Wednesday, March 4, 2009

NYT Local "Blog"--Is This A Joke?

The other day I posted about the reports that the New York Times was going to be launching a new local blog network this past Monday.

Today I realized I'd forgotten to check to see if the launch actually happened and went to check it out.

First of all, good luck to you if you want to check it out--I defy you to find any kind of link to it on the actual NYT site. It isn't listed on their blog index page. I found it by doing a search of the site for "local blog."

From the reports about the blog, I thought it was going to be one blog, or at least one main page, but it turns out there are several "The Local" blogs--at least two that I saw, possibly more but I didn't feel like searching more. The one I found first was Forte Greene and Clinton Hill. I started with the first post and worked my way forward to today's posts--e.g. three days into the blog's existence. And I do mean worked--by my count there are already 19 entries. In three days.

Wow, they sure found a lot of bloggers for this start-up blog, huh? Nineteen posts in 3 days--all I can say is wow. And not a good wow--but wow, like wtf. But wait a minute--most of these posts are by one person--Andy Newman. Citizen journalist? Hardly--he's a NYT reporter. Yes, the local is supposed to be a mix of local bloggers overseen by a NYT reporter--but come on. So far, the Forte Greene and Clinton Hill Local seems to be Andy Newman's personal website, complete with traditional newspaper-like sections: six of them, including "News," "The Stoop," etc--check out the page for the complete menu.

And while you're checking out the page notice how horrible the navigation is. Where are the daily archives? The archives by topic, or author or keyword--or anything? Apparently whoever designed it was going for a standard blog feel--posts in the middle, nav, blogroll, archive, etc in the right column. Well, tried and failed.

Anyway, back to Andy. Of the 19 posts--in this blog purportedly populated by citizen journalists--over a 3 day period, how many do you think were his? Fourteen. And that's as of this morning; for all I know by tonight he may have posted five more.

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day about the Times' edgy foray into a new model of journalism--one of "digital-centric operations with smaller newsrooms and a greater reliance on outside sources, including contributions from people in the communities they cover." The article goes on to quote the NYT describing their new "hyperlocal" blog as "a pilot project that is part of an exploration by the Times of ways to extend its journalistic values to serve and engage audiences in new ways. The sites will be heavily focused on citizen journalism."

Here's the thing--if the Local is meant to "serve and engage" audiences in new ways and focus heavily on citizen journalism, someone better tell Andy Newman to take a step out of the limelight and give someone else a turn on the mike. Either that or the NYT needs to stop acting like they're doing something revolutionary when, in fact, all they're doing is giving Andy Newman and other NYT reporters their own mini-NYT websites.

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