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November 14, 2006

On Media: At long last, LEO joins the blogsphere

Election night won’t just be remembered for sending John Yarmuth to Washington. It also marked the beginning of a new effort by Yarmuth’s brainchild to be a more frequent and relevant contributor to the local news party.LEO arrived a bit late to the blogsphere, and to say the launch of “The Lip” was subdued is the epitome of understatement. By design, there was no promotional effort, not even an ad in the print edition. There was a “Let’s see how this works” aura to it. The site’s first post gave this modest preview of things to come:“Here we’ll cover all kinds of ground, mostly quick-hit stuff on news happenings in and around the city, as well as political analysis and commentary, some interaction with the weekly LEO content, a deeper look at what’s before the Metro Council; in general, we’d like this to be both a repository for the dead-tree edition’s surplus and a resource for every citizen who’s wondering what might be going on in their government.”LEO’s election coverage consisted of reports from around the city’s polling places, as LEO’s Stephen George, Michael Lindenberger and Cary Stemle went west, south and east, as well as to Indiana, sharing anecdotes that captured the day’s mood. There were great pictures as well, including shots of yard signs in odd places and Anne Northup giving her concession speech. There was even a video from MSNBC about the national importance of the 3rd District race as a bellwether.As for results, LEO’s blog reported Yarmuth the winner in a post at 10:39 p.m., more than an hour after Northup’s concession speech. So it won’t be a source for “Breaking News.” You couldn’t find the results of many other races on The Lip, but anyone who cared was watching the results on television.LEO wasn’t the only one breaking new ground on Election Day. Over at The Courier-Journal, reporter Chris Poynter spent the day driving around town talking with voters, taking their pictures and posting them on a blog at The C-J’s Web site. Even curmudgeonly editorial director David Hawpe got into the act. As election returns poured in, he offered up his opinions on the outcome in blog-ese. LEO’s not that far behind the curve among its established media brethren. Among local TV stations, only WHAS-TV had made an impact with blogs — reporter Mark Hebert’s insights are a must-read for political insiders. No other local stations have done much with blogging, and you can also dismiss the efforts of other print media.If you’re a loyal LEO reader, though, you’re likely to make The Lip a regular destination. It’s a place where LEO writers may have the freedom to be edgier, take on topics that just don’t make the print edition and also report and comment on things soon after they occur (for example, a Monday post reports on the Metro Council’s dog ordinance activities from that afternoon). It’s a way for LEO to supply its brand of journalism with an attitude to a larger audience.If it catches on, LEO should attract new followers, an online crowd who don’t bother with print and TV for news. But to do so, LEO will have to work at it, posting consistently, interacting with readers and promoting the blog as a destination. It must embrace technology and be willing to cover news and events in a different way.It’s been on purpose that I’ve been hesitant to be critical of LEO in this column — one doesn’t seek to offend management unless there’s a damn good reason. But it’s obvious LEO has let technology pass it by, especially if you take a look at the paper’s main Web site. Sure, you can see the current print edition there, but that’s about it. The place to grow the paper is not in the paper — it’s online. And so, it looks like The Lip is a step in the right direction.If you’re interested in a lively discussion of blogging and news, the Louisville chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is sponsoring a dinner and panel discussion this Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Holiday Inn at Second and Broadway. Panelists include Hebert; LEO columnist Mark Nickolas, whose blog Bluegrassreport.org is the most widely read in the state; Nabil Echchaibi, a U of L professor working on a major blogging project; and Dawn McCurry, an Oldham County native whose blog can be found at Conservachick.com. For information, go to www.spj.org/louisville. Contact the writer at rick.redding@insightbb.com