Harrisburg Blogs

Bear with me.  This is going to be a long post.  It all began after someone sent me a link to an article further explaining why the game is getting really bad for those trying to etch out a living through print media.  This time, it’s the New Yorker announcing that the clock is running:

Independent, publicly traded American newspapers have lost forty-two per cent of their market value in the past three years, according to the media entrepreneur Alan Mutter. Few corporations have been punished on Wall Street the way those who dare to invest in the newspaper business have. The McClatchy Company, which was the only company to bid on the Knight Ridder chain when, in 2005, it was put on the auction block, has surrendered more than eighty per cent of its stock value since making the $6.5-billion purchase. Lee Enterprises’ stock is down by three-quarters since it bought out the Pulitzer chain, the same year. America’s most prized journalistic possessions are suddenly looking like corporate millstones. Rather than compete in an era of merciless transformation, the families that owned the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal sold off the majority of their holdings. The New York Times Company has seen its stock decline by fifty-four per cent since the end of 2004, with much of the loss coming in the past year; in late February, an analyst at Deutsche Bank recommended that clients sell off their Times stock. The Washington Post Company has avoided a similar fate only by rebranding itself an “education and media company”; its testing and prep company, Kaplan, now brings in at least half the company’s revenue.

And it goes on and on.  Newspapers have been in a slump for decades, but only recently have begun to feel real pressure due to unprecedented competition.  And to be fair, they’re getting what they deserve:  When you flat-out refuse to compete with your competitors — the “faster, better, stronger, harder” push of online publication — capitalism dictates that your customers will walk away.

In response to free-falling numbers, newspapers are trimming their pages.  Cutting back on content.  Cutting staff.  Inserting more ads.  Instead of making their product more appealing, they’re making less product to sell.  That may be a good response when demand is high and you’re the only supply in town, but newspapers simply don’t have that kind of monopoly anymore.  As they cut back on supply, other sources — from Digg to Fark to blogHarrisburg.com — are rushing in to fill the void.  Fewer people find newspapers relevant, fewer people purchase newspapers, more subscribers let their subscriptions lapse, and the cycle continues.  And this isn’t even beginning to touch on the whole social news movement.

I have nothing against our local paper.  For all the merciless beating it takes, I like the Patriot.  They’ve been a good read for the decade since I first became a ‘burger.  But, like so many other hometown papers across the nation, they chose to do nothing in response to “this whole Internet fad”.  Sure, they slapped together a poorly-designed website and use it to dispense stories that were already published in this morning’s edition (or, on occasion, publish two-sentence teasers of stories to be published tomorrow).  But did they actually do anything?

Take a look at what we’re doing over at blogHarrisburg.  Look at the liveblogging going on from Jersey Mike.  Check out the Harrisburg / blogging forums.  Scope out the Harrisburg Wiki.  Look at the other contributors, from Beyond Second to Harrisburg Nightlife to Linglestown Gazette to Slow Food Harrisburg to everyone else listed on bH.  We’ve all got a passion for our local community, and we’re all doing something about it.  Some of us provide news coverage to areas and events too small for the Patriot to pick up.  Others provide insight to topics simply not covered locally, period.  Still others generate exposure for amateur artists.  The list goes on.

All of us doing it for free.  All of us doing it for the love of the game.  All of us welcoming commentary, be it contradictory or complimentary.  All of us doing it without the burden of advertiser conflicts.

And we want your views.

We’ve got a Harrisburg bloggers meetup coming up in April.  The exact date will be posted shortly, but expect it to be a Sunday afternoon.  It’s going to be open to all Central PA bloggers — anyone who lives in or consistently writes about the region will be welcome to attend.  We’re especially eager to hear from people who have news and opinion to share about their neighborhood, band, small business ventures, sports team, civic group, acting troupe, or other community topic.

There’s going to be a lot going on with blogHarrisburg in 2008.  Come be a part of it.

7 thoughts on “Harrisburg Blogs”

  1. I’m not quite seeing how newspapers aren’t “competing with competitors.” What should they be doing?

    Print and the Internet are totally different animals, and the mass amateurism of bloggers will never fully replace professionally-printed material. As consumers, we will continually look for media makers willing to invest in someone else’s work. It’s that endorsement that tells us that the material is professional enough–and that at least another person besides the writer believes it is worthwhile.

    As far as what blogHarrisburg is doing, I love and subscribe to the feed. However, I question the reasoning behind a Harrisburg-based wiki and forum. Frankly, the wiki feels like using the technology for technology’s sake (what is its purpose?), and I fear the forum will befall the same fate as the one on Friends of Midtown.

  2. Instead of using the site to dish out up-to-the-minute news and ongoing updates, PennLive simply reheats and rehashes stories which have already been published in today’s edition of the Patriot. Talk about technology for technology’s sake!

    I’d like to see them use their online real estate to supplement the Patriot’s standard faire with the things that are simply too “minor” to fit into print. I’d also like to see them make timely, real updates throughout the day. They should use the Internet to overcome the limitations of print media — limited space, hard deadlines, irrelevant advertising, no accurate metrics, printing & delivery expense — instead of just as an online placeholder. And it’s not just the Patriot that’s guilty of failing to do this. Apparently, LOTS of newspapers are failing to grasp that we live in a 24-hour world.

    I’m not questioning the professionalism and news-gathering abilities of the Patriot’s journalists. Rather, I’m stating that I’d love to see their talents put on display on a continual basis. Even though we’re a secondary market, there *are* newsworthy events happening at all hours — to say nothing of the events that are simply too niche to receive precious print space. PennLive has been taking a stab at things like liveblogging lately, and that’s a good start. But it’s a few years too late. While the veracity or trustworthiness of blogs can be discussed in volumes, the frank reality is that people are flocking to non-traditional content in droves. Until newspapers adopt, they’ll continue hemorrhaging subscribers and wondering why.

  3. Wow, it’s like you knew I was just about to e-mail you. Jersey Mike encouraged me to send you a link to my blog for possible inclusion here. (I haven’t done it before because it’s mostly about journalism, not Harrisburg, and even though it’s written in Harrisburg I wasn’t sure it would interest the blogHarrisburg readers. I’ll let you make that call if you feel differently.)

    Anyway, take a look through my blog and you’ll see I’m really trying to figure out this stuff that you and floor9 raised. I’m definitely not the only one at the PN, either, but damn are there a lot of hurdles.

    A lot of it has to do with changing newsroom culture. For example, any journalist can sign into Movable Type, but understanding how blogging is different than the I-talk-you-listen format most journalists are used to is a whole different issue.

    I could ramble for a while, but I’ll stop. Just know that even though I’m sure it doesn’t look like it, there are people working on it.

    The most important line in that Alterman piece, by the way:

    “Traditional media just need to realize that the online world isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s the thing that will save them, if they fully embrace it.”

  4. Wow, I’m a complete idiot. I mean really, off the charts.

    I came here through blogHarrisburg via my Google Reader, and for some awful reason thought the blogHarrisburg creator wrote this entry.

    How ironic that I make a mistake that dumb while trying to claim that I understand blogging. Yikes. It’s been a long day.

  5. No, it’s me — I’m the blogHarrisburg admin. One and the same. I’ve been at floor9 forever; it’s where my commentary resides.

    I’ve been wrestling with the idea of how to give exposure to the local bloggers on blogHarrisburg, because I think that by definition any site that’s “about” Harrisburg must also include the local blogging community, even if they themselves don’t necessarily write about the region. How the implement this without breaking up the “about Harrisburg” news is what I’m working on now, and I think I’ve got it straightened out. I’m getting ready to add another batch of blogs, and I’ll be emailing you shortly (incidentally, the blogHarrisburg gmail address is unbelievably easy to figure out).

    And you’er spot-on about the change in culture. That needs to happen. It’s a whole new game now; the publishers who haven’t embraced online publication are the ones in big trouble.

  6. Why aren’t East Asians required to learn English before they are allowed to set up shop? I go to a store, placed my food on the counter, tell the store owner, told the Chinese or Korean that I will be right back as I pick up more food to place on the counter and he begins glaring and demanding what I want. For a split second I though he would either jump over the corner wielding a weapon or else shoot me.

    I’ve given the incident much thought since it happened a few days ago and have concluded he was angered because I had on a previous day asked his wife if they sold orange juice. She was totally confused and that might have ticked him off. Or else “orange juice” means or sounds like something lewed in Chinese or Korean? Idon’t know. At my own risk I simply walked out imagining that this fellow might come charging out after me.

    My advice is that they learn English before someone winds up getting hurt. Not me. I’m not going there again. It’s that little corner store on third street accross the street from the Broad Street Market on Sixth street. Beware! YIKES!

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