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Comment: Who I am, why I’m here

Submitted by on 1, May 5, 2008 – 7:30 amNo Comment

Alameda is blessed with an abundance of bloggers. So I guess it’s not surprising that at some point, a discussion would erupt over the place that blogs hold in our lives, and whether they are just one blowhard’s opinion or legitimate news sources that can hold their own against mainstream options. Last week, that discussion spilled out across Alameda’s blogosphere. So I thought it would be a good time to talk about what I think blogs can provide.

Local news has been on the decline for decades. The consolidation and corporate takeover of local newspapers (the Sun being a rare exception), major papers’ cutting of “zoned” editions that provided more localized news and the loss of thousands of reporters to layoffs and buyouts over the past couple of years have helped to make this unfortunate trend so. But the need for local news and the community connection that local news sources can provide continues. And I believe bloggers can step, and have stepped, into that breach.

People’s newsgathering habits are changing. Most of us no longer have the time or energy after a busy day of work, T-ball practice, dog walking, dinner and dishes to sit down and read a daily newspaper. Unless we have a train or ferry ride in front of us (one that isn’t punctuated by early-morning cell phone conference calls), we’re not reading the paper then, either. So many of us grab a glimpse of the headlines off the Web in a down moment at work or with the kids, if we have one. The quicker we can get the information, the better.

But who has the right to provide it?

Nowadays, that’s anyone with a computer, an Internet connection and the stomach to do what, when you get down to it, can be a pretty tedious and stressful job. And I would maintain that this is not a bad thing. The blogger who broke the attorney general firing scandal last year won a prestigious Polk Award for his work; others have emerged as the leading tech news source for Silicon Valley. Bloggers provide news in Alameda. But is it the same as what’s offered by newspapers, radio and TV?

I believe blogs and other online media are an experiment whose enormous potential is only beginning to be realized. Yes, we are different from the mainstream. But that’s not necessarily bad. Yes, many blogs are written by people who offer a clear viewpoint on local issues. But when you are publisher, reporter and editor, who else will offer that direction? And yes, some of us have community ties that might be questioned by a traditional media outlet because they could seem to betray a bias. But is it realistic to expect people who write about the communities they live in to never get involved?

I admit I don’t have all the answers, that the rules are still being written. But that’s another great thing about blogs: You might have those answers. And you can share what you know. The information we offer may come with a heavy dose of personality, or opinion, but you know that, and you’ve got a wide range of personalities and opinions to choose from. In our own way, we’re all trying to tell the story of Alameda. And that’s a good thing.

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