Newburyport, Local Blog Journalism

I think one of the biggest “stories” this week is Tom Ryan and The Undertoad Blog.

Mr. Ryan has taken the blog software, has understood its potential and has “run with it.” And there has been some outstanding “local blog journalism” and “local blog photo-journalism” on The Undertoad Blog.

I think people are going to look back and say to themselves that this was such an obvious thing to do, why didn’t anyone do it sooner. And my feeling it’s just a matter of time when the national media pick up a story like this one.

I think my favorite piece so far has been the one on the City Council’s interviews with the three applicants for City Clerk.

First of all there is the factor of “immediacy.” The “story” was reported the night it happened.

Second of all the photograph is very powerful. As a resident, I usually see the Newburyport City Council in its very formal setting at council meetings. But here was a glimpse of the Newburyport City Council in a way that most residents never see them. It appeared to be an informal but very thoughtful gathering. It gave a “face” to the Council, and gave the average resident (me) an understanding of just how much work the Newburyport City Councilors must do.

It was fascinating to me that the way the interviews were reported. I felt as if I were there too. The first candidate, the second candidate and then the overwhelming vote of confidence in the third candidate. Also Mr. Ryan’s reporting of the body language of the City Council during the interview, gave an insight into what the process must be like, in an intimate way that is not (or has not been) possible in a regular newspaper.

It was also a relief as a resident, that the Newburyport City Council looked like it had a fairly clear consensus on what has turned out to be a difficult issue. And it was a relief that it looked like this issue was about to behind us and we as a city could get on with things. It made me proud of the Newburyport City Council, and it made me proud to be a resident of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

And I also thought Mr. Ryan did an outstanding job of reporting on the fire of the Woodman Way apartments. I found out about the fire on the Undertoad Blog.

Again the photograph of John Moak and Steve Cutter was incredibly moving. You could see the empathy and concern on John Moak’s face. It said that the community cares. And it was a much more appropriate way of reporting the despair of the situation than photographing the victims whose homes have been destroyed.

I felt the report also gave the sense that this was someone who knew the community and the community knew him. It gave the story a “face” without being inappropriate or cold.

Personally, I like the straight “blog journalism” and am distracted by Mr. Ryan’s “Toadisms.” I’m sure people are reading the phrase “without being inappropriate” in the paragraph above, and are going, “excuse me.”

But the “attack blog,” as it is called on the Web, has a very big following and is a very successful medium. (Most people do it anonymously they don’t have the guts to let people know who they really are.) So, it could be that this mixture of really good “local blog journalism” and Undertoad “Toadisms” could work very well on the World Wide Web. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

Obviously, this is the “year of the local political blog.” And my guess is that many people globally, because the World Wide Web is global, will be using The Undertoad Blog as a template for their local political blog.

How about them apples.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport