Monday, May 26, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 6-1-08
Jeff Gill

Engage Your Mind, 360 Degrees

If you have been past the website of the mothership,, you know that a major redesign has worked through the whole deal.

You can click for “home” and get the main, frequently updated site; you can also pick up links off the edge of the header for our sister publications, the “Pataskala Standard” and “Granville Sentinel,” along with targeted content for other regions of Licking County like Licking Valley and Heath, along with those ubiquitous “Buckeye Moms” who apparently like to chat.

Just below the main news content is a row of links for blogs (short for weblogs), which are created and generated entirely off of the website. Yep, you’ll see “Knapsack” posting there, along with an assortment of regular bloggers who run the gamut from retired professional journalists to anonymous high school drop-outs.

There are still chances to comment on stories and post to forums as the old website had, but with a bit more integration of content crosswise between areas of the site entire. Once you register as a user, with or without your funky little logo (mine is a picture of me telling stories, natch), you have your own header which allows you to jump about posting comments or putting up longer comments at your blog.

Folks can recommend your blog, put your on their watch list, or leave you messages, all within the website itself. It’s a cool thing.

Plenty of voices have whimpered anxiously that blog culture occupies the same relationship to civil dialogue that yogurt culture has to Rachmaninoff. Could be – there is certainly a fair amount of moonbattery fluttering around “Recent Blogs” or “Featured Blog” headers at

There have also been picture galleries uploaded from everyday citizens, proud parents, and prom goers, news analysis from former employees who should be taken with a grain of salt, but have some salty perspective you wouldn’t hear about otherwise, and comments that completely change how you read a story or editorial.

Obviously, I think blog culture is a good thing. In fairness, it doesn’t support a vocation, but is it taking jobs away from journalists or saving the positions that will remain when the e-phenomenon finishes sweeping through the country? Hard to tell so far, but the news biz is clearly changing, and the trick is to stay one step ahead.

Because if it takes four, five months for even a limber management structure to make major changes, writers and photographers and other “content providers” need to stay at least half-a-year out ahead just to stay even. If you don’t like dealing with reader response, this is not going to be a congenial business to be in for the foreseeable future.

Just as doctors and pharmacists have had to get used to internet savvy patients asking oddly precise questions about their condition and treatment, and mechanics or used car salesfolk are forced to adjust to customers who know the Blue Book value before they can look it up, the news biz is shifting how we relate to our readers.

The web site is one small, but very significant way to do just that. Click on over and check it out!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio who’s been on-line (he said smugly) since 1979 when a big honkin’ e-mail account allowed 5K of storage. Tell him about your internet adaptations at

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