Los Angeles Times columnist Diane Pucin is blogging from the Tour de France, which in itself is about as newsworthy as a bombing in Baghdad. But as with most things that are attempted for the first time, the significance lies more in the trying than in the doing.
The Tour is a made-for-blogging event – a 21-day challenge that is sport and culture and drama all rolled into one big croissant. By writing a blog, Pucin can expand the richness of her newspaper columns and give readers new insights that would be impossible within the confines of print (when I posed this to Times media critic David Shaw, however, he said that his two columns per week were “more than enough opportunity for me to speak my mind.”)
Is it more work for the writer? Perhaps, but I’m willing to bet Pucin is writing or at least "thinking" copy all day anyway – I certainly did when I was a reporter. The blog allows Pucin to think out loud, play with ideas and get feedback from readers that can make her writing better.
This is an interesting period of experimentation for the Times and I give it credit for pushing forward. Its Wikitorial experiment not withstanding – and I do hope they try to launch that again soon – the Times is doing the right thing. The paper is trying to involve readers in the news gathering process; in doing so, it is closing the gap between reporters and the public.
This not only helps the news coverage, it helps improve the image of the news media in general. Part of the reason why the public mistrusts the media is because reporting can be so impersonal – the media is a “thing” rather than a collection of human beings. The humanizing power of blogs may go a long way toward restoring public trust.
Viva Lance, Viva Le Tour, and Viva Diane Pucin!