Does OP help Local media?

During the past few days we've seen a lot of referrals to local media coverage in the form of links. Orange Politics also permanently links to most major local media. On the Internet links are the way "word of mouth" advertising (aka viral advertising) is driven. It's like karma. The more you give the more you get. The search engine Google recognizes linking and reciprocates with a high ranking in search results with certain keywords to sites that link often. But the fact is OP is non-commercial. OP doesn't receive money from advertising or linking. We link because we are interested in sharing stories. Our "profit" occurs when we have informed citizens.

We are fortunate that many local reporters and media professionals join in our discussions. They bring a level of detail and quality that comes with making a career of gathering news. Based on site stats we know that many more people read OP than comment on it. We know reporters use OP as a resource. It's confirmed when commercial news stories quote OP comments with and without attribution.

My questions for you are:
How does the local media benefit from linking at Orange Politics?
Is Orange Politics a competitor or partner to the local media?



I'm not sure whether we help local media or not, but today's news about McClatchy buying Knight-Ridder cannot bode well for North Carolina in general. Read it and weep. One of the solid newspaper organizations in the world, Knight-Ridder, announced today it will become even more irrelevant. Goodbye Charlotte Observer. Welcome more corporate media.

Progressives in Charlotte don't think much of the Observer already, but now the race to the bottom will accelerate. We know exactly what will happen there, because it already happened in Raleigh. Old timers remember the days when the Raleigh News and Observer was an intelligent, aggressive newspaper in the truest sense of watchdog journalism. Then they got bought by McClatchy. You could hear almost hear the creaking of compromise and mediocrity as the paper lowered its sights and its editorial standards.

But now it's even worse. Now both major papers in North Carolina will be owned by the same company, delivering coupons and wishywashy opinions to fewer and fewer doorsteps in Charlotte-Mecklenburg neighborhoods. I'm sure they'll quickly defend their move as one designed to keep their business healthy, so they can share news between organizations, achieve economies of scale and fire lots of people.

I guess this is what we mean by freedom of the press these days.

Thank god for the internets.

Orange Politics is street level. The people who participate here are involved in making the news. Our comments are like reports from the field. We're all like stringers or subject matter experts (wonks) who share lots of good details voluntarily. Journalists can poll their local community by opening a web browser and reading a website.

OP has broken stories to the public like Horton Retires, Rutherfurd steps aside, local election results, important events, etc.

Commenters and authors live blog all kinds of events. This provides transcripts ready to be incorporated into stories. When you wanted to learn all the facts and opinions about the new Carrboro Board of Alderman being appointed where did you go? How about Live from Town Hall - gay rights edition, or of the recent Broun Committee on TV.

Stories from OP have been transformed into national news. Like the time WUNC wouldn't allow the phrase 'reproductive rights' to air in an announcement for the local group IPAS.

Media experts bemoan the lack of local coverage and community resource in modern newspapers. It's still possible in the twenty first century. OP is one example of how you can connect with citizens. Isn't this why many local media outlets now have blogs?

What is your favorite bit of info you learned on OP first?

Sure, we (OP) benefits the local media, as long as they
remember, and I'm sure they do, that OP is a biased
sample of the population.

As far as the McClatchy/Knight Ridder merger, I agree with
Jim that this is one more blow to print media. About five
years ago I bumped into (Herald-Sun) editor Bill Hawkins at
a Durham Bulls game. I thanked him for starting their
website. He chuckled and returned that this website is
an excellent exercise in losing money. I'm not sure how
newspaper website ads compare to print ads with regard to either the
customers that are attracted to the product or the revenue
that the ads bring to the paper (or e-paper), but one expert
on PBS last night indicated that the newspaper websites
have not yet learned how to advertise well.

On the other hand, the paper is limited in its news
dissemination by only being printed and delivered once
per day. I remember on 9-11 that I first learned about
it on the web at the Herald-Sun website when I read
a brief story, filed about 15 minutes after the first plane
hit, that described the incident. Honestly, my first thought
was that this was some sort of joke, or a review of
a movie similar to the one where the big gorilla climbed
the Empire State building. Unfortunately I was wrong.

However, I just can't see myself sitting on my deck
at 7am eating breakfast with a laptop instead of a real

There's always radio for promptness.

You should all know, by way of example and because you ought to know, that Joe Hakan passed away this morning.

I tried guest posting this so that folks could share their thoughts and rememberances, but it doesn't seem to be coming up.

Joe is best known for designing the Dean Dome and laying the path for Manning Drive at the whim of the Governor, but some of his best work was done as the Chair of the Public Private Partnership.'

You can hear some of his stories on our website: (search Hakan)

keep his wife Joy in your thoughts.

Memorial services haven't been finalized yet.


More than the fact that a lot of us in the, uh, media would have a much harder time keeping up with politics and issues in the OC without OP, the archives of the discussion on this site are open and free.
I think the dailies are one day going to regret keeping their historic content hard to get.
This site got some serious props down here at SXSWi in Austin and rightly so. Every community needs one and OP has shown a lot of people how to do it.


Thanks for the info about the passing of Mr. Hakan. Good to know. Will look for WCHL's story.

But... what does it have to do with this thread? A bit off topic I think. Or am I missing a more subtle statement about the promotion of local for profit media on a non-profit website? I don't intend to be snarky but the irony is unavoidable.

Speaking of media, we have an new (and exclusive!) interview with David Price up tonight on BlueNC. Come on over an take a look.

Jim - thanks for that excellent interview with Rep. Price. Re: McClatchy, I'm not sure I see it as a step down except that it consolidates the media, which is always worrisome. I think the N&O is superior to the Clte Observer and I think the N&O continues to do a pretty darn good job reporting stories. Perhaps they will raise the bar in Charlotte.

I think Brian touches on an important aspect of the media - you get what you pay for.

As a for-profit station, WCHL is able to have folks who devote themselves to keeping up with what's happening in our area and relaying that information to the thousands who can passively tune-in. I have wondered how well WCOM has been able to cover the news with an all-volunteer staff (I confess that I don't take the time to listen to their station). Radio is a medum that can get the word out just as quickly as the internet, and these days it's often the case that a story comes to light through the internet first, moves to the airwaves, and follows in print before ending up hashed and rehashed on the internet again.

I don't see irony in reporting the death of a local leader on the radio station (which has a permanent link on this site) and then letting people who might care know about it through a post that focuses on the media. I thought it was a case rather like the death of Joe Straley (

As for OP, it's a fantastic resource for any local beat writer; it can also be a generator for story ideas. The fact that none of you posters makes any money changes how a reader has to evaluate your comments, but generally this site provides insight that's not easily available elsewhere.


perhaps more to the point:

...a case when OP was ahead of the curve.

by telling all of you about Joe Hakan, I was bringing everyone up to date, not self-promoting.

is that too subtle a statement, brian?

David, you're probably right about the papers. My problem is this: I've been reading the N&O for 25 years and knew the editorial page team personally when they were hard-core progressives . . . leaders, not just reflections, of public opinion. When the N&O endorsed ScAlito, it permanently lost my admiration and subscription. Yes, it has pretty good coverage in some areas, but I'm not willing to subsidize viewpoints that are at odds with my own activist agenda.

Jim, I don't mind when the N&O editorializes against my point
of view. I, just like you, have access to the media and can
write my own editorial and express my personal views.
What I do mind and what would cause me to cancel my
subscription would be shrinking state-wide and local news coverage.
The merger is all about efficiency and saving money.
If we assume that the paper's personnel budget is 70 pct
of its total budget, similar to the town, that means that
personnel will be cut, with the consequence that fewer
reporters will walk the halls in Raleigh. That bothers me,
and fosters the race to the bottom that you noted earlier.

Good point, Joe.

The N&O recently did a puff piece on Sue Myrick, the darling of the Queen City. I wrote to the reporter to remind her of the paper's responsibility for balance. Her email address was Which means the N&O Washington Bureau is probably becoming a "shared resource" with lots of other papers in the chain. Soon we'll likely have one reporter in DC feeding the state's two major papers. And then the same thing will happen for state news in Raleigh. They may prove me wrong, and I sure hope they do, but I'm not holding my breath.


I will say from personal experience that the N&O's coverage of CP&L (now Progress Energy) and the various problems at and with Shearon Harris has often been less than comprehensice and usually the type of reporting that CP&L/Progress would approve of. Of course, CP&L/Progress has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years running huge ads with pictures of cute little girls, handsome, manly linemen, and vapid slogans.

The public deserves and needs quality, uncompromised information and on energy issues and the Iraq War (just to name two), the N&O is failing us.

I actually think the N&O's state house and local reporting has gotten stronger. Seems there used to be very little Raleigh coverage, but now a lot more of it. If anything I'm more worried about how they are burying big national stories on Page 7. And I love almost all of their columnists. I missed the Scalito endorsement and I'm not sure what their rationale was but it's sort of moot. This country nominated Scalito when Bush was re-elected and the Senate stayed Republican.

Without delving into the N&O/Knight-Ridder issue at this time... I think of OP as unique public forum, one that's always going on and always accessible. (And I strongly agree with what Kirk said -- roping off the archives is a very short-sighted strategy that will result in newspapers becoming that much less relevant to the public.)

Just as I expect each speaker at a public meeting to express a particular point of view, citing facts which I would check rather than take for granted, I see posts on OP as statements from unusually involved, informed and often opinionated citizens. Very good tips have come out of these discussions, including the WUNC "reproductive rights" issue Brian mentioned.

The biggest negative in reporters and media using OP is when they DO NOT CITE IT as a source. Shame on anyone who quotes from this site without citing it as a quote from Both reporters and their editors ought to know better -- and if that's newsroom policy (newsrooms have some wacky policies about the Web sometimes), then change the policy. It's a disservice to readers.

In fact, it's better not to quote from the site in most cases, but to contact the person who posted and speak to them directly. With elected officials, that might be less necessary, since they are public figures. But certainly in the early days of online forums, the more tech-savvy journalists I knew considered it unethical to quote from a forum without contacting the source to both confirm their identity and get permission to quote. Some forums sort of hover somewhere between the public and private spheres. OP is much more public, but it's still a good idea to go straight to the source.

If you wanted to post a story on OP about Joe Hakan why didn't you just submit a guest post? If you did and it didn't go live right away putting it in the first comment field you find isn't appropriate in my opinion. I object the all the off topic post hijacking. This post asked some specific questions.

The irony is the commercial self promotion that went on a post about commercial self promotion. I think OP doesn't get enough public respect from local media outlets. I find it annoying that so much commercial self promotion goes on at OP when many local media websites don't even link to OP. Why? I mean we freely promote your commercial stories all the time!

Do businesses think because Ruby, guest writers, and commenters give away their time and energy that it's a free resource for you to profit from? I can't speak for her but I don't think it's fair. Give back a little by promoting OP on you media websites. (Like the Indy blogs do all the time.)

It's a basic lesson on blogs and websites. You link to stuff you use and like. People return the favor. This linking increases the number of visitors you receive. This can translate into revenue from ads/etc and good karma. Get it?

BTW - I love radio. I listen to WCHL all the time. I respect and admire journalism and journalist. :)

BrianR, while I appreciate your sentiments, I don think OP gets a bit of respect, a respect that's reflected in its growing use by MSM for background, new sources of information, context and, as Fiona puts it, "tips".

I don't know of many other local ' blogs that get that level of attention.

That said, attribution would be awfully nice ;-)!

Y'all might be interested in this.

As a Charlotte resident and occasional Observer reader online, I am relieved about the McClatchy purchase. From what I hear most Charlotte Observer reporters are happy as well. KR was much more inclined to drop the ax on local news coverage than McClatchy. I grew up on Hilton Head and read the McClatchy Beaufort Gazette and Hilton Head Island Packet regularly and McClatchy has continuously improved the two papers. I realize the Observer is a much bigger market but the relief is palpable to finally be rid of KR's heavy handed Big Brother tactics here in the great state of Mecklenburg.

Sorry to bring this thread back from the dead... but I wanted to link to a News and Observer story by Matt Dees called Town may pay to ease change. It helps illustrate the points I've made above.

His article's substance rests on the quotes in comments of a story that Ruby wrote called Welcome, Manager Stancil. I might even go as far to say that his story wouldn't exist as an idea if it weren't for Ruby's post.

Orange Politics is read by journalist and used like stringer material. At least they're quoting us now. A return hyperlink in their stories would be cool. Though Dees did put the OP url in the body of the story. Is that proper attribution on the web?

I don't have a problem with Dees's story. I just want people to be aware of the symbiotic relationship that is forming between blogs and newspapers. Blogs are fact gathering machines like none before.

An axiom from olde-timey communication theory: when formal communication channels don't work, people and info will find informal communication channels.

It's true that the bloggosphere is rapidly becoming every bit as established as print and broadcast channels, but it's the changes in ownership and corporate mission in print/b'cast media that are truly forcing information to the newer medium of the internet.

Something like OP -- especially when it's as effective as OP is -- performs several functions at once, many of which are no longer served well by old-technology media. First, it's not crazy to draw an analogy to the letters-to-the-editor pages of a politically vital community paper. Letters pages have always been at the mercy of the editor's choice of issue and letter, but in recent years those pages have become something of a op-ed freakshow for entertainment and provocation rather than a paper-and-ink mini-town-meeting.

Similarly, even with its acknowledged political bias, OP offers a venue for discussion of agendas not sincerely offered by media or even Council meetings -- indeed like that peculiar Yankee tradition, the town meeting. It's noteworthy that so often posts here call for more transparency and openness to public input in the conduct of government. It's also noteworthy when many decisions, comments, developments, etc. get reported here and nowhere else until the media happens to notice it here.

The media not only does benefit tremendously from such "informal" channels of information exchange as OP, it should -- especially if all other channels are failing miserably to keep the citizenry informed. The benefit of as good a site as OP is that, unlike so many others, it reduces rather than increases the chaos that is the web's most troublesome defining trait.

However, it's irresponsible for any journalist not to provide clear and specific attribution -- not just as a matter of ethics and credibility but also because the distinction between a journalist and his/her "beat" needs to be carefully delineated. If OP is a source, per se, of a piece of information, that should be noted. If opinions and commentary on OP are part of the journalist's "beat" – what he/she covers like a meeting or neighborhood debate -- that should be made evident, too, and not just melded into what reporters sometimes use as generalized characterizations, pro or con, about the entire community.

To whom would a journalist attribute the previous post?

Mark M,
Attribution is tricky on the web. If you mean the post right above yours by Priscilla I would do this way. I'd write 'Priscilla on Orange Politics wrote…'. Then I would link straight to the comment.

But newspapers online don't link to anyone. I assume it's because linking is about money. Many website owners, not just newspapers, who want to monetize their site control the referrals they *give* via links. Links create clicks. Clicks equal dollars. Unless you're Orange Politics and clicks equal increased knowledge and civic involvement.

There are several projects working on establishing positive identity online. I use ClaimID.

Aside from the question of linking, issues with attribution are length, specificity, and recoverability (to coin a word). How much space do you have? How important is it to be very specific? How important and possible is it for readers to track down the comment for themselves? The answer depends on the story and the context.

For example, you may or may not have to attribute a statement about a police investigation to a specific officer or a specific document that a member of the public might consult -- it depends on the context. "According to police reports" might do it for a burglary, but for other situations such as a likely homicide or a brawl in a Town Council meeting, you might need much more specificity regarding the speaker's name or a specific public record.

Here: Short version might be "In a recent post, ...." Middle-sized version might be "In a recent exchange about local media, an poster said...." Most thorough without an actual link would be, "In a June 28 comment on the relationship between internet discussion sites and local media, an poster identified as Priscilla said....."

The first establishes the general source; the second gives a little context and helps readers find the thread; the third names the poster and provides even more specific information about the nature of the discussion and where to find the thread.

Was that what you meant? Or much more than you wanted to know?

Whoa, deep apologies!! Make that OrangePolitics.ORG!!!

Ruby was smart enough to buy both names, so no problem! : )

If I was reading a newspaper article, I wouldn't give much credibility to a comment made by someone who is unidentifiable. I think I would also hesitate to report such a comment if I were the writer. It's like a "source inside the White House", only less specific.

I guess I might consider reporting on a comment or idea - despite the fact that the poster won't take full reponsibility for the post by signing his/her real name - only if it was so unique and interesting that it deserved it.

Reporters consult OP for the latest buzz. Elected officials do likewise, as evidenced by the race to OP after Monday night's Council meeting when several members had more to say and/or had steam to let off. Story happens.


I guess you really wouldn't fit into journalism as it's currently practiced at the national level, then. Anonymous sourcing is so prevalent in that arena that it is nearly de rigeur.

By original definition blogs/weblogs are not formally vetted informational organs -- any more than diaries are, no matter who writes them nor how public they may be. Depending on the intended nature of a blog, it is the blog managers' decision whether to require publication of full and authentic names, insofar as verification is possible. Some do, some don't, and there are pros and cons both ways for both blog and participants (who themselves have whatever options are offered under the blog's guidelines). In either case, there is no a guarantee that posts will be universally authoritative.

Working journalists know all this. Above all, they know -- or certainly should as a basic qualification for their profession -- the difference between utterances that offer opinion and utterances that purport fact and therefore need further corroboration. The purpose of attribution in the first case is to establish that the material is not the journalist's own and perhaps invite readers to further exploration. The purpose of attribution in the second case is to indicate legally recoverable factuality and accuracy. In the first case, the primary threat to credibility is plagiarism; in the second, it's misinformation, libel, fraud, or worse.


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