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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Another Midwest Newspaper Blogger Axed: Indy Star Says He Went Too Far

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.


  1. Many bloggers and activists are quick to criticize the mainstream media without the first hint of education or understanding about what traditions and practices already exist related to long-standing Communication and Journalism institutions.

    Thus IMO, it would most certainly benefit bloggers and activists to gain this sort of familiarity before trying to attract the attention of the mainstream media. This is true in part because bloggers and activists often have a mission to gain mainstream media coverage for the issues, candidates and/or events which these bloggers and activists are advertising and/or promoting.

    Also IMO, it would benefit bloggers and activists to understand that they should gain this sort of familiarity before they can in good faith offer any sort of reasonable and credible criticism of the communication and journalism institutions which presently exist.

    Far too often, bloggers and activists start complaining loudly and/or jumping up and down upon darn near every time that the mainstream media doesn't drop everything they're doing in order to give bloggers and activists their undivided attention.

    Bloggers and activists would be much better off if they simply understand that it is vitally important to convey information in a format Journalists and other Communication professionals are accustomed.

    This language format is basically short, sweet and simple words and sentence structure that begin with the most general information first, followed by more detailed information toward the bottom.

    So, the Journalism 101 lesson of the day is to recognize that this method exists and it has a name... the inverted pyramid style.

    The first paragraph, using this style of writing, should include the most general (but descriptive) wording regarding the "who, what, where, when, why and how" of the story you're trying to communicate.

    Rather than starting a story this way:

    "Dave Hickman has organized the Second Saturday Salon since 2005."

    It would be better to start it this way:

    "A progressive activist has been organizing a monthly issue-oriented gathering for over two years."

    By doing this you are ensuring that you don't instantaneously exclude readers who have never heard of me (Dave Hickman) and/or never heard of the Second Saturday Salon.

  2. any discussion of "inverted pyramid" has absolutely nothing to do with blogging. great advice for a press release, dave (and some actual bloggers do this), but it has nothing to do with blogging.

    to those who pay attention, it's not surprising that you don't know much about blogging. you've...uh...never done it.

    again, great advice for a press release or reporting in a journalistic manner (as some bloggers do as well), but not blogging in and of itself.

    nice job forming coherent sentences though and eschewing the use of BWAHAHA. you are making great progress!

    we'd all be interested to know where you practiced journalism. you don't do original reporting, you don't blog. do you do anything but troll?