Friday, February 11, 2005

The Reverend Hugh Hewitt on a missionary mission

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:41 AM |  

Allow to take a few moments to brag up my associate -- the St. Paul Pioneer Press. They get it -- sort of.

The Hewitt-Beinart Debate wasn’t the only stop on Hugh Hewitt’s visit to the Twin Cites. Earlier in the day in met with The Pioneer Press Opinion Page Editor, Art Coulson, and Associate Opinion Page Editor, Mark Yost and myself. This was not a formal meeting for Hugh to plug his book “Blog” (but I will) or for the Pioneer Press Editorial Board to grill Hugh for an editorial piece on blogs and blogging.

It was an informal discussion with a very specific agenda -- What is the best way to integrate the concept of blogs and blogging into the structure of the Pioneer Press? How might the Pioneer Press move forward to incorporate the “new media” within its current business model? How can the Opinion Page today, take advantage of the talent and resources available in the existing Minnesota blogging community?

It’s not my place to go into detail about what was discussed in terms of possibilities. Those are ideas that Coulson, Yost and others will have to kick around and make decisions about. What is more important, however, is attitude.

Clearly, blogs are not viewed by the Pioneer Press as “the enemy.” There is recognition that both the medium of the blog and the bloggers employing the medium are potential assets for the Pioneer Press. I would go so far as to say there is "excitement" about the possibilities.

That’s not, of course, to say the enthusiasm and insight is universal. The editorial board meeting with Hugh was not attended by all members of the board, and frankly the “cranial-inversion” attitude of others is that bloggers are merely jerks and annoying when they aren’t irrelevant.

But there are also some legitimate reservations. The freedom of expression that gives blogs their strength represents potential liability problems for a “deep pockets” newspaper. But there is also the insight that restraining the medium, defeats its purpose. Maintaining a blog requires resources. Without a clear vision of a new revenue stream, those resources for the smaller newspaper in a two-newspaper market are somewhat daunting.

Another factor, and this is my personal observation based on having worked in large corporations, is that the Pioneer Press (“legacy” media in general) does not recognize blogs as a competitive threat. Consequently, there is no sense of urgency to do something -- an attitude that frustrates me and drives others to distraction.

Hugh calls my association with the Pioneer Press an interesting experiment. In fact the column/blog relationship is an accidental inevitability that perhaps the Pioneer Press will turn into a plan. The Pioneer Press contracted with me to write a column; column notoriety within the blogosphere begat this blog; this blog begat further exposure for both a “Craig Westover” brand and the “Pioneer Press” brand. Hugh tells me that I am one of a handful of regular newspaper columnists that also maintains a blog. He suggests the Pioneer Press “triple it’s effort.” I agree.

So, to help push the effort along, I’m throwing it open, bloggers, for discussion. If you were King for a Day at the Pioneer Press, what would you do to bring blogging into the culture and the business model? Post on your sites and trackback here. Put your money where you pixels are. Sound off.

UPDATE: Great ideas here for your inspiration.

UPDATE: Thanks to all who have contributed ideas in comments, trackbacks and email. I'll be compiling the ideas and presenting them to the Pioneer Press, giving credit where credit is due.