CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The crash landings seem to be outnumbering the takeoffs. While the Ohiosphere fulminated over the departures of indy bloggers Jill Zimon and Jeff Coryell from The Plain Dealer's now closed Wide Open, there was another ugly episode involving newspaper blogging at the metro daily in Indianapolis. An African American editorial writer at the Indianapolis Star was sent packing for what his newsroom bosses considered a racially crude posting about a city official, who also is black.
RiShawn Biddle's attack on the city and county council president was quickly pulled down from Expresso, the paper's blog. Expresso went decaf. The Star's editor, Dennis Ryerson, put up a note that apologized and said the comments "did not meet the standards of the Star." Ryerson has a tie to The Plain Dealer -- years ago he was the newspaper's editoral page editor, a post now held by Brent Larkin.
Former Star Columnist Ruth Holladay said on her own blog that the paper ran into trouble when it tried to take the muzzle off a writer. He bit somebody. So the muzzle is back.
"With so few blacks working at the Star, Ryerson and Co. now have a real credibility crisis on their hands. They let Biddle unleash; now they have to put the muzzle back on and make nice with the brothers and sisters. Will they fire RiShawn? Or will he just 'disappear' for another six months. What a crazy place."
While the Indy incident and the Cleveland uproar are different -- nobody says the Ohio bloggers used inappropriate language -- they do share a theme. Newspapers get wigged out by stuff that the blogosphere seems to be able to take in stride. Harsh language, insults, political action by bloggers, the list goes on, and it is recognized for what it is -- the detonations, loud noise, mixing of volatile compounds and personalities and issues on a non-print platform. The 'sphere is raw and for percussion. Bloggers don't seem to flinch when politicians, be they congressmen in the Cleveland suburbs or council chiefs in Indianapolis, send messages of aggrievement. Editors seem to take the complaints more seriously, some would say too seriously.
This week two big Midwest newspapers folded in the face of controversy stirred up by bloggers. The press wants a launch on the Web, but it gets nervous, leery, and freezes at the stick instead of juicing the afterburners.