Blogs help readers stay cyber-connected

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Talking back to the television can let off a little steam. Talking back to a newspaper can in some instances get a response.

Newspapers and other media outlets are extending themselves beyond the printed page and even beyond their Web sites through the use of a Web log.

You might know it better by its more common name.

Blog.

Blogs allow real-time interaction between reporters and readers, conversation with a moderator who has access to sources and who can check facts.

The unlimited space of a blog allows newspapers to post information that could get edited from the daily paper, and provide links to other sources for additional information.

Almost every newspaper beat lends itself to a blog. The Missourian has two.

In November of 2005 Mike Mitchell, a St. Louis video producer originally from Chaffee, started the Missourian's sports blog after kicking the idea around with publisher Jon Rust.

"He offered me a position and it sounded like fun," Mitchell said.

Since November, according to webmaster James Baughn, 108 bloggers have posted comments on sports, mostly about high school and college football and basketball, and about St. Louis professional sports -- the Cardinals and the Rams. Interest seems to be in local mainstream sports. The blog has received no discussion about hockey, tennis or golf, and only one or two posts about NASCAR, only because some of the drivers on the circuit are from Missouri, Mitchell said.

Brian Roth of Perryville and Allan Mauk of Cape Girardeau both try to check the sports blog daily.

"I really like the fact that previous days' discussions are archived and can be accessed," Mauk said.

Roth says he keeps up with Southeast Missouri State University athletics through the sports blog.

"I like to see other opinions about our athletic department at SEMO," he said.

Mauk likes the interaction among bloggers and the immediacy of keeping up with local sports.

"The best aspect to me is getting to hear other people's thoughts on what the latest news is," he said. "I also like the fact that you can continue discussions over a period of time, even days."

Mitchell began the sports blog when the basketball season opened and is now entering baseball season.

"Not having done it a full year it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the summer," he said.

Business editor Scott Moyers calls his business blog an extension of his Monday business column in the daily paper. Having a blog also makes it possible for him to link readers to other business web sites and to background information that would not normally be included in a news article. When it was rumored that Sears was going to close, Moyers said he was able to link his readers directly to Sears' Web site for further information that dispelled the rumor.

"I got 20 posts about that," he said. "The gentlemen's club at the Purple Crackle was another good one. I reported it first on the blog; it served as a teaser. It's a good way for people who care about business to see what's happening."

Since the business blog opened in late February, it has garnered almost 50 posts, webmaster Baughn said.

Dr. Phibbs Kebble says he checks the blog daily, looking for articles that will help his business grow. Because of the blog, Kebble said, "I have been able to identify a unique opportunity and am putting things into place to capitalize on it."

Others like to know what's new in Cape's business world -- who's coming in and who's leaving.

"I like to know who is downsizing (right-sizing if you are in the manufacturing community)," said blogger Doug Spooler. "I enjoy being one of the first to know about what is gong to affect our local commerce."

Spooler says he checks the business blog twice a day and again at lunch to see if anyone has posted anything new.

The benefits of a blog work two ways.

"I get a lot of good tips from people asking questions," Moyers said. "They can be my eyes and ears."

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