Monday, January 14, 2008

A Blogger's Dilemma

For the past few days, I have been pondering the future of Plaintalker.

It started in June 2005 as a service to the public. I was the chief writer and used my background as a reporter to bring out city news. After co-founder Barbara Kerr left in January 2007, I continued writing and taking photographs on my own.

Gradually people went from asking, "What's a blog?" to reading mine and others, along with the newspapers that some call "mainstream media" or "legacy media."

Currently there are many blogs in Plainfield, each with its own outlook or angle. Mine continues to be focused on news and events of interest to Plainfielders, a "hyper-local" kind of blog.

Many of my blog posts can be read in a few minutes. That's the idea - to sum up highlights of a long school board or council meeting in a readable way. It is not a blow-by-blow, item-by-item rendition of what happened. That would be a transcript. To see some typical posts, click here for last January's Plaintalker. Yes, there are sidelights on gardening, both indoor and outdoor, over the year. And sometimes there is commentary.

Plaintalker is based on facts, sometimes gleaned from public documents as well as actions of elected and appointed officials. Rumors and gossip are titillating, but until they emerge as verifiable facts, we try to steer clear of them. Another city blogger has made rumor and innuendo his trademark and unfortunately the rest of us are sometimes lumped together as "the bloggers" without regard to our differing approaches.

It is a bit irksome to those of us who research topics, attend meetings all the way to the end and otherwise give of our time and energy, to have our work subsumed under the banner of someone else who merely opines on the findings. Worse yet is when a fellow blogger takes a leap from the facts into fantasy and drags the original writer into controversy.

In this day and age, anything posted online is subject to being copied or linked to another online source. I frequently provide links to sources that add context to my original articles. Some blogs are nothing more than a series of links.

The blog reader always has the choice to bypass the aggregators of other writers' work and just to bookmark the original blogs one likes. There is no need for a nanny to tell you what to read.

Over the weekend I was mulling how much I owe to the people who have told me they rely on my blog for information and how much I owe to myself in terms of how I spend my so-called retirement. On Sunday, while freelancing a breaking news story, I met a very nice gentleman from New York who, it turns out, knew of Plaintalker from doing online research on Plainfield, where he owns property. I think it was his compliment on the blog that made me decide for now that I will continue Plaintalker for those who get something out of it. I have heard from readers in Germany and Japan as well as from city residents who look forward to daily posts.

I don't make any money doing the blog, but I do get paid for freelancing. So to see what I do while wearing my other hat, look on the front page of the Courier News today or click here to read the story.

--Bernice Paglia


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