New Medium, New Rules?

\"meaningless colorful graphic\"Over the past few months, when I’ve written posts on various issues, I’ve had several people respond to me with variations of “Why didn’t you just call and talk to me instead of blogging about it on Locally Grown?” My first, knee-jerk reaction to the question was that these people “don’t get it”, but I realize that’s unfair. I know and respect these people In Real Life, and they’re asking a legitimate question.

Perhaps some cross-[sub]cultural communication is in order. Those of us who’ve had long-term involvement with online dialog and virtual communities have had time to absorb the social conventions of that milieu. This isn’t necessarily the case with people who are relatively new to this world, or who don’t use the medium extensively. Added to this mild culture clash is the fact that our online community parallels our geographical one, which adds another layer of complexity; it makes it more difficult to determine which social conventions apply, and how that might play out online here at Locally Grown.

If I have a beef with a particular individual in Northfield, I’m not likely to publish a blog post without having at least a telephone conversation with the person first. But many of the issues I’m raising for discussion, or things I’m critiquing, are procedural or institutional in nature, and it’s not clear where the problem resides or with whom to effectively address it. I thought of this while reading Griff’s post about the Chamber when he wrote about why he hasn’t joined. If Griff wanted seek a specific change in the Chamber, who does he call? The new board president? Last year’s president? The executive director? What about “legacy” policies that have been adopted and implemented by people over a period of years or decades, who may no longer be involved? That’s just one example.

So what are the rules exactly? Is it a given that if Griff or Ross or I “speak” publicly without first speaking privately with those concerned with a particular topic, we’re out of bounds? Will my children’s teachers take it out on my kids because their mother is a bitch? Will I be blackballed by Miss Manners?

I’d like to gain additional perspectives from others in the LoGro community. What do you think?


  1. Anthony Pierre said:

    Who Cares. It is your blog. Do what you want.

    April 10, 2008
  2. Jon Denison said:

    You rock, Vin!!!

    April 10, 2008
  3. Robert Hall said:

    say what you want to say. If some one doesn’t like you will find out. A lot of thin skin.

    April 10, 2008
  4. Holly Cairns said:


    You seem like the “opposite of bitch” instead of “bitch”.

    What you post and what guest bloggers can post might have to be different? Maybe? Guest bloggers must call/contact the Northfielder, first, if the blogger mentions the Northfielder. That would cut down on any snarky behavior, maybe… who wants to call someone and say “I’m going to tell that rumor on LoGroNo…”

    April 11, 2008
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    I think the key differentiator for me is the degree (strength?) of the relationship that I have (or want to have) with the people I’m inclined to blog about. I try to keep cognizant of the ‘influence factor’ — is what I’m about to blog likely to help or hurt the level of influence I want to have in any situation.

    Example: I’d ruin my working (collegial) relationship with Ross and Tracy if I first blogged about something I was upset with them about.

    Example: I’d ruin my working (client) relationship with Norman and Julie at the Cow if I first blogged about something I was upset with them about.

    Example: I don’t have (or need to have) a working relationship with the Chamber staff or any of their board members so I felt freer to be critical (constructively, I hope) in a public blog post first.

    April 11, 2008
  6. kiffi summa said:

    Tracy: are you just looking for accolades? You know we all think you are a model of gracious behavior … occasionally even too gracious!
    Seriously, Griff, seriously!
    OK, now I’ll be really serious. I can understand this being a concern, but can’t we just function as we do in real life, on the phone, or in a letter, and trust that we do not need to explain everything we say to the nth degree, as we assume that we all have good intentions as to the meaningfulness of the comments we make.
    Otherwise, all written communication begins to sound Elizabethan, with an opening full paragraph of ritually polite disclaimers about not intending to cause offense.

    April 11, 2008
  7. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: I don’t see why the rules of civil conduct should change just because the medium has changed. Kindness never goes out of fashion.

    April 11, 2008
  8. Tracy Davis said:

    Thank you for the comments, everyone. Especially to Holly and Kiffi for saying nice things about me. 🙂 I’m afraid I didn’t articulate my question very well. It’s not so much that I’m concerned about what people may think of me when I write something, it’s more that I’m trying to weigh different values to see which is most important.

    For example, assuming that we can agree on definitions for each of these terms, is “truth” more important than “community harmony”? If so, I’ll post my honest assessment of an issue regardless of who it might offend. On the other hand, if the higher value is in trying to maintain constructive, harmonious relationships with certain people or institutions in town, I’ll pull my punches and work on finding common ground in order to achieve what I value.

    David L. is right that kindness doesn’t go out of fashion. But what’s considered “unkind” in telephone conversation, for example, might not be seen so in face-to-face interaction because you can read the visual cues (body language, facial expressions, etc.). Internet old-timers have developed conventions of behavior which have changed the interpretation of kindness (or unkindness) online. That’s why I think it’s a mild form of culture clash.

    Griff, I thought that where you drew your lines was interesting. I hope we hear from people who’ve been on the receiving end of LG posts or discussion comments so they can offer their perspective. Some of them aren’t regular LoGro readers, and didn’t know about it until one of us called their attention to it.

    April 11, 2008
  9. Holly Cairns said:

    Tracy said

    For example, assuming that we can agree on definitions for each of these terms, is “truth” more important than “community harmony”? If so, I’ll post my honest assessment of an issue regardless of who it might offend. On the other hand, if the higher value is in trying to maintain constructive, harmonious relationships with certain people or institutions in town, I’ll pull my punches and work on finding common ground in order to achieve what I value.

    Well, maybe intent is important. If someone wants to post a negative post/comment just because they like strife, then I don’t see allowing the post or comment.

    But if the post is concerned about moving towards a better society, then, well! Post away. Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine intent unless you have good rapport with the person who wants to post… you, Griff and Ross seem to have good rapport and you can probably identify what is the intent of a post (and even see hidden agenda). Maybe different rules for guest bloggers… clear rules, and good communication skills if someone’s post is rejected.

    If you are smart about this, you’ll spend less time rejecting and more time approving… 🙂

    Maybe you need an approval committee (those advisors you listed must be good for something… but they aren’t all that connected with the community, I guess, assuming you three are…)

    April 11, 2008
  10. Holly Cairns said:

    Maybe the question is about commenting/posting in general instead of what the Citizen Journalists might do…

    The new medium is the Internet?

    That’s the “old” medium to me, but compared to those that telephone each other and never use the Internet, I see what you are talking about.

    Yes, culture clash. Maybe it’s best to just explain it once on your guidelines sheet and then refer people to that if there is negativity? Honestly, I don’t see a LoGroNo anywhere else, and so you are the leaders, otherwise you could just see what others are doing.

    April 11, 2008
  11. William Siemers said:

    ‘Community harmony’ trumps ‘truth’? That’s a slippery slope at best. Should there even BE a community forum where that is the case?

    Which is not to say that expressing the truth must be without discretion.

    A negative post might be factual…or even truthful.
    Who can know the ‘intent’ of a poster?

    April 11, 2008
  12. Holly Cairns said:

    William asks

    Who can know the intent of a poster?

    Well, the person that posts.

    Your question In relation to citizen guest bloggers on LoGroNo:

    Let’s say someone has a hidden agenda behind a post, and there is negative consequence. Who is responsible for any resulting problems? I think, ultimately, it is the blog owner, if they are in the habit of reviewing and/ or rejecting some posts and accepting others. (Open ended blogging, on a blog owned by a community rather than individuals, might lend towards a sole responsiblity.)

    I think it’s good to provide facts and opinion (negative or positive) if there is a good enough reason to post. Societal benefit… blah blah blah.

    What about a disclaimer that says the content posted here is ours, and we are responsible… or, the content posted here does not necessarily reflect the views of Griff, Tracy and Ross….

    maybe add to the disclaimer: “If we didn’t call you first, we didn’t think you’d have a fit and so we posted away, without asking first…”

    April 11, 2008
  13. kiffi summa said:

    Truth definitely trumps community harmony.
    Most, or possibly all, of those commenting here are adults. But “truth” cannot just be opinion stated as “fact”; it must be substantiated by a thoughtful argument or actual facts.
    I would think the best way to get to “community harmony” would be truth; otherwise we are assuming an unreal situation to be reality.

    April 11, 2008
  14. Tracy Davis said:

    Well, Kiffi, I suspected that you’d grab on to my example, and I correctly guessed which of the two items on the scale weighed heaviest for you.

    I think a case could be made that sometimes, harmony matters more than truth…. or at least that PEOPLE are more important than ISSUES. Throughout history, people whose highest value is “truth” (or their version of it) have splintered off into smaller and smaller groups, none of which seemed able to get along with the others.

    On the other hand, if I really believed that harmony was the highest good, I obviously wouldn’t be doing a lot of what I do, either on LoGro our in my community service.

    April 11, 2008
  15. Britt Ackerman said:

    Ooh, I love the way this thread is about to turn to the existential. It’s a great moment for me to ponder such effusive concepts, right before happy hour…

    Does Truth trump Harmony? Or vice versa?

    It seems as though the truth is often subjective. But there is a possibility that the facts one relies on in determining the truth can be examined objectively. Some things can be proved as truth with little objective reasoning. Like “Lansing’s Hardware is going out of business.” True. But if Tracy “post[s] [her] honest assessment of an issue regardless of who it might offend” we’ll need to look to objective facts in determining the “truth” of that statement.

    Similarly, harmony is subjective as well. And it is hard to examine the underlying facts in an objective manner. Do we measure harmony by comparing the volume of bitching in this community to the volume in another, similarly situated community? Do we rate each post as “positive”, “negative” or “neutral”, and then find another blog similar to LoNoGro in a different geographical region to compare it to? If Tracy posts more of her observations of the “truth” (as Griff may be wont to do) there will certainly be less harmony, right?

    Well, not necessarily. I think that the admins of this blog should continue to write whatever the heck they want to without concern or regard for the feelings of us lowly posters. Bloggers are looking for conflict anyway. If someone is reading this blog because they are trying to avoid conflict, they should go surf on

    So, I think that if Tracy posts more “truth” here, it may actually lead to more “harmony”, insofar as I am less inclined to fly off in a public rage at another poster when I can verbally abuse them (in a subtle enough manner to escape the Guidelines Police) here, in a more reflective and less reactive manner.

    In this way, conflict on a blog (blogflict? conblog?) actually can promote harmony, as posters can re-read inciting comments, take their time in analyzing said comments, draft a response, and then revise and perfect that response. Whereas, face-to-face conflict is more likely to result in a rapid exchange of heated profanity with no opportunity to reflect or examine. And no one takes a new point of view or greater understanding for an opponent away from such a conflict. Only anger and spite are the products of such interactions.

    April 11, 2008
  16. Holly Cairns said:

    Frankl would be proud. What is the meaning of life, anyway.

    Hey Tracy, why do you ask the question, anyway? Are you justifying past action, or planning for future posts/protocol?

    Hmm. Posting without regard. I guess that could be the MO.

    April 11, 2008
  17. kiffi summa said:

    I also like the way this discussion is turning, Britt.
    Each person has a “Truth”; “Rashomon” is the truest of all. So each must present their truth.
    As to Harmony, “Keeping the peace” is often a good thing, but if it is built on a falseness that will someday be revealed, then it is /can be , a betrayal.

    The best thing is for us all to be as true to ourselves as we can be, (thank you, Polonius) and that in order to preserve Harmony, we respect each other’s Truths.

    Yeah, that’s what I Truly believe…

    April 11, 2008
  18. Tracy Davis said:

    I do tend to diverge toward the existential. My friends put up with it for awhile, then start rolling their eyes.

    Holly, I started the thread because I’ve seen the potential for misunderstanding when people expect one to use a particular medium for addressing a problem, and then one chooses another. As I said in the initial post, I’ve had people ask me “why not call instead of blogging about it?” My answer is that a blog is a different forum and is not always subject to exactly the same rules… but then I began to wonder, in the relatively unusual circumstance when a physical community operates in parallel with a virtual one, which rules (real life? online world? both? neither?) apply.

    I’m still trying to formulate my opinions, so hearing from various perspectives helps.

    April 11, 2008
  19. Lance Heisler said:

    In all this thoughtful reflection, I think the answer has distilled to the top, as sweet cream. The beauty for every pioneer is that he or she gets to chart one’s own course. It matters only that your hearts are true. You take chances. You learn from your mistakes. You get better as you go. As with every successful pioneer, the passion for the mission is what ultimately guides you. That there are three of you lends toward a better chance for balance and fairness. The advantage of this medium is that you don’t need to proceed in one direction. You can all have it your way, at least part of the time. Constructive criticism will abound, free of charge. My dear Tracy, you have always wanted to blow something up and start over. Here is your opportunity.

    April 11, 2008
  20. Ken Wedding said:

    Great discussion. Sorry I missed it when it happened. Two tardy thoughts.

    Accepted truth and perceived harmony are relative, as is the balance between the two. It’s when the discrepancies between reality and perception get seriously out of whack (and that’s a relative situation, too), that problems become serious.

    To go back to the original point about changing mores. Another aspect preserved by the “private before or instead of public” critique is elite, insider politics (in broad terms).

    The people privy to the policy making in, for example, the Chamber, might welcome new ideas and critiques from inside the organization, but not from outsiders. Even outsider awareness of the policies (like “Don’t post things on the Locally Grown discussions”) or the discussions about policy options dilutes the common front that a group like the Chamber wants to present and it opens the door to outsider influence on the organization — both of which dilute the influence of the elite insiders.

    April 12, 2008
  21. Holly Cairns said:

    Hmm, I dislike elitism.

    Are we defining harmony as correspondence and congreuncy? I was thinking more of happiness in general, when balance is the result of disagreement.

    And what is “perceived” harmony? We all look at the shadows on the wall instead of actually at the fire… but harmony is usually pretty easy to identify, if we think of it as happiness in general.

    Happy Saturday! Snow. Damn.

    April 12, 2008
  22. Leonard Witt said:

    All of what has been said here is very interesting. So when we bring a Representative Journalist into the Locally Grown mix, what will you want? A journalist who seeks truth or seeks harmony?

    April 12, 2008
  23. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Leonard!

    The truth? We can’t handle the truth…

    I thought journalists were always truthful. But, about what? Do we want he or she to poke into things, or just give us fluff?

    I love fluff, especially if it is about ducks. 🙂 What I am looking for is better writing than the normal blogger. Someone who can take a topic like shoe polish and produce an interesting read.

    Let’s see– historical stuff suits me fine, especially if it isn’t a compilation of what is already written. I also like personal stories which remind me of things I already know or have experienced.

    So, not necessarily “Quality Bakery doesn’t have a credit card reader so let’s jump up and down and rant” but instead “Let’s meet Al Roder” or “Who the heck was Jesse Jane.”

    Griff/Tracy/Ross already give us dirt and fact and dish and dis and fluff. They do a pretty good job making it interesting, and yet they keep it quiet enough so there’s no riot. We’d all rather be Griff’s friend, and when we mess up, we hope he’s not watching… but there’s a respect feeling, too, mostly, unless it’s political…? My thoughts.

    On and on. Sorry.

    April 12, 2008
  24. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: So, why didn’t you just call those people instead of blogging? Is any rationale sufficient? A thought – maybe you were the one who “just doesn’t get it”.

    April 12, 2008
  25. Holly Cairns said:

    Voice is out, David, unless it’s for voice recognition or authentication. Texting is in, I tell you. In! I’m not really all that cool and even I know that.

    Many of the views expressed on LoGroNo earlier about the Chamber mimick my own, and I was surprised to see others feel the way I do. Maybe this is a gift.. instead of the Chamber quietly slipping away, it can join the movement and actually lead. Right now the thing that makes it valuable, in my own opinion which might not be correct, is that it has vision for all of Northfield instead of just the “downtown.” I like Kathy Feldbrugge, by the way. She’s cool.

    April 12, 2008
  26. Tracy Davis said:

    David, I’m not sure if you’re referring to any specific post of mine or not. If so, please reference that – it will help both of us to know if we’re talking about something in particular. Right now I’m still speaking of generalities.

    Usually I talk to people about what’s on my mind, so most of my posts aren’t really a surprise to anyone who knows me. I don’t make it a point to contact people who may be involved with issues or institutions I’m blogging about unless I’m seeking additional information.

    The times people have asked me why I didn’t call them first surprised me a little, and I’m still trying to determine what social convention (or call it common courtesy, or kindness, whatever) I may have violated by not calling. It didn’t occur to me to call because I had enough information to formulate my opinion (although I have an open mind if *new* information comes in). I didn’t need to ask permission to say what I wanted to say. So why would I call? Or maybe calling isn’t enough. Maybe a formal written note on embossed stationery is required. Or perhaps an invitation to afternoon tea so we could discuss the issue “properly”.

    Maybe you’re right – I really don’t get it. Please enlighten me.

    April 12, 2008
  27. kiffi summa said:

    Mr. Witt: A journalist who seeks truth, as much as it is possible for that to be a finite condition.

    We need the appropriate questions asked to reveal as much of the truth as possible, and that is what our local newspaper does not do enough of (and that may be a staffing problem, or may not).

    Then we need argument, which although may sometimes be opinion based, is not solely opinion, but supported by observed fact.

    In other words, online journalism should follow the basic rules of print journalism, if its goal is truly to inform in a manner which substitutes for the more costly office-based established newspaper journalism, or else it is simply a local opinion column, and may deteriorate into a gossip column.

    It is often, as others besides me have complained, difficult to get any response here to a direct question or issue for consideration. It will just “hang” there for a while and then go away.

    A (cultural) fear that truth disrupts harmony?

    April 12, 2008
  28. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: Instead of asking bloggers what social convention you violated, just ask “those” people who would have preferred a call why they would have preferred a call. Once you know why they preferred a call, then you can decide if your own motives justify doing what YOU want, rather than what THEY want.

    April 12, 2008
  29. Tracy Davis said:

    David, the one time I did that, it turned out that the person wished I’d hadn’t posted what I did; I suppose this person thought a phone call would have been the means to persuade me not to post. I doubt it would have worked, but you never know.

    Do you pick up the phone and call each person involved before you file a lawsuit or issue a subpoena? Just wondering.

    April 12, 2008
  30. Holly Cairns said:

    The Chamber post was Griff, but David is sparring with Tracy. I guess Tracy represents LoGroNo and Griff and Ross’ actions reflect on her, and the group can be considered “one”…

    The title of the chamber post makes it different than most posts on LoGroNo? Yes? Just an observation.

    David, if you didn’t like your voice and Griff’s being presented as “similar”, you might have began by saying so and then described where you differ. Or did you do that…

    It seems David originally voiced concerns, too, but nowhe’s hell-bent to protect/sell the chamber, which confuses me. Since David might have instructed others not to comment on LoGroNo, it seems like David’s now it’s only voice here, which is unfortunate, for a few reasons.

    Anyway, to contact or not… I guess each situation might be dramatically different and so you’ll have trouble finding a suitable, cover-all answer/rule.

    Kiffi– many gossip columns are truthful. It must be something else you’re looking for– substance, maybe?

    April 12, 2008
  31. Holly Cairns said:

    David still didn’t tell us what post he might be referring to here:

    Tracy: So, why didn’t you just call those people instead of blogging?

    April 12, 2008
  32. Ken Wedding said:

    D.L.’s comment, “So, why didn’t you just call those people instead of blogging? ” expresses the essence of the difference between open, public discussion and private, “elite” discussion.

    There are places for both, but we don’t all agree on where those places are.

    My bias is to expand the arena for public discussion. D.L.’s bias seems to be to expand the private arena.

    April 13, 2008
  33. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy said in her post that people asked why she didn’t call instead of blogging. Tracy: You didn’t answer the question – why didn’t you?

    April 13, 2008
  34. Tracy Davis said:

    David, I did answer that question at least partly, in my comment #26 above:

    It didn’t occur to me to call because I had enough information to formulate my opinion (although I have an open mind if *new* information comes in). I didn’t need to ask permission to say what I wanted to say.

    I’ll expand a little. In the online world (which is where Locally Grown lives), telephones almost might not exist. It didn’t occur to me to call, because calling simply isn’t on the radar when conversations take place online. In the eighteen years I’ve been participating in online dialog, I’ve only called two people, and once it was at their invitation.

    The fact that Locally Grown is Northfield-centric changes the rules somewhat, but I’m not sure how.

    The assumptions I’m operating under are that, when people come to LoGro to read, visit, or discuss, they would not bring with them the expectation that discourse here would function like a town meeting (or a church potluck). What I have found is that for many people, LoGro is the first blog they’ve followed, or the first online discussion they’ve joined. So my expectation of their expections was erroneous.

    What I’m trying to explore, in this post, is the question of whether or not a different communication medium brings with it different rules, conventions, expectations (I think it does)… and, how those should be modified in a case like ours, when the people I’m talking with online are also people I could run into at the grocery store or next school board meeting.

    Dave, what it sounds like you’re saying is that medium, schmedium, you should always call someone before you write about them. Is that what you really mean? If so, why do you think that?

    April 13, 2008
  35. Tracy Davis said:

    Ken, you’ve provided good food for thought with the insider/outsider thing. I hadn’t considered that angle before.

    April 13, 2008
  36. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: No, the rules don’t change. Posting online is no different than putting something on the radio or in the newspaper. Why should the rules be different?

    April 13, 2008
  37. Holly Cairns said:

    David said:

    Posting online is no different than putting something on the radio or in the newspaper. Why should the rules be different?

    That’s like asking why Alaska should be cold and Florida should be warm.

    You can dismiss me, but I’m right. I guess it depends on age. People over a certain age don’t get it.

    April 13, 2008
  38. Tracy Davis said:

    Holly made an interesting point, but for some reason it showed up in the comments for a different thread:

    Holly Cairns April 13, 2008 6:39 pm

    Oh, and David, by the way, how I think it’s done for bloggers: If you have a blog, you can see incoming links (where people talked about you via link) on your blog dashboard.

    Also, if you want, you can monitor traffic for keywords. The Vodpod creator, Mark Hall, is in California. He contacted me within minutes of my blog post on Vodpod.

    >> Mark Hall said on Holly’s blog
    >> I’m the founder of Vodpod, and keep track of comments about the
    >> service on blogs, twitter, etc.

    Bloggers don’t think “phone.” They think mentioning someone is an honor. Honestly. IMHO.

    April 13, 2008
  39. kiffi summa said:

    Yes, Holly, you are correct…Substance is what I’m looking for.
    And I, myself, have a problem always adhering to that goal, because I don’t ponder about what I’m going to say, then write a draft, then go back over it and think about it some more…then comment.
    I’m much more “instant gratification” than that. I “shoot” from the hip,or the heart, or off the top of my head, and hope that there’s enough informative content, if needed , to be intelligible.

    As a sidebar, it’s interesting to watch people’s writing styles as they become more obvious over time. How they will pose a confrontation to be not quite so confrontational, how they will challenge someone Griff has told them not to bicker with, how they will choose when and when not to confront with an actual name.

    It’s also interesting to know from comments made elsewhere (not online) how many people follow LG and yet never comment, although being intensely involved as a reader.

    Here’s a question … Do we write, here, the way we talk in a real/live conversation?

    April 14, 2008
  40. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Kiffi– It is interesting that Griff suggested you and others shouldn’t “bicker.” I hope he didn’t use that word, or did he ask certain gentlemen not to bicker, too? Take it out back, ladies. Out back!

    I don’t know how I would handle it as a moderator, though. That’s a tough one. If someone crosses the Griff line, perhaps that should equal 50 lashes with a wet noodle and/ or mandatory coffee…

    Some of us write very much like we talk… is that a good thing? Me thinks no.

    April 14, 2008
  41. kiffi summa said:

    Holly: curious why you say, re: writing like we talk, “Me thinks no” …
    I think if we are writing a more formal piece, an essay for publication, an info article, we might wish to assume a more clear, than usual conversation style. But if we are “talking” back and forth here, why is a clearly conversational style not preferable?
    You’re the tech expert, certainly not me … Explain it to me?

    April 14, 2008
  42. Tracy Davis said:

    David, I should leave your last comment/question alone, but I’m having too much fun with it.

    Tracy: No, the rules don’t change. Posting online is no different than putting something on the radio or in the newspaper. Why should the rules be different?

    Response #1: Baseball is no different than polo. They’re both played on a grassy field and involve hitting an object with a stick. Why should the rules be different?

    Response #2: If we all agree that posting online is no different than putting something on radio or newspaper, are you going to start lobbying the Northfield News and KYMN to telephone people before they print or say anything about them?

    April 14, 2008
  43. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Kiffi,

    I responded to you but the comment must have died along the way.

    I think comments, in general, tend to be more relaxed and conversational than let’s say, blog posts. But, comments stay around “forever” and so it depends on how you feel about it.

    I’ve read some very long, eloquent comments which irritated me since they seemed prepared, instead of conversational. I’ve thought “Come on, this is a conversation, rather than a place for you to present your already prepared speech”, for example.

    April 14, 2008
  44. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: As Lance said, you are a pioneer, and you can do what you want. But, your question was whether or not there should be new rules. So, my question to you is, “What don’t you like about the old rules?”.

    April 14, 2008
  45. Tracy Davis said:

    David, I never said I didn’t like the old rules (assuming we can have some success in even identifying what they are). It still is not clear to me which ones can or should apply here, and why or why not.

    April 14, 2008
  46. Randy Jennings said:


    Sorry to be late to the party, but I’d like to weigh in on the side of common courtesy in posts related to the local (geographic) community, regardless of the conventions emerging in the disembodied online community. I “get it” that blog posts can be written and posted faster than the speed of thought, but I still don’t find that entirely an advance for human culture. (I hear matches striking.) At the same time, I also appreciate the time and reflection that you and many others put into trying to be fair and responsible in creating a civil conversation.

    Perhaps a different version of your original question is whether a blog like this one, that claims a community as its audience, should be held to a more rigorous standard than that of a conversation in the wee hours at the Cow, after adult beverages have been consumed. As you and your colleauges embark on your citizen journalism project, I hope you’ll focus first on the conventions and ethics of journalism, and then very secondarily on whatever wisdom of the crowds model you are developing. Adhering to standards that require independent verification of claims and sources *prior to* publishing would go a long way to minimizing factual inaccuracies and mea culpas. It seems to me that half-accurate speculation is the source of the most distressing exchanges here. Putting journalistic standards first might also help protect or restore common courtesy, without requiring you (or others) to pull your punches on issues where you have the material to back up your opinions.

    I, for one, would love it if Prof. Witt would provide a primer on what we should expect of journalism and journalists, as well as some thoughts on which, if any, of those expectations ought rightly be applied to people who publish in this sort of forum. Since the old tools of libel, slander and copyright laws don’t seem nimble enough to keep up with the pace of blogging, maybe new, community-based rules can be more effective.

    April 14, 2008
  47. Holly Cairns said:

    Randy said:

    Putting journalistic standards first might also help protect or restore common courtesy.

    I like informal, commentary, blah blah blah, what’s this going on, what do you think about this, etc. The bloggers that run this site already do seem to check into things and are pretty responsible, I think.

    Let’s not make this a boring site, please. Let’s not make it into a list of upcoming events (without opinion). Randy, have you tried That might be what you want.

    IMHO: this blog is much more civil than it could be or than many other blogs.

    April 15, 2008
  48. Anthony Pierre said:

    Ya, I always enjoy duck pictures and fake news.

    April 15, 2008
  49. Anne Bretts said:

    Holly, I think the problem is that this isn’t an informal conversation among a handful of friends at the Cow. This is a group of writers sharing comments with 5,000 observers, and the entire world. A false accusation or rumor could be devastating, particularly if the person isn’t even aware it’s happening until after it’s happened.
    How would you feel if you watched a cable broadcast of City Council a few days after the meeting and found yourself attacked during the open mic?
    In the most immediate example, I guess would have liked to see Griff call the chamber and tell them LG was planning to launch a discussion and what the main points were going to be so some response could be included in the main post, not just the comments.

    April 15, 2008
  50. Paul Fried said:

    Tracy: People sometimes say, “Why didn’t you just call me and talk to me personally” when they’re doing damage-control, as seems to be the case with the Chamber story: Adam Elg observed on that thread that sometimes a direct call goes nowhere, and LoGroNo isn’t a telephone reference service but a forum for the three of you to blog and invite community participation into the discussion.

    On that thread, Griff and others suggested that more might be accomplished if concerned business owners met as a group to express their concerns to the Chamber; then instead of finding many valid concerns dismissed or minimized as it passes through the eye of the needle, the organization might move toward some productive reform.

    On the other hand, blogging and online activity is a surreal cultural event that people are still struggling to understand (as your question implies). When we blog, we often sit in front of a screen, alone, and we may be tempted to say things we might not say face-to-face. So in the back of our minds, blogging may feel a bit like journaling, but in his presentations on blogging, Griff sometimes reminds people that it’s not a private journal. My point is not that you treat it as such (you don’t), but the online phenomenon sometimes results in strangers expressing opinions to strangers in honest, open, and direct ways they might not otherwise express themselves to strangers or in public.

    Where this phenomenon meets the small-town community context is one way in which we may feel the friction or potential conflict. Because people are sometimes blunt or very up-front online, moreso than face-to-face, it’s good that people (like you) raise questions about rules and where to draw the lines.

    It’s fine and true to say that kindness is always appropriate, but online, we often operate in a very different way. Strangers drop in to a conversation to make a comment at a certain point, and then drop out, whereas, in the “real world,” if the conversation were taking place in a pub, we might be uncomfortable if the person at the next table were listening-in on the conversation, and then put in their two-cents. We might ask the stranger their name. If a neighbor popped in on the conversation, we might ask how the landscaping project is going in their backyard, and how the spouse and kids are doing; but online, we strip away many of those polite rituals and pleasantries.

    It’s those rituals and pleasantries that embody a great deal of what we sometimes think of as “civility.” So even when online discussion seems relatively civil, it often appears to be much more blunt and in-your-face.

    So you might imagine how those who don’t blog, and who would rather keep the conversation from letting the cat out of the bag, would much rather have a phone call, which can be structured according to their rules and pleasantries. Keep that cat in the bag. Follow the script.

    But on the other hand, sometimes raw-seeming online discussion can easily spread gossip and be damaging, so the ease of online discussion should be used responsibly. If a phone call can clear up matters of fact and avoid passing on a rumor, better to act as if the world has more means of communication than online, and to use them, than to act as if blogging alone is sufficient. It’s not.

    April 15, 2008
  51. Griff Wigley said:

    Randy, I expect that the RepJ reporter will adhere to traditional “prior to publishing” journalistic practices for the stories they publish here. They’ll likely be opinionated pieces, like one sees in Slate or MinnPost but still backed by facts, not just speculation.

    But I’ll continue to speculate on occasion, tho not recklessly.

    I get a steady stream of news, tidbits, rumors from people every week that I decline to put on LG because of ‘journalistic ethical standards.’  When I do speculate, it’s with a consideration on what’s helpful, what’s potentially damaging, what’s responsible, what’s going to further understanding.

    I know you and I don’t agree on my handling of the heroin story but that was a case in which I did phone an important source (the police chief) before blogging it. No, I didn’t verify his facts, but that’s where I think the line is between the blogging we do here (“Police chief and drug researcher say we have a heroin problem and I agree”) and what a good journalist would do (“Heroin in Northfield: what are the facts?”).  I think both types of writing are valid.

    April 15, 2008
  52. Holly Cairns said:

    Anne said:

    This is a group of writers sharing comments with 5,000 observers, and the entire world.

    Well, duh. 🙂

    April 15, 2008
  53. David Ludescher said:

    Tracy: Randy (post #46) made my point more eloquently than I.

    April 15, 2008

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