Sunday, April 24, 2011
Gratuitous blogging for fun and profit
On Friday, the Madison Park Blogger celebrated its second anniversary as an alternative source of neighborhood news and information. During our 24 months of blogging, we’ve posted 370 stories, averaging just over 3.5 postings per week. At this point we’re flirting with a subscriber base of 300 readers and an average of almost 200 hits per day on the website itself. It’s been gratifying to have this slow-but-steady growth in readership, which we take as confirmation that we’re doing something right.
We’ve not been entirely without detractors, however. The most surprising piece of negative feedback we’ve ever received came from an outraged news source who emailed to say that what we had written about him was not only “inaccurate, but demeaning and libelous.” That’s not good. And then there was this indictment from another unhappy reader: “What you did in your blog is closer to yellow journalism than you may believe.” Indeed.
Our goal is to get it right. And on those occasions when we fail to do so, we’re open to making the necessary corrections. Like the time we used a photo of a particular Washington Park home to illustrate our story on the precipitous decline in neighborhood property values. The unamused homeowner wrote in to suggest that if we wanted to illustrate such a negative story we should have used a photo of our own house. We didn’t go quite that far, but we did switch to more generic neighborhood shot to go with our story.
Generally, readers are more likely to be irritated by our tone than by any inaccuracies in our reporting. Recently we were charged with being dismissive. And last year we took a shot for having an underdeveloped appreciation of nuance. But the most-often-leveled criticism is that we are gratuitous. We admit to that. Sometimes, it seems, we can’t help ourselves. A principal definition of gratuitous is “uncalled for, lacking good reason, unwarranted,” and we assume that this is the sense in which our objectors use the term. However, a secondary definition of gratuitous is “given or done free of charge.” In that sense, this whole blog fits the category. No one has to read it, and no one pays to do so.
Which doesn’t mean, however, we’re entirely without profit at Madison Park Blogger. Our biggest reward for doing what we do is when readers tell us that they appreciate our efforts. For example, several people reported that they moved to Madison Park (from as far away as Florida and Midwestern Canada) after first getting to know the neighborhood through the blog. Others wrote to say that they keep up on the “old neighborhood” by reading the Madison Park Blogger, even though they’ve moved away. And then there are those emails (and the occasional in-person interactions we have on street corners) where readers tell us they thought a particular story we posted was interesting, amusing, or thought provoking. We take all this as affirmation that what we’re doing is worth our effort---gratuitous or otherwise.
Thanks for your support over the past two years and for the feedback. We're going to keep on blogging.