I have a confession to make. An issue was on the last council meeting's agenda that makes my confession important. My name is Jim and I am a blogger. I'm sure some of you suspected this. There are clues all over the place. Being hosted by Blogger.com and having blogspot in the name probably made some of you suspicious but it's time to come clean. Yes, it's true. I am a blogger.
So why is this important? Well, at the last council meeting during discussion on press releases and the media it was made clear that blogs and bloggers aren't real media. They don't really provide quality information or news. They are after all only "a Web site on which someone writes about personal opinions, activities, and experiences" according to merriam-webster. So blogs don't need to be taken seriously and the city shouldn't waste time with simple services like emailing press releases. The fact that they acknowledge the existence of blogs at all should be enough. After all, it's not like they're serious news or information providers. Blogs can't be taken seriously. And this is a blog and I am a blogger.
Time to correct the record here. First off, the definition that Merriam webster has online is seriously out of date. Dictionary.com's definition is much closer to current usage with "a Web site containing the writer's or group of writers' own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other Web sites". Even there it doesn't take in the diversity of blogs. Yes, many are just personal diaries or journals with random thoughts and pictures once in a while that share personal experiences with the world. That function is largely moving to social media sites like FaceBook and Twitter with the personal blog on internet now seen as quaint. Some blogs have grown into full grown activist sites with political impact and 501-c3 status. MoveOn.org, no matter what you think of their politics, shows what can grow from just a simple blog.
This blog as never been just about our personal experiences. There is a lot of our personal observations, opinions, and analysis here but that is very much a part of standard news and journalism. We have provided significant coverage to many elections in the past and were the first to provide internet video coverage of local political campaigns. Other news sites have since started doing that. We were the first to start covering the PILOT transfer from the water fund and no, it wasn't stopped in 2004 as some current council discussions have erroneously said. Pilot and what's on the water bill was a significant issue when Ms Farmer first ran for city council in 2005. At that time just over $700,000 was being transferred under the name of PILOT. It took a further 3 years to phase out the PILOT transfer. We have broke a few major news stories and been influential in several elections. We helped defeat a private prison project that could have cost the county millions of dollars. We've had lively discussions, presented many sides to many issues and been involved and had an impact on the local area mostly by being just a blog.
One of the things that upsets most is that this whole issue started because the city stopped sending out emails on press releases to an online information site that really doesn't claim to be or fit the definition of a blog. They may not interact with the cities public information office like the local news paper and tv stations do and the certainly have their own "agenda" and way of providing information and reporting and they are online but that doesn't make them a blog. Much of the same criticism could be leveled against almost any site on the internet that deals in issues and politics. That doesn't automatically make them a blog. The city certainly has the right to decide who it automatically sends press releases to but to say that some online site is "just a blog" and therefore unworthy offends me as a blogger.
Let me make something very clear here. I very much appreciate the work that Anthony Wilson and the rest of the public information staff do. They are doing a great job of getting a lot of information out to the public and making the operation of the city more transparent and most information more accessible. They've managed to work around several major limitations of the current city website design and provide information on various social media sites like FaceBook, Twitter, and youtube. They have won some well deserved awards. I have been and will continue to be critical of some of the way they interact with non-traditional and citizen journalist type of news and information providers (bloggers fit in there) and I still have some questions on how and when the new website will be online and ready. Still, they are doing a good job most of the time. It's hard not to get caught up in the normal city hall type of culture of us vs. them and insiders vs. outsiders and sometimes they slip. Still, there are good people there and I just wish they would be more careful with how they try to categorize sites on the internet. Using their logic their own website could be dismissed as just a blog. Not sure I like that at all. But then again, I'm just a blogger.