The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Newspapering and Decolumnizing

Two local announcements that reflect the turmoil and opportunities on the print/online news business:

Kirk Ross announces
the Carrboro Citizen which will appear in print March 21. The Citizen will include articles from the UNC J-School produced Carrboro Commons as well as material from Kirk’s blogs, Exile on Jones Street (state politics), Cape Fear Mercury (coastal and environmental), The Mill (Carrboro centered). Yes there will be paper and there will be blogs. Kirk has added a new category to his Exile blog called Newspapering to track the Citizen’s progress.

Meanwhile Ted Vaden at the News and Observer is busy explaining what has happened to their popular columnists. Suddenly they all have different jobs. After 30 years of columnizing Dennis Rogers is on the road reporting on military families under the title of “Home Front” (various puns and ambiguities ignored by Vaden), sports columnist Ned Barnett has become Sunday Editor but no new columnist has been announced in his place, and after 10 years G.D. Gearino will no longer tell us about Life, he’ll be out reporting on Lives.

Vaden shills for Sills as he quotes her here: Executive Editor Melanie Sill says the purpose is to better align positions with the newspaper’s changing mission, which is to move “from a newspaper with a Web site to becoming a newsroom that publishes in print and online.”

I’m not sure how dropping the unique branding of a newspaper is part of becoming a website. In fact I’d argue the opposite. Columnists are the most personal and blog-like part of a paper. Quick to respond. Quick to raise a hackle. Quick to get strong engagement as a public conversation.

The Citizen goes from blogs to print and News and Observer goes from blog-like to bland-like whilst losing brand.

One other oddity: The News and Observer blogs have become very active and very informative on all kinds of subjects that otherwise would see only limited ink. Now the blogs provide a regular slot in the paper as well as rich and unique online resources. The Chapel Hill reporter today isn’t afraid to ask where in interview will take place and he gets good results in the form of information and in reader conversation.

Now that’s one good way to use the online newsroom. What JR called for at the News and Record when he called for more transparency. Mundane in some ways; invaluable in all ways.


  1. Thanks for another good post, Paul. Check out the N&O’s beta community site,

  2. Paul

    3/5/2007 at 7:22 am

    Have been looking at it and thinking. I’ve been weighing, in my mind, the pros and cons of “gated communities” on the internet. This one isn’t actually gated so much as hidden in that the contents don’t appear to be Google-discoverable. I need to check that etc.

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