Newspaper blogs are typically written by staff reporters who are asked or conscripted to do so. The LA Times' recent relaunch is a good example. But E-Media Tidbits is highlighting a different take on the phenomenon: the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington has launched a blog using five readers as contributors, who are free to talk about the paper's coverage and content. It's part of the Spokesman-Review's effort to increase "transparency" in journalism. It sounds like a worthwhile endeavor, but we can't help thinking that this particular blog is a, um, transparent attempt to capitalize on a sexy trend. We often hear about blogs opening up a new era of communication and interaction. However, they're often not that much different than many other existing ways of soliciting public feedback and comment, like bulletin boards and online chats. And in the case of the Spokane newspaper, only five people are providing that feedback, while mostly newspaper employees are responding through comments. Here the blog seems more like a hip combination of older feedback mechanisms, such as ombudsman, letters to the editor, and online chats, to name a few. But at least it's a start, a noble experiment in making newspapers more relevant to their readers. If it takes the crass exploitation of a hot trend to get there, then maybe it's still a good thing.
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