Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What's This Blog About? An Explanation for New Readers and Old

Erik Swenson, the executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, told his members about Sphere in an e-mail this morning, which I hope will bring some new readers to the site. If so, welcome -- scroll around, click around, bookmark the page, and come back tomorrow.

The possibility of new readers, combined with a "discussion" I had via e-mail the other day with a person who was less than happy with something I had written, makes me think this is a good time to explain what it is I think I'm doing here:

My e-mail correspondent asked this question:

Is a blog an editorial page and has the editor done his/her
homework when forming opinions? Or is a blog a news source where opinions are left at the door and the story is presented on a factual basis? Either is OK as long as it is presented as intended and the homework is done.

Here's what I said, with a couple of slight changes to protect the identity of my unhappy reader:

I think of my blog as being many things, but when I’m at my most high-minded I think of it as being the place where people in the Long Island Sound “community” can go to find out what’s happening beyond the borders of their own towns. And I think of it as having a role in helping form the community and hold it together. One of the things I argued in my book is that the Sound’s problems are tied to the fact that it really has no strong constituency. Maybe I can help that constituency grow.

As for what I put on it, it’s really whatever I learn that interests me and that I think might interest others. It’s not a newspaper. I do a tiny amount of original reporting; and I pass on and comment on what others write. ... I mean it to be fun, first of all for me and then for readers. If it’s not, readers won’t read it and I’ll stop doing it.

Although I have a point of view, I’m as independent as I can be and I’m no more loyal to ... any newspaper than I am to [a local government] or EPA or Save the Sound or Audubon, although I tend to think well of at least some of those.

My correspondent was unhappy that I linked to newspaper articles without confirming their accuracy. I responded that I couldn't possibly fact check the 10 or so newspapers that I look at every morning but that if someone who is quoted in an article or has first-hand information about the subject of an article wants to point out inaccuracies, I'd be glad to consider them and write about them. The beauty of a blog is that you can respond and make changes and corrections quickly.

What I didn't say is that a fair number of the posts on Sphere start as tips or information that people e-mail me. I love to get stories that way and I encourage anyone to do so. My address is in the sidebar to the right. Keep in touch.


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