Peter Ellis, the editor of the St. Augustine Record, recently began a blog with an angry post that suggests he is starting his new site under duress:
My first encounter with a blogger was a miserable experience. He reported stuff on his blog about The Record that was wrong and then urged bloggers across the country to write me to complain. Many of them did, even though most of them had never heard of the St. Augustine Record.
That left a bad taste in my mouth about bloggers. Since then, I've read quite a few blogs and, with some delightful exceptions, most are awful. So I enter the world of blogging gently, knowing that many who have gone before me have failed.
My goal is to write about what happens in the newsroom, why we make the decisions we do and, I hope, get into a conversation with you about The Record and our work. I won't write about my family, my dog, my old convertible and my golf game. They all fascinate me, but I'm pretty sure they won't do the same for you.
What I will talk about is journalism at The Record. I hope you'll join me in the conversation.
He's talking about me. In 2007, I wrote about the Record when it tried to expose the identity of a local blogger who was critical of a county commissioner, and my story was linked by Romenesko, attracting attention from some journalists and bloggers across the country. I posted a follow-up about how Ellis was telling people that the blogger was a front for an organized group but the paper never ran a story revealing his identity or that of the supposed group.
As a longtime reader of the Record, I thought it was inappropriate for the paper to release its own security video of the unnamed blogger, who had bought a display ad in the paper to get his message out, and conduct a manhunt as if he was a criminal. The factual basis for the ad was backed up by the paper's own reporting.
When Ellis posted a comment on my blog, I contacted him to confirm his identity and we got into a bitchy email exchange. He told me "you don't have a lot of credibility with me," I responded that my web traffic could beat up his web traffic and he kept telling me that my blog was incorrect without pointing out any actual error. He finished the exchange with this comment: "You're wrong across the board, and you know it. Please don't write to me anymore."
So now I learn that not only was I wrong in some still-unspecified way, but my wrongness proved to be a formative experience for him.
This isn't the first time I've made a professional journalist mad about what I wrote on Workbench, which I enjoy because turnabout is fair play. But I didn't encourage people to complain to Ellis. I just related the facts as I knew them, gave my own opinion and some bloggers evidently contacted him because they objected to what his paper was doing. It's ironic that a journalist with 37 years experience would play shoot the messenger when he doesn't like the consequences of somebody else's reporting.
Although this would appear to be another battle in the war between journalists and bloggers, as I begin my eleventh year of blogging I don't think the distinctions matter any more. He appears to see bloggers as a self-fascinated and awful group, but these days millions of people have blogs, Twitter accounts and social media sites. Everybody gathers and shares information. The world I went to college for, in which a trained priesthood of journalism school graduates are the primary dispensers of the news, doesn't exist any more.
I enjoyed the days when profits were fat and journalism jobs were plentiful, but I'm glad to live at a time when any outspoken person with a web site has the opportunity to put the local newspaper editor on the defensive.