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December 9, 2008

Letter from Soccer Mom to C.W. Nevius


My little post asking whether the Contra Costa Times planned to oursource its reporting and editing overseas has touched off a bit of a firestorm, particularly after San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius, in an interview with CBS5, made somewhat dismissive remarks about how local bloggers are rising up to fill the local news void abandoned by the traditional print media.


The Mayor of Claycord called Nevius's comments "stupid," while CBS5.com Eye on the Blogs Brittney Gilbert said his comments were "to put it mildly, lacking."


"Apparently C.W. Nevius doesn't read blogs like A Better Oakland, whose author attends city council meetings and reports on those events," Gilbert wrote. "He must not also be aware of Claycord.com, whose Mayor has generated a healthy community of tipsters and readers who break news consitently (and correctly) in their cities. Because C.W. Nevius said that he doesn't think blogs will usurp mainstream media for local reporting because blogs rip off mainstream media organizations.


Here's an email I've sent to Mr. Nevius. I've heard that he's very intrigued by this whole issue. I've often read his columns, so I know he's a thoughtful person. Perhaps if he gets the time, he'll respond.


Mr. Nevius,
First, let me say that I am a regular reader of both of the print and online editions of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Contra Costa Times. I have been reading both papers since I was a teenager. As a Contra Costa native, who moved away for a while, then moved back, I very much enjoyed reading your Contra Costa-related columns. I am also a working journalist. I know people you work with. I know people you have worked with and who have been laid off. It's obvious that the Chronicle has retreated from covering the East Bay suburbs like it once did. I'm very sorry newspapers are hurting. I'm a former daily newspaper reporter myself. I don't want to see the Times or Chronicle go out of business. I don't want to see more journalists lose their jobs.

Thanks for participating in the discussion about the outsourcing of reporting that my little post, Will the CoCo Times’ Reporting of WC City Council Meetings and Other Local News Be Outsourced to Writers in India? prompted on CBS5.

You were quoted in your soundbite as saying:
Bloggers do a nice job and that’s fine. But what I see bloggers doing is taking the raw material they get from news organizations like this and riffing off of it.If the bloggers didn’t have us to do the start of the work for them, I don’t know what they’d blog on. So, I’d be interested to see how that happens. They’re talking pretty big now, we’ll see where they go.


I would say I'm guilty of that, taking the raw material we get from news organizations like yours. But riffing off of it? Hmm. That's what KCBS and KGO radio have always been doing, and what the TV stations have been doing. I know that first hand. What's the difference? Back when I was a reporter, I broke a fair number of stories, then saw them ripped off by the radio and TV stations, who didn't have the decency to attribute them to my work. At least I give credit to the stories I rip off from any newspaper.


I also take exception to any traditional media personality holding himself above bloggers such as the Mayor of Claycord at claycord.com. He really works his ass off. He has a day job. He's not getting paid for it. He does it for the love of it.


As for me, I don't have the Mayor's kind of energy. And as much as I'd love to be doing his kind of news website, with a day job and a family, I don't have the time. The Mayor and some other local bloggers are true models of what journalism, at its core, should be. He and these other bloggers really care about the communities they cover--unlike some professional reporters, especially those hip urbanites who commute from SF, Berkeley, or Oakland, and then have to report on their "boring" suburban beats. I know reporters like that. I used to be one, and I used to think the suburbs were just oh-so boring. Now, I know they are anything but.


The Mayor and these other bloggers promote community dialogue, and try to tell readers the truth, and give them a forum to talk about the issues they really care about. He and these other bloggers report on those community issues that "professional" newspaper reporters and editors might consider beneath them, those community issues that people really care about. Hey, I remember doing a lot of "eye-rolling" myself at having to go out and cover that car crashing into the fire hydrant.


You know one reason newspapers are failing? I have my theory, as someone who worked in daily newspapers. There is that condescending, we-are-theguardians-of-information, we-know-what's-best-for-you attitude exuded by most reporters and editors I have ever worked with. I was certainly guilty of thinking I knew better than readers what they should care about. And, who still believes that the old white boys network is not alive and well at daily newspapers, even today, is an idiot and in denial.


Now, with my silly, crazy little blog, I just write about what I'm interested in. If there are readers who want to go along for my ride, so be it.


Meanwhile, what's going on with the Chronicle anyway? Why are you doing your column from San Francisco instead of from Contra Costa County? Is there a Contra Costa bureau? Why did the Chronicle pull out? Do you honestly think that newspapers now are doing a good job of covering their local communities? I don't. I'm not saying it's the fault of individual reporters or editors, who I know work hard for little pay and are probably being expected to do more with less.


So, of course, others will rise up to fill that hunger for locals for news about their communities. That certainly is happening in the East Bay.


Again, I have long admired your work, and I think in those soundbites you made some good points. I wish you and the Chronicle well. I wish that some in newspapers didn't see bloggers as second-class journalists or as competitors but as complements to what they are trying to do: serve and inform the communities they cover.
Yours truly,
Soccer Mom

3 comments:

Mayor of CLAYCORD said...

Great job, Soccer Mom! I think you will go far in this little blogging industry, after all, you had the idea for my most popular post to date :)

I've been wondering all day what you had to say about CW's comments, thanks for letting us know! :) Keep up the good work!

hapamama said...

I've been so disappointed with the CoCo Times and Chronicle's coverage of news that's local to me that these days the first place I go to is claycord.com, or in a pinch, I check the rumor mill up at my kids' school.

Mayor of CLAYCORD said...

Thanks, Hapamama! :)