On the Town
Granted I may be a bit slow on the uptake, but it finally hit me how drastically the Internet is changing the newspaper business.
And I'm not just talking about all that information out there in cyberspace, instantly available to anyone who knows how to punch in a key word or two.
No, dear friends, what I'm talking about are blogs - which, for the benefit of those similarly challenged, are Internet newsletters, usually updated regularly by their author, and expressing a point of view, stable or otherwise.
Why, now that you mention it, sort of like a newspaper column.
Except that blogs have a place for readers to respond with their own take on whatever the blogger has just written. And when they're done, for someone else to respond to what they said.
And before you know it - usually after about three or four comments - the whole thing degenerates into a name-calling contest on a subject that probably has very little to do with what the blogger originally set out to discuss.
It is, of course, tremendously exciting - sort of like a triple tag-team match in the old World Wrestling Federation - and there's really no way those of us in the dead tree publishing industry (to use the blogger's snide expression) can hope to compete.
Except, of course, by putting out an online edition and allowing readers to leave comments at the end of stories - which, as you may have noticed, the Trib has been doing for about four months now.
So why, you might ask, did it just now dawn on me that the journalistic world has been turned ass over teacup?
Well, it probably had something to do with last Tuesday's column about all the costly - and still unpaid for - construction projects going on in Portland these days.
Or to be more precise, with some of the more personal responses to it.
Now I don't mind being called names. It comes with the territory.
But the difference has always been that when I've made a fool of myself, I've always had my name on it. If someone wants to question my sanity or challenge me to a duel at 10 paces, they always know who I am and where to find me.
But what gets me about the brave new world of blogs (and electronic reader boards) is that the comments generally are anonymous.
Not only are readers able to make personal cracks they probably wouldn't have the guts to make if they signed their real names, but they're able to hide institutional connections as well.
For example, an anonymous commenter on that Tuesday column obviously was conversant with Portland Development Commission policies. Kind of makes you wonder.
Not too long ago, Jack Bogdanski, probably the town's premier blogger, learned that one of his more persistent critics on city personnel issues actually was a computer specialist at the Fire Bureau.
As it turns out, each comment transmission has an Internet routing address that can be traced.
Unless, of course, the person who sends the annoying comments - like the one who responded not just to my column but to another story in the same edition also critical of city policies - knows how to hide his IP address.
And if that's the case, I wonder what he's trying to hide?