Friday, June 16, 2006

Eppy Award-winning Blogs, Part 2 ...

Last month, Editor and Publisher and Mediaweek announced the winners of the 10th annual Eppy Awards in Las Vegas. Here's what Mark Briggs, Editor of Tacoma's News Tribune, wrote about Today in the Sky, selected as "Best Business Blog" ...

USA Today's Ben Mutzabaugh knows about forming online communities.

"Readers are our friends," Mutzabaugh said when asked what he has learned as a blogger for the past four years. "In print it's easy to feel you are at odds with readers because people will find one little thing wrong so as a journalist you get defensive. The readers on a blog chime in and help you. They want you to get the story right. Readers help make the blog stronger than any single author could make it alone."

The elder statesman of this group, Mutzabaugh began the blog in 2002 as part of a job change that brought him from the sports department of the interactive staff to the business reporting desk. He said he didn't have the pedigree for the assignment, with a background in college athletics PR, but he always had an interest in the airline industry and air travel and begged and pleaded for a shot. He said an encyclopedic memory for facts and trivia have helped.

"It was a pretty big shift," said Mutzabaugh, who also writes for the newspaper. "I couldn't be happier."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Virtual Acquaintance ... an Actual Friend ...

Perhaps, I have been lucky ... perhaps, I have been careful ... perhaps, I have been both ... whatever the reason, I have found that my acquaintances in the virtual world (those who have welcomed me to the blogosphere neighborhood) have been everything I thought them to be - and more! - when I meet them in the actual world.

Those virtual acquaintances have become actual friends ... at least, that's the way I feel, and I hope the feeling is reciprocated.

Some, I couldn't help but bump into. In many respects, Midland is very much a small town. There were several on the blogosphere - Eric at
Fire Ant Gazette, Jimmy at Sticky Doorknobs and Burr at El Llanero - who were friends and acquaintances of mine in the real world before I met them online.

Others, it's just a matter of time. I suspect that Wallace at
Streams and Julie at Yellow Bug News and I have been three ships passing each other in the night on more than one occasion, as we sail along in our kids' wake. I'll probably meet them at last, in the real world, this fall, during a PTA meeting at San Jacinto.

I hope, someday, to head 'back east' and visit my family, there. And, maybe, at the same time, I'll be able to meet two more e-acquaintances ... Jim at
serontoninrain, and Frank at BOOKS, INQ.

With this in mind, one of the highlights of a trip elder son and I took to the Fort Worth area, earlier this week, was lunch with Cowtown Pattie of
Texas Trifles at a location near and dear to both our hearts - and palates! - The Purple Cow.

There are other items we have in common, as well ... appreciation for the words of Edward Abbey, and the country that inspired those words ... love for our families ... respect for the great State of Texas, its people, its culture and its history ... all of this I knew from our virtual acquaintance.

Cowtown Pattie, in person, is even better!

It was a good lunch, with great company and conversation. And, I'm hoping to get together again, someday, with this woman who "meets life and takes it by the horns." At the end of lunch, as we prepared to depart, I told her that we expect her and her husband - the K-Man, who, I learned, is an accomplished muralist - to visit us on their next jaunt to the Big Bend ... after all, Midland is right along the way, and it IS the greatest concentration of Texas Trifles fans between Stanton and Odessa.

Eppy Award-winning Blogs, Part 1 ...

Last month, Editor and Publisher and Mediaweek announced the winners of the 10th annual Eppy Awards in Las Vegas. Here's what Mark Briggs, Editor of Tacoma's News Tribune, wrote about Crime Scene KC, selected as "Best News Blog" ...

Kansas City Star editor Mark Zieman pulled Greg Reeves into his office on July 22, 2005, and said, "I want you to start blogging."

Zieman's idea was a local crime blog with "content, content, content, analysis."

"I have a long background in criminal justice reporting, database programming, public-records acquisition, etc." Reeves said via e-mail. "Mark wanted me to take all that and blog about Kansas City crime news."

Attitude was fine, but "this is not a celebrity blog," Zieman reportedly said.

The blog went online Aug. 1, 2005, in experimental mode. Reeves strung out hundreds of crime stories from The Star, and police blotter reports from the paper. He went on a ride-along with Kansas City police and blogged like he was writing a note to friends.

Neither of these approaches worked, however, but the blog readers are enjoying today arose out of those attempts. In the past six months, the blog has received more than 15,000 comments, according to Reeves.

"When comments started landing on my blog, it dawned on me, 'I can talk to these people,'" said Reeves, who has served as a courthouse and police reporter, special assignment reporter and database/CAR reporter over the years. "The interactivity was eye-opening. I was finally learning what people care about and what they don't care about. Now I'm getting 300 to 500 comments a day, and online communities are forming in the blog."

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Year of the Firefighter ...

Word around town is that the idea of a ban on fireworks sales, by county governments in West Texas, is being discussed. No actual moves made at this time, no steps taken ... just that the idea is being considered before a decision - if any - is made.

I guess I'm just not as smart as the average county commissioner ... because I can't, for the life of me, imagine what there is to consider ...

For crying out loud ... give bone-dry, baked West Texas a break this summer! Ban the sale of fireworks! And prohibit their use in any setting that is not carefully controlled, and monitored for safety (such as 'community displays' at the fairgrounds or the ballpark) !

Think of it as a way to mark the 'Year of the Firefighter.'

That's what we ought to call 2006 ... or, maybe we should mark the year as starting in December, 2005, when wildfires swept through Cross Plains, leaving 2 people dead, and 116 homes destroyed.

It was less than three months ago, that we marked what was called "the worst single day in Texas wildfire history." By that time, fires in the Panhandle had scorched 700,000 acres and killed eleven people ... and the fires weren't more than half-contained at that point. By the time the fires were well and truly 'knocked down' in the Panhandle, another 300,000 acres would be scorched. And the death toll would climb, as well ... and don't forget, more than 10,000 head of livestock lost, too.

Fires of one kind or another are an almost daily topic in the news. Some are big, like the fires in the Davis Mountains, last month. Others are small, but intense, like the fires that struck two different sets of apartments in Midland, this week. I have lived and worked in West Texas for more than twenty years ... and that included some prize-winning work, a few years back, covering the massive Glass Mountain Fire in Pecos and Brewster counties ... but I have never, NEVER seen a fire season in West Texas like this one we are experiencing now.

Almost anything can set them off ... lightning, cigarettes, sparks from welders' torches, people burning trash (in spite of a burn ban!), sparks from the wheels of railroad cars, kids playing with a lighter ... and fireworks.

And through it all, our firefighters - professionals and volunteers - have responded admirably, going out again and again in response to something terrible - even deadly - that they didn't start ... but were determined to finish. And some have given all that a person can give ... the death toll from wildfires, this year, includes a number of Texas' bravest.

Little has changed from the condition that have existed through much of the year. True, we do not have the strong, driving winds that plagued the Panhandle in March ... but it is every bit as dry, now, as it was then ... and it's been a lot hotter this month!

There are things that we, as private citizens, can do to reduce the threat of fire, and to assist the efforts of our firefighters ... and one way would be a decision to NOT light-up little packets of explosive powder and toss them God-knows-where ... couldn't we all, this year, forego a few seconds of 'snap-crackle-pop' in order to save firefighters from spending additional hours on the fire line?

July 4th, Independence Day, is just around the corner ... let's make that day the centerpiece of our celebration of 'The Year of the Firefighter' ... and give them all a quiet, fire-free day off.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What We Learn When We Teach ...

I know, I know ... it seem as though I'm always mentioning Eric Siegmund, and recommending you read one of his posts on Fire Ant Gazette ... but, c'mon, he is 'Da Blogfodder,' of West Texas, after all!

But, this time, I really, REALLY, REALLY
think you should go read this post about his service as a teacher at Vacation Bible School ... or VBS.

It is a reminder of what a wonderful resource a youth ministry can be ... of what assets to the community are found in those who step forward and take an active hand in serving that community, at-large, through its churches ... and what we might all learn
, when we set out to teach!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Where in the World is Eric Siegmund? ...

Eric at Fire Ant Gazette is in the midst of his annual rite of family and fellowship, dominos and deviled eggs ... and he's offered to take his extended, virtual family along with him, to the Hill Country ...

If you can get by the scary guy at the front door, you may want to drop in for a visit ...