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Outside Voices: CJR's Paul McLeary Says CBSNews.com Is Too Low On Blogs

(Paul McLeary)
Each week we invite someone from outside PE to weigh in with their thoughts about CBS News and the media at large. This week, we turned to Paul McLeary whose dispatches at CJR Daily we've mentioned here on the site before. Below, Paul wonders why CBSNews.com isn't taking full advantage of the opportunities that the blogosphere offers for the dissemination of news. As always, the opinions expressed and factual assertions made in "Outside Voices" are those of the author, not ours, and we seek a wide variety of voices.

I've been thinking about CBS News for a few days now, trying to come up with something new, or interesting, or at least rising above the banal, to say about the news organization. Initially, Katie Couric sprung to mind, but if anyone can think of anything that hasn't been already been said by scores of media critics (all dutifully linked on Romenesko, it seems) across the country, then please, have at it.

Then lightening struck. Or more precisely, Larry King struck. On Tuesday night, while the CNN host was interviewing Rosanne Barr of all people, the subject turned to the Internet, which Barr is apparently obsessed with. King appeared nonplussed. "There's 80 billion things on it," he said, "I've never done it, never gone searching."

When Barr told him that he would love it, King replied, "I wouldn't love it. What do you punch little buttons and things?"

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It reminded me of a little episode back in June when Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska famously said, "the Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes."

Indeed, sir. It is not a truck. But then again, it also isn't a series of tubes, where you punch little buttons and things.

Making fun of Larry King or Sen. Stevens isn't the point of this post. But their comments, when taken together, point to a fact that many us who write for Internet publications, or troll Web sites, blogs and online newspapers on a daily basis often forget: Some people, perhaps even a great many people, aren't all that interested in the Internet.

CBSNews.com, of course, has its own blogs, as any news organization must. There's Public Eye, which does a wonderful job of giving readers a bit of an inside look at how the sausage is made at CBS News. There is also Couric & Co., where anchor Katie Couric and a host of CBS reporters give a heads up about the news of the day, or offer readers little snippets of the news that might not rise to the level of being included on the "Evening News" broadcast.

So I went searching for other CBSNews.com blogs, and to my surprise, came up empty-handed. As a quick comparison, ABC News, from the looks of it, has about eight different blogs (and a few more that have not been updated for few weeks) on its Web page, and NBC has around 15 blogs listed on its MSNBC Web page.

Now, I'm no blog evangelist, and I'm definitely no Jeff Jarvis type, who thinks that blogs are going to destroy print and broadcast news, but there's a lesson here for CBS. The network has obviously recognized the power, the reach -- and the necessity in our media environment – of the blogosphere. So why isn't there more of an offering on CBSNews.com? I'm thinking of something like asking one of the Baghdad correspondents to fire up a blog, updated a few times a week, describing what it's like to work in such an environment. Or perhaps a correspondent working in China, or Russia, or Southeast Asia, or Latin America or Africa, or better yet Cairo or Amman, offering a more personalized look at life in these critical parts of the world -- areas which American readers could surely use a little more help in understanding, and which don't always receive the treatment they deserve on the evening newscast.

Just as good would be some Washington, D.C.-based reporter offering snippets of the political news on a daily basis, in a way that would compliment their day-to-day reporting. The possibilities are staggering: a business reporter slashing through the day's big business stories, an entertainment reporter doing the same for their beat, etc…

Blogs are neither the death knoll nor the savior of the news business, but they are an increasingly critical element in the business of disseminating the news. Television news broadcasts can only do so much with the brief time they're given during the week, and while news magazines like "60 Minutes" go a long way in picking up the slack, sprinkling a few more blogs on CBSNews.com definitely couldn't hurt. And the best part is, they can be written by the talented reporters already on the payroll – which is a value add if there ever was one.

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