Sunday, November 19, 2006

OK, So I Guess it Was News After All

Friday evening I picked up on two stories that seemed of interest for LO, as we ramp down off the elections buzz and return to a more varied diet of topics. But after six solid months of digging for news or having it tipped to us, I'm still getting used to what's worthy statewide-quality news, and what's just MSM fodder that literally gives blogs their raison d'etre. So too, we've never wanted to be the kind of place that got stuck in a rut of link-and-analyze pieces where relatively common knowledge gets rehashed with our oh-so-important personal takes.

So as I scanned these stories I was feeling especially jaundiced, and I rejected both of them because they just didn't sound like big stories--or at least their time for reporting was not the right one.

Now I'm not sure whether I was validated or firmly rejected in my conclusions; one of them was the lead story top-o'-the-fold in The O yesterday, and the other led the Metro section in the same issue. Now, the first thing I notice is that as the generally recognized paper of record for the state, isn't the ethics review story theoretically the more important, more widely newsworthy item? And isn't the sentencing for the crooked finance director more of a metro-area story, even with the amount stolen?

I think I have a bit of a bias to start with against the embezzlement piece, since it feels like a Fox 12 TV news special--some reporter standing outside a courthouse, the principals long departed, holding some little prop (an accounting notebook?) and talking about what happened in grave tones, before cutting to video of shocked neighbors and co-workers. It's apparently one of the largest public embezzlements in state history, so it IS kind of a big deal, and at least it's white collar crime for a change, instead of yet another burglary or indecent exposure story. But it's also the sentencing phase, and I figured after the arrest (busted in April) and the guilty plea (in September), the sentencing story was probably the least interesting of the three. So in the end, I gave the crime story a pass. You tell us--is this the kind of story you want to see talked about at LO?

The second story is much more up our alley, on a different theme of corruption--one we've covered more than once here. It's of significance that the state ethics commission isn't accepting the "oops, we forgot" excuse from legislators and lobbyists who neglected to report paid trips, and it's certainly a welcomed and fitting exercise. But I hesitated to make much of the piece, because it seems like a way-station on the way to the real story, which is whether anything will actually come of an investigation--whether politicos will suddenly discover that a fine and a slap on the wrist are no longer the wages of "forgetfulness"...or whether we'll continue wringing our hands but ultimately shrugging our shoulders. So I thought, why report the announcement of the review? Let's wait and see what the recommendations are, and if anyone actually gets a legal cap popped in their ass.

The bottom line for me is whether LO can make the story or add to the story, or are we just rehashing the story? At first I was chagrined to see both the embezzlement and ethics stories get such prominent play in The O, because if we'd wanted to, we could have told interested readers about them before going to bed instead of on the way to work. And I definitely dig myself a scoop, taking advantage of the blogger's immediate news cycle to beat the big boys.

But we've got a niche and we kind of like it here--so yes, we saw the news, and no we don't have anything to say about it for the moment. But that doesn't mean we're not working, and we're going to keep teasing you about an image makeover until we finally produce one. And thanks to you, we've got some mojo to do it with. Special shouts to our first LO Militia benefactor, offering early housewarming wishes to the tune of $25. Donate $100 and get this tote bag!*

*tote bag not included