Reflecting on four years of blogging

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Greg Peck
June 10, 2013

It was spring four years ago that I started this blog. I posted my first one June 9, 2009. It’s still here on our website if you want to read it, as well as the hundreds I’ve posted since then. I didn’t count them, but I’ve averaged at least two each weekday—when I’m not off for the week or it’s not a holiday—since then. A close guess is that I’ve written around 1,800. A few readers from time to time have complained when I’ve returned to a topic—the city’s new automated trash hauling system, for example. But I only do so if a new concern or development arises with that topic. Besides, you try to come up with two new topics each weekday for four years without repeating yourself. If you think you’re up to the task, I’m sure our online services guys would be happy to discuss it with you.

Anyway, I promised to write at least once each weekday. I started out actually writing three times a day but quickly scaled back to twice daily. Many of my colleagues also write blogs from time to time, but most of them are paid by the hour and must get their assignments done first. I’m on salary, so I work until I feel my job is complete, and this blog is one of those daily commitments. That’s why you so often see my blog topics dominate our website’s homepage—I’m writing twice daily when often no one else has the time. One of my blogs, as consistent readers know, has been on a range of topics—something happening around Janesville, a family activity I enjoyed or an item in the news that strikes me. The other blog has previewed my next day’s editorial. It’s an effort to encourage blog readers who don’t subscribe or regularly pick up a copy of our print product on newsstands to perhaps do so. We have no way to quantify whether this helps sell newspapers.

This second blog topic might change in the next month or two. This week, our newsroom starts training on our new computer system that will flow content onto a new website, much of which will be behind a paywall. One change that this new website will bring is that we hope to post online our next day’s editorial before noon. I almost always write that editorial—and the related blog—from home early in the morning before heading to the office, just as I’m writing this blog from home. I post the blog later in the day, after Editor Scott Angus has reviewed the editorial. Because you don’t see the editorial until the next day, most readers have almost 24 hours between the blog previewing it and seeing the actual editorial in print.

That time span will shrink significantly. It would essentially render meaningless a blog previewing an editorial that will usually go online just a couple of hours later. Maybe that means cutting back to one blog a day and just skipping the one previewing the editorial. After all, we’ll be posting much more opinion material online, and that might gobble more time—we won’t know how much until we start testing the new system. Maybe instead it means committing to, say, Wednesday’s editorial topic before I leave the office Monday afternoon and writing and quickly posting a related blog.

Here’s something else that will change. As Angus wrote in his column March 31, only subscribers will be allowed to contribute to our online conversations. “Our thinking is that limiting comments to only people who pay will eliminate the vast majority of nasty comments,” Angus wrote. “Many of the so-called trolls and other troublemakers aren't likely to pony up. Additionally, we'll know who the commenters are—even if they don't use their real names—and they will know that we know. That should have a modifying effect, as well.

“For now, our plan is to let people post using assumed names. There is value in anonymity in that people feel freer to comment on sensitive issues if using their real names might cause friction at home or in their workplaces. If we continue to see too many ugly and inappropriate comments, we can take the next step and require people to use their real names.”

You can be sure that change is coming for online readers of The Gazette—and this blog. Thanks for coming along on the ride this far, and I hope you’ll stay with me—and us.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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