot from doing those local sports podcasts, as well as our experiments with podcasting in Lawrence.

We began doing our daily news podcast in October.

One of the things that I realized in Lawrence is that despite some very noble efforts, most newspaper podcasts sound kind of amateur. We wanted to try to make our podcasts in Naples sound as professional as we could, with the big problem being that we are all amateurs, so we needed to try to fake it reasonably well. 🙂

We hired different voice talents from an agency in New York to record different introductions for the overall podcast, as well as segment introductions. Since we were still very much in concept mode as we were doing this, we had one woman read 10 pages of segment openings, including 20 variations for the weather opening alone.

We use lots of music for background in the podcast, except for when the local news is being read. The music is from a music library that we licensed.

We bought nearly every member of the newsroom digital recorders from Radio Shack that cost about $50 each. We are getting a surprising amount of audio from our reporters each day. We also bought the connectors so that reporters could record phone interviews for us.

We also use this audio (usually the full reporter interview) to embed inside the text version of related stories on our site.

Most weeks, we use a ton of audio from our reporters on our high school football podcast.

One thing that we really wanted to do with our daily news podcast was to make sure that there was something in each news podcast that was different than what you could get in print or in our typical online coverage — which is why we do an extended interview (5-10 minutes with a reporter) to get some insider view of a story that is in that morning's newspaper.

I've been blown away by the job our print reporters have done in that segment. I think it shows our readers just how knowledgeable our journalists are about their beats and the things they write about.

We also have our newspaper's editorial page editor read a daily letter to the editor, and our online entertainment editor does a daily segment on the podcast of things from our websites' huge calendar of events.

And I forgot to say that for three days a week, one of our newspaper's copy desk chiefs reads the podcast. The guy definitely sounds like he belongs on NPR.

I love all of this because of the amount of involvement the actual print newsroom has in the podcast. Each day, you can hear three to six people from our news organization involved in our podcast, not to mention the voices of sources and the voices of the "talent" we hired from New York to do all of the intros.

To me, the podcast shows the commitment many of our journalists have in making sure that their content helps our audience … whether they are reading it or listening to it.

We make sure that the podcast is posted very early in the morning (like around 3 a.m. or so) so that it can be downloaded for your morning jog or drive into work.

Here's why I just went into all of that detail — we wanted to really, really make an impression on not only our readers but advertisers with these podcasts.

On a whim, we showed our podcast prototype to an ad agency back in October. By the end of that same day we had a signed annual contract for the sponsorship of our daily news podcast.

We promote the podcast each day with a small house ad that runs in print, along with a very small logo of the presenting sponsor.

We also promote the heck out of the podcast in the story content of our print edition (without the sponsor, of course), with whatever story has our reporter interview.

It's too early to tell if our podcasting is going to be a success. I kind of want to have about 18 months to see what happens both with audience and advertising before I call it a success or failure.

I can tell you that downloads of the podcast usually outnumber the amount of times a local government meeting story is read on our site.

Early anecdotal evidence is that many of the people who listen to the podcast actually listen to it directly on their computer instead of on an iPod or other mp3 player, and we're just fine with that.

OK, now I’m pissed

I’m speaking at a huge college journalism conference this week in Nashville. And to be honest, even though I speak at events all over the world, I’m probably as excited about speaking at this event as I ever have been about talking to a group of folks before.

There are two groups that I love to speak with: publishers who are actually trying to unsuckify newspapers and college journalism students who have a chance of helping to make newspapers less crappy.

When I speak to college students, I always get asked the same question, which is basically if I will talk about my thoughts on the future of journalism and what I think about how J-schools are preparing students.

I should never answer this question.

If I answer this question truthfully, I know that I’m going to piss off academia and possibly scare off students, but those who know me know that I have a very hard time keeping my mouth shut. Especially if I’ve got a microphone in front of me.

But as much as my thoughts might upset some folks, I’m also upset.

Right now, I’m pretty pissed off at most J-schools.

The news media industry is at a very critical point right now, and we need academia to step up and help. It just seems to me that lots of J-schools don’t operate like other areas of universities. If there’s a new life-saving heart operation being developed, it’s coming out of some university’s medical school. If we need to build a better bridge, universities’ engineering departments are figuring out how to do it. But I don’t see that sort of innovation coming out of J-schools. Most J-schools are still churning out the same sorts of graduates that they were 50 years ago.

And, man that puckers my ass.

The newspaper industry is in a place of wild transition right now and the bottom line is we have to have great writers. But, now more than ever, students have to understand all aspects of media.

Big-time local media convergence is coming, and J-schools need to be preparing students for this.

George W. Bush winning a second term means it is highly likely that media cross-ownership regulations are going to be loosened even more. And if that happens, more and more newspaper companies are going to buy local television and radio stations.

Trust me, these huge media companies are into two things — year-to-year revenue growth and figuring out how to make more money while spending less.

And that’s where convergence comes in. Let me explain …

Convergence is not the second coming of the CB radio. I’m convinced it is the future of journalism. The problem is that I fear the rest of the newspaper industry is not going to do it for the same reasons that the company that I’m lucky enough to work for did it.

Here in Lawrence, we are blessed to have a family ownership with lots of very progressive ideas, so progressive that they began laying cable for cable television way back in 1968. It was one of the first cable television companies west of the Mississippi. They took a lot of crap for that because everyone thought TV was free, and that the idea that anyone would pay for it was crazy. Now Lawrence has among the highest rates of cable penetration of any city in the country. It also has the number one high-speed cable modem penetration, or close to it. The owners of this newspaper are early adopters of many things.

Dolph Simons Jr. — the father-like owner of our newspaper — is scared to death of complacency. He always says we must be better tomorrow than we are today. The idea of convergence was not some snappy buzz word for him, but a way to better serve the community he lives in. The Simons family led our convergence efforts, and they did it right. Two or three years ago everyone was talking about the convergence in places like Tampa or Orlando. Now people talk about Lawrence. I wasn’t here when it all began, but my thoughts are that it’s been done right for a long time here in Lawrence — it was just flying under the radar. There are some super smart folks here who probably should be running or at least working at major metro papers.

I believe in convergence and in over-the-top online journalism because it’s the easiest and best way to tell stories to a variety of audiences, even if you don’t have tons and tons of resources. Newspaper readership and television viewership are becoming more and more splintered, and convergence seems responsible to me, especially if you’re in this for the long haul. And having the web component, or at least some significant form of alternate delivery in the mix, is what makes this baby really work.

When I look into the future, I really believe that other companies are going to begin embracing convergence in the next five to ten years, but not for the same reasons this company did.

Can’t you just hear it now? Leaders of big media corporations are going to say that they should own the local newspaper, a local television station and local web sites, and then have one police beat reporter generate all of the reporting for each medium. In their minds they’re going to have three sources of advertising, and have only one staff to produce the content for it. If that happens, it will be a sad day for local journalism.

But I’m guessing it’s going to happen, and it will really suck when it does.

So what does this mean to J-schools?

Whether it’s good convergence or shitty convergence, J-schools better be preparing students for a new kind of journalism.

If my degree were no good in five years, I would be really pissed.

Right now journalism programs should be ensuring that students don’t have blinders on — that they are aware of all aspects of media.

Some of the most closed-minded journalists I have met are 22 years old and right out of J-school. We don’t have time to win them over. If I were graduating right now and I did not know how to run iMovie or understand how layers in Photoshop worked, I would find the dean of my J-school and punch that person in the mouth (or even kick ’em in the grapes) because that school had just done me such a disservice. I’m not saying that knowing how to run iMovie is important in getting a job; I’m saying it is as much about mindset as it is skill set, and the vast majority of recent grads I’ve seen most definitely don’t have the right mindset.

Alright, alright. I’m not really saying you should commit violence against
your dean just because you have no idea how to fire up iMovie. But it’s
going to be damn hard to commit journalism in the near future with the
curriculum that some universities are passing off as journalism education.
Your dean should know that. Maybe you can get something signed from the
dean that once your degree has betrayed you, you can come back to teach
there.

There are some J-schools that are headed in the right direction, but there aren’t enough of them.

I’m not one of those people who likes to point out problems, while not offering any solutions. I have lots of ideas on this. But I’m tired and this thing is already too long. If you want to know my thoughts on taking journalism education into the real world, call me. Don’t e-mail me. Call me. My phone number is all over the Journal-World’s site.

Damn, just like at all of those conferences, I probably should have kept my mouth shut for this question.

But, it’s hard when I’m feeling pissed.

The best multimedia journalist I’ve ever met

Over the last six or seven years, I’ve worked with some of the most amazing and inspirational interactive journalists in the world.

These aren’t people who work at the Washington Post or the New York Times or even MSNBC.com.

At the top of that list are people like the Lawrence Journal-World’s Dave Toplikar (who does more “webifying” to a routine daily city commission story than most online editors do for all of their yearly projects combined), KUsports.com editor Levi Chronister (who has forgotten more about real online sports journalism than most of the folks at ESPN.com know) and Lawrence.com editor Phil Cauthon (who has shown me time-and-time again that it’s a whole lot easier to break the rules if you know and appreciate the rules in the first place).

Tim Richardson, who is in charge of all the daily online content at The Topeka Capital-Journal, is nothing short of brilliant. He’s one of those guys that no newspaper knows that they need until they actually have him.

These folks are journalists who really understand the power of the Internet. To me, these folks are like the Super Friends (or would that be Justice League?) of online storytelling. And I can’t even tell you how lucky I am to have worked with these folks.

Each day when I show up at the News Center to work with these folks, I can honestly say that there isn’t a single one of them who I would ever want to replace even if I could hire anyone in the world and I had the biggest budget on the planet to do it.

They are the online Dream Team, only they won’t lose to the online nerds from Argentina. Trust me, they would kick the Argentinan geeks’ asses.

You don’t shovel over stories from the newspaper and call it online journalism. If you’re doing that, you’re doing a huge disservice to not only your readers, but your company. We have a responsibility here for the future of our industry that few seem to be taking that seriously, but that’s for another blog entry.

Anyway, that’s what these folks understand.

I really want to talk about the amazing multimedia journalists I’m lucky enough to work with in Lawrence. And there are a ton of them here at the Journal-World, which is probably the most-converged news operation in the nation, if not the world.

Here is a list of the badasses I get to work with each day and a representative link to something cool as shit that they’ve helped build for our Web sites here in Lawrence:

Local government reporter Mark Fagan, local political writer Joel Mathis, arts editor Mindie Paget, education reporter Terry Rombeck, anchor and cops reporter Janet Reid, local issues reporter Brooke Wehner, TV sports guys Mike Rigg and Kevin Romary, Jayhawk basketball writer Gary Bedore, entertainment writer Richard Gintowt and photographer Thad Allender are just a few of reporters at the Journal-World, Lawrence.com and 6News. These folks are so damn converged that I’m sure some beancounter at a big chain sees them and starts drooling about what profit-margins might look like with a newsroom full of folks like this who can slide effortlessly between print and television and the Internet.

Then there are the amazing behind-the-scenes folks at the Journal-World who impress the crap out of me almost everyday.

Our Senior Designer, and one of my closest friends, Dan Cox is so damn talented that it’s almost scary. Our Web team has been lucky enough to build the best online newspaper in the nation or in the world every year for probably the last four or five years in a row, as named by either the Newspaper Association of America or Editor and Publisher magazine. And Dan designed nearly all of those sites.

But it’s not just design skills.

Dan *gets* the Internet. He’s a man of few words, but when he says something, nearly everyone in the room goes: “That may be the smartest Internet guy on the planet.”

And talk about the journalistic equivalent of having leprechauns flying out your butt — our lead programmer has a journalism degree. How cool is that? Adrian Holovaty is one of the best young minds in all of journalism (though his University of Missouri education has him misguided from time-to-time — which most University of Kansas J-School grads can confirm this common flaw), and my guess is that the biggest newspaper chains in the world don’t even know that they all need at least one Adrian. Until you’ve worked with a programmer that *really* understands storytelling, then you probably don’t know that you need one.

Now on to my real point.

Believe it or not, talking about all of these incredible people was not the purpose of this blog.

What you’ve just read is the longest introduction ever written by a person with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.

As amazing as all of those people listed above are, none of them are the “best online journalist I’ve ever met.”

Photo by Dick Swanson - Snead photographing passengers on the Warsaw, Poland to East Berlin train.
Photo by Dick Swanson
Snead photographing passengers on the Warsaw, Poland to East Berlin train.

That title goes to Journal-World senior editor Bill Snead. Bill is so damn converged, I’m sure some folks would like to see him get a permanent prescription for doxycycline. And probably rightly so. Bill’s enthusiasm in contagious. Only without the itching.

I’ve worked with some folks who have really mentored me and made a difference in my life.

Back in my reporter days, there was probably no bigger influence in my life than Capital-Journal managing editor Anita Miller. Then when I moved on to Morris Digital Works in Georgia, Michael Romaner was the center of my virtual world. Over the last few years, Capital-Journal publisher John Fish and World Company COO Ralph Gage have given me not only amazing opportunities, but amazing guidance, and I’m not sure how I’ll ever be able to repay them.

But my hero is Bill Snead. He hates it when I say that, but screw it. He deserves to be told how great he is.

Bill is one the best storytellers I’ve ever met, with a list accomplishments that commands respect. Yet, he is one of the most humble men I’ve ever been around.

The first time I met Snead, I was more than a little nervous about it, and I was going to do everything I could not to do or say anything stupid. Because I knew a fair amount of Bill’s history, I had prepared myself to meet a pompous ass. But he is so gracious, so nice, so down to earth, that his stature grew even larger with me each minute I spoke with him.

I try to spend at least 10 minutes with Bill everyday, though I can’t count how many times “10 minutes” has turned into an hour or more.

But this isn’t about Bill Snead being a nice guy. It’s about him being the best multimedia journalist I’ve ever met.

Finally …

In his storied 50-year career as a photojournalist, Bill has never once had a photo show at a studio. And this next week, he has his first.

The Image Point Gallery in downtown Kansas City will be hosting Bill’s first-ever photo show, which will open this Friday, Sept. 3 and run through Oct. 8. The Image Point Gallery is at 1515 Grand Blvd, and the phone number there is 816.474.1518, in case you get lost, like I do.

At the show opening this Friday, there will be a reception from 6 p.m to 9 p.m. Bill will be there to welcome the public.

Do yourself a favor and go. You should go there to see his photos, but you should also go so that you can shake his hand and talk with him for a few minutes.

Because of this photo show, we’ve been building a huge Bill Snead section on our LJWorld.com new site.

It has this massive gallery on it that spans five decades, showcasing his favorite photos.

It has audio clips from his interview last week on the Kansas City NPR station.

But it also has a lots of links to stories Bill has put together for LJWorld.com and KUsports.com. These stories are text-book examples of cutting-edge multimedia storytelling.

  • He writes the stories.
  • He takes the photos (with large online-only galleries as a core component).
  • He shoots the video.
  • He records the interviews so they can be used online.
  • He sets up live online chats with key sources.

And he works with the newspaper, our sister television station and our Web folks to make sure that the stories work well in all three outlets.

Here is a link to the section: www.ljworld.com/billsnead/

Visit the site.

Then go to his photo show.

This is where I work. I know you’re jealous.

For the last two or so years that I have been lucky enough to
work in Lawrence, Kan., with the highly converged news operations of
the Lawrence Journal-World, 6News and all of their associated Web
sites, I’ve always been a little bothered by a link on our main news site that seems to be immensely popular.


The NewsCenter

It’s a link to a story that ran in our newspaper on Sept. 28, 2001.
That was the day the combined newsroom for the Journal-World, 6News and
World Online was formally opened.

We have that story linked up in the main navigation of LJWorld.com
because we get so many questions about our newsroom. The problem is
that the story goes nowhere near doing the space justice, let alone
what it stands for.

First off, it’s not really a newsroom. It’s a building. And a grand one at that.

It was the first federal building in Lawrence, completed in 1906 for
the United States Postal Service. It was enlarged in 1930 and served as
the Lawrence post office until 1965.

In 1999, folks associated with our company bought the building, and an amazing renovation began.

The place looks incredible. I’ve been in newsrooms all over the world, and I’ve never seen one like this.

Plus, it’s so loaded with fascinating contradictions and cool eye candy, that it’s hard not to stop and take notice.

A sense of history and old-fashioned “newspapering” permeate the
building, as do state-of-the-art computers, remote-controlled video
cameras and high-speed wireless Internet hubs.

A gray-haired sports writer can be heard talking about how he
covered Wilt Chamberlain’s days as a Jayhawk, and then five minutes
later, the chancellor from the university will sit down to do a live
online chat with LJWorld.com readers.

Historical photos from the area, as well as great photos from the
Journal-World, line the walls. There’s a Jayhawk statue, which is
probably four or five feet tall, that has the mythical bird portraying
the famous Kansas abolitionist John Brown.

It’s a newsroom where a section front from tomorrow’s newspaper and
sending a breaking news story via SMS to cell-phone subscribers can
(and will) be discussed in the same meeting.

Today, it is fashionable for newspaper publishers to call for better
ways to serve readers and advertisers. But when Dolph C. Simons Jr.,
(grandson of W.C. Simons and the editor and/or publisher of the
Lawrence Journal-World since 1962) addressed the issue at a 1991 event
celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Simons’ family entry into the
Lawrence news business, he sounded like a new-age Nostradamus.

“We believe it is important to look upon our business as an
‘information business,’ not merely a newspaper or a cable television
operation,” Simons said. “We want to stay abreast of new developments
and be able to deliver news and advertising, as well as other
information, however a reader or advertiser might desire.”

I wasn’t working for Dolph Simons when he said that. In fact, I was
barely out of high school. But that quote is one of the reasons I
wanted to work for the Journal-World and was willing to move my family
halfway across the country to do it.

And the News Center is our company’s ode to our belief in and the importance of convergence in our local news strategy.
The newsroom isn’t broken down by medium. It’s broken down by beat.

The reporters all sit together. The city government reporter for the
Journal-World sits right beside the city government reporter for 6News.
The sports folks for the newspaper, 6News and KUsports.com all sit next
to each other.

Because the News Center is the home base for such a uniquely
converged operation, custom news budgeting software had to be developed
that shows what everyone is working on.

In the middle of the main room is huge area where the leaders from
the newspaper, television station and Web sites all do their daily work.

The journalists in the News Center work together, regardless of what the logo on their ID badge says. I love that.

And when folks ask me what the secret has been to our Web sites
winning so many national and international online journalism awards
over the last two years, I know they haven’t visited 645 New Hampshire
in Downtown Lawrence.

Blog on blogs

I get asked about blogs a lot.

This is a little funny to me, because I’m not much of a blogger myself. In fact, I suck.

There are several folks whom I work with on our online staff here in Lawrence who are great bloggers.

But not me. I suck.

Still, it never ceases to amaze me how many folks call or e-mail me on an almost weekly basis to ask what I think about blogs. The questions come mostly from college students, who I’m fairly certain look at me as nothing more than a source-whore for their term paper about a topic that I’m sure they really don’t care about.

The questions I get are mostly about what my thoughts on blogs are and what sort of impact I think blogs will have on journalism.

What’s wild about these questions is that my closest association to blogs is that we have a section on our local entertainment site, Lawrence.com, that is called “blogs.” I’m not sure they actually qualify as what most people consider to be blogs.

When we started the blogs on Lawrence.com, we intended them to be fairly similar to what most think of when they think of blogs: frequently updated posts with an immediate interaction between the writer and the readers. But that isn’t what they’ve become.

The reason the blogs on Lawrence.com aren’t “traditional” blogs (can you believe I just said “traditional” blogs?) is that we left it up to our bloggers to write as they saw fit. There were no assignments, no parametes for how to structure writings, or any of that crap. We just let them go.

The beauty of that is that our blogs on Lawrence.com have become columns on steroids. With a message board attached.

But who cares?

They’re cool. And people are talking about cool things on those pages. And they just feel honest to me — from the language to the topics to the responses.

There is a real sense of community in our blogs on Lawrence.com, and it’s a community that more than likely doesn’t read our daily newspaper, and it probably doesn’t visit our newspaper site.

More important than anything else, our blogs make Lawrence.com feel and taste like Lawrence — maybe not the Lawrence that a 50-year-old resident knows, but definitely the Lawrence that a 20-year-old knows. And that’s exactly what we were after.

Lawrence.com was not built for those over 30. Sure, there are lots of folks who are 30 and over who visit the site, but the site is not specifically for that age of people.

Lawrence.com is more about a state-of-mind. I’m now starting to get a little older. I’m over 30. But I think I am living proof that getting older doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t be immature.

That makes me a good fit with Lawrence.com.

So, let me cut straight to the chase of what most of the college students ask me. No, we have never considered the blogs on Lawrence.com to be journalism. And if they are journalism, it was totally an accident.

There is a lot of talk right now in the news industry about blogs as a way of telling the news. The blogs on Lawrence.com have never been meant to be, nor promoted as, a news vehicle.

That was just never how we envisioned them.

Our bloggers aren’t usually trying to be objective.

Though the blogs are proofread, they are rarely edited, unless a blogger asks us specifically to do it. We read them for libel � and that’s it. (Yes, that means we don’t edit for words that rhyme with ruther rucker.) Once the responses start to the initial blog, there is no editing and little moderating.

The community polices itself. Well, police might be wrong word, but you know what I mean.

And just in case you’re wondering, we have heard complaints from some folks in our newspaper newsroom (well, make that one) that we should edit the blogs.

We even kind of flaunt this a bit at the bottom of every page on our Lawrence.com blogs. Here’s what it says:

“Lawrence.com blogs are collections of short, frequently updated posts by members of the Lawrence community. These folks aren’t necessarily employees of our company, and we don’t necessarily condone, or edit, what they write. Blog writers, and comment posters, are solely responsible for what they say.”

With the blogs on Lawrence.com, the only tie to traditional journalism might be in comparing them very loosely to columns. But even that isn’t a great comparison. Our blogs are much more interactive, creating a direct dialogue between a writer and reader.

Maybe they represent the column of a new millennium.

But not necessarily journalism.

Our company has created several online “brands” — our newspaper’s main site, a sports site dedicated to the University of Kansas Jayhawks and our edgy entertainment site, Lawrence.com.

We’ve created these different online brands for a couple of key reasons:

*** One reason is that we needed to have separate brands from our newspaper so that we could do things that we wouldn’t want to do with the core newspaper Web site.

On KUsports.com, some of the stuff that we do might be considered “boosterism” or just plain goofy, like when we handicapped the odds (updated daily) on who might be the Jayhawks’ next basketball coach.

KUsports.com also is more than a little irreverent. We pride ourselves on having a much different voice in regards to coverage of the Jayhawks than our newspaper has, even though much of the content on KUsports.com actually comes from the newspaper and is re-packaged to fit the site’s tone.

Creating separate brands also means that on Lawrence.com we could take a different tone than our newspaper ever could, such as content that reads much more like a local version of Rolling Stone or Maxim. We use language on Lawrence.com and write about topics that we would never write be able to use or write about in our sister newspaper.

*** Another reason we created separate online brands is because in building an entertainment site full of attitude, being associated with the more conservative and traditional daily newspaper might be more of a liability than it was worth. We literally thought, at least in the case of Lawrence.com, that being associated with the newspaper might hurt us in trying to win over a much-different (and desired) audience.

We essentially created an alternative to ourselves.

This is not a radical concept. Viacom owns the very traditional CBS, but also owns MTV. They have the Super Bowl and Janet Jackson’s nipples. I love that.

Diversified media companies do this to reach the most amounts of people.

My best guess as to the reason why Lawrence.com and its blogs are being talked about so much in the news industry right now is because the site and its content represents one of the first times a “traditional” media company has made such a concerted (and radical) effort to go after an audience that doesn’t read its daily newspaper.

Lawrence.com is not trying to be the Cliff’s Notes version of our local newspaper with edgier headlines and bigger pictures, which seems to be the M.O. of many new “youth” tabloids that are popping up like zits at a junior high dance.

We have never seen Lawrence.com as our daily newspaper’s little brother. In fact, we’ve actually distanced the site from the newspaper.

I would guess the blogs on Lawrence.com are being talked about because of what they represent, not because they are a new form of what some classify as journalism.

So, to get back to the most-commonly asked question from aspiring college journalists, can blogs be journalism?

Absolutely.

Just don’t try to use the blogs on Lawrence.com as examples.

That’s the beauty of publishing into new media. People have been publishing newspapers for a very long time; there are some clear rules and practices that have come about over the course of publishing newspapers for centuries.

But when you try to publish into a different medium that doesn’t have much history, there aren’t a lot of rules, guidelines or even best practices. We very literally are making the rules up as we go.

All of that being said …

Yes, Virginia, I think some blogs could and should be considered journalism.

To be honest, I’ve even seen blogs on Lawrence.com that could considered to be journalism, though that is clearly not what our expectations for blogs are on our site.

Let me tell you what I mean:

After the Jayhawks made it to the Final Four last year, the Lawrence Journal-World published tons and tons of stories about everything related to the game, including how the fans were partying in Lawrence. Though the story in the newspaper about the partying was relatively accurate, it was nothing like the description of the same parties that appeared in one of our blogs.

Now I’m convinced this blogger wasn’t trying to “commit journalism.” He was simply telling people what he saw through his medium of choice.

But damned if his description didn’t come off as not only more accurate, but more real and believable than the story that ran in the newspaper about all of these parties. It was much grittier. Of course, this is also the same guy who after Kelly Osbourne played a show in Lawrence, he basically wrote in his blog that we all should thank God that fat white chicks with no talent now have a role model.

In all fairness, our super-talented Lawrence.com editor, Phil Cauthon, always is trying to foster a mixed bag of bloggers, running the gamut from completely inappropriate up to and including blogs about raising a young family in our hometown. But the community of bloggers on our site always is in flux, so the balance isn’t always even.

And, of course, the comments do as much to shape the tone (and decency level) of the blogs as do the bloggers themselves. It’s a tricky thing to even try to attempt to manage when one of your key content sections is based totally on volunteers, of which all Lawrence.com bloggers are.

I digress, but my point is simple — I’ve read blogs that I would consider to be journalism. Did they adhere to AP style? No. We’re they completely objective? Doubt it. Did they tell the story of what was going on? Definitely.

Is that our expectation for the blogs on Lawrence.com. Hell no.

Another question I’m asked by a lot of college students who must be writing a term paper is: Should blogs be edited? I don’t care either way. I don’t think that it makes them any less of a blog when another set of eyes looks at them, but — as I said earlier — there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules here. That’s why I love this stuff so much.

We use blogs on Lawrence.com as primarily entertainment.

But not exclusively.

A blog absolutely could be (and in some circumstances) should be considered journalism.

I started off my career in the newspaper industry as a reporter. I wanted to be a reporter because I loved telling stories. Many of the blogs I look at, even those on livejournal.com, are trying to tell a story.

Maybe my definition is a bit untraditional, but I definitely think there are a lot of blogs out there that could be considered journalism.

Just not the way that we normally do them on Lawrence.com.

But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t the first things that I read each morning when I log on to the site.

The great American philosopher and poet Gene Simmons once said: I’m much more interested in things that taste good than those things that are in good taste.

And the blogs on Lawrence.com taste good.