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Who in the world cares about Bainbridge Island

March 11th, 2004 · 1 Comment

Become the local media! Lisa Williams wrote earlier this week.

One commenter linked to an example of local media (via Dan Gillmor ) to the Madison School Board site : This site is designed to provide Madison voters with a fast, easy to use place to learn more about the candidates for this spring’s school board election. Periodic updates and comments are also available on my blog: www.zmetro.com

Lisa in her post linked to Sebastian Paquet:

The cost of blogging is practically zero and there’s got to be people who like to follow what happens locally and wouldn’t mind writing about it.

Okay, so how can this get started in a loosely joined fashion? One way would be to find a few other local bloggers (GeoURLs can come in handy here) and set up a community aggregator, e.g. using the RSS-based Rollup or the TrackBack-based Topic Exchange. (The latter route is how Austin Bloggers got their start, and look at the great local log they’ve got now.)

Through his post I found a link via Jonathan Peterson back to a piece by Glenn Reynolds, Blogging the Next Wave:

If politics isn’t your interest, local blogs focusing on the music scene, restaurants, or retail can do just as well. Review local bands’ shows, shoot a little video, post some interviews with fans or musicians, and you’ll soon be well-known in your area. You may even find people willing to pay to advertise on your blog, or to donate in support of your efforts.

Modern technology — especially the combination of easy web publishing, cheap web hosting, and rapidly spreading access to broadband internet — means that a single individual can compete with Big Media organizations on a surprisingly equal footing, if he or she picks the area carefully. While there will be lots of attention given to warblogs and blogs focusing on national politics between now and the Presidential election in the fall, I think that over the long term it’s blogs focused on other areas that have the most potential for growth, and for affecting the world on a day to day basis.

Universal publishing is a reality now. If the idea interests you, give it a try.

The other night I attended a local seminar on The Impact of New Technology on the News Media. I had hoped that it would be an exploration of blogging or at least discussion including the impact citizen journalists can have. But instead much of the focus stayed on the Big Media, such as the Seattle Times and Slate . There was a lot of talk about advertising and how to make it pay on-line. Even the editor of Blue Ear Daily , a virtual organization with staff and reporters posting from all over the world, said that he would publish his new novel “the traditional way”. It seemed to me that the mindset could have been more Internet and innovative: the thinking was focussed on professionals and keeping media as a business and corporation. Where the money is.

At one point the question was posed: will there still be journalists in the future? I couldn’t find this in my notes but I remembered the words in the air. And I think, to the best that I can remember, no one on the panel addressed this question. Maybe no one knew the answer. Maybe no one wanted to think his job might not exist in the future. Or that it might be in a different form.

I’ve been talking to Ted about how our community, Bainbridge Island, could benefit from on-line publication of news and information.

The only local newspaper is the Bainbridge Review. It is published twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Yet in this Internet age, updating twice a week seems archaic. Sure it’s a small community. But it’s also a rural community. Our neighborhood is a subdivision with sidewalks but that’s rare. In order to get to many homes, the paper must be delivered down gravel driveways or dirt roads. Print isn’t efficient any more. The Seattletimes.com editor said that they are losing money on the paper edition; they are paying us to read it. I imagine the local paper’s budget might not look that much better.

This is a community of many well-educated professionals. The island is home to political activity and international organizations, people who keep up with the news, and who appreciate alternative sources and perspectives . DSL is available to some and cable recently arrived on the island. Plenty of people work from home, tele-commuting. To me it only makes sense to have local news on-line.

The Bainbridge Review is on-line. It has a website. But the website doesn’t carry all the content. And it sometimes isn’t updated as regularly as the paper edition.

The biggest reason I can think to continue the paper edition is the boy down the street who delivers it. I imagine he’s learning a lot from running a paper route. But other than that, I can’t think of many reasons why they should keep printing paper. Perhpas a few for those who don’t have Internet access, a couple copies to flop about the coffee shops and wear espresso stains.

The paper claims as its motto that it is The only newspaper in the world that cares about Bainbridge Island . It has a history that is noble: the editor defended the rights of the Japanese-Americans who were taken away to internment camps during World War II. The paper and its role were immortalized in the novel and movie Snow Falling on Cedars.

But perhaps more people in the world would care about Bainbridge Island if there was a local blog or two. I imagine it wouldn’t take much to make a blog or an aggregator of blogs. The other night I bugged my planet apache husband – perhaps he’d help make a planet Bainbridge. Then again, perhaps one orb is enough for him; he might not want to find himself managing an entire solar system. Sebastian Paquet suggested some other options in his post.

A blog for the island, I imagine, would be able to attract specific advertisers. The market would be clear. It would be able to update easily. It might even help island economy and certainly community. A blog as opposed to a web site would allow, as one panelist on Monday night said, the readers to do the corrections page.

And I think that there are many stories out there waiting to be written. I think that this island is an intriguing place, built on a historical foundation, playing a particular role in the region. It is in the middle of the Sound, between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula, between city and Navy, between Canada and Tacoma. Chief Seattle, the city’s namesake, was born here. This land was taken from his tribe, the Suquamish, who were removed to a settlement on the other side of Agate Pass. And the island played a historic role as the first place where Japanese-Americans were removed and taken to internment camps in World War II. A national monument is in process. We are living among these skeletons, shaping the future from past. I think that an Internet presence might help tell some of these stories, stories that have relevance in other parts of the world.

Here’s another picture of Bainbridge. When Ted and I went to see The Passion of the Christ, on the first Friday night, there were only about two dozen others in the theater with us when the film began. Perhaps another two dozen showed up after the lights went down; maybe due to the ferry. A friend who went Saturday night told me it was the same. I’ve heard of other places where people camped out and slept over to guarantee tickets, crowded showings and long lines. Not on Bainbridge. Hardly anyone here wants to see it. I think that’s a story. A story that speaks about this place where we live.

I have a hard time believing that there are only enough stories for a paper twice a week, a handful of pages. There’s a high school filled with kids and its own paper. I’m sure there would be younger writers who’d like to post. There are plenty of organizations with perspectives. It’d be great to have a place to publish transcripts for the community – like the one I did the other day. James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly was here a couple weeks ago. His appearance got a lot of press beforehand , but nothing mentioned afterwards. I’d love to know what others are reading, hearing and seeing. Schedules, ferry boats, children, weather keep us isolated but a blog could bring us together and build community, even on cold damp Northwest winters when no one leaves the house.

I wouldn’t mind more details about the government’s doings, city council transcripts or reports. And I’d like to know more about what’s happening with the oil spill from earlier this year. I’d like more news about what the media has carried and considers to be news stories.

But I’d be happy to hear observations from the beach. How’s the tide? The sea life? The ferry wake? Anyone else there with you? What do you think about in a mellow moment on the island? Why do you live here? What do you find fun about the ferry? What bothers you about the boat? What are people eating now that food service has stopped? Who’s coming downtown? Who hangs out on Winslow Way? Vagabonds? Skaters? Soccer moms? Business people: who works here? What types of tourists come? Teens and twentysomethings, why do you not want to live here? How do neighborhoods differ? Has anyone seen deer? The Pheasant? The Bear? Where do the eagles nest? Where do you go on a sunny Saturday? What parks are best? Is anyone paying the new $5 fee at the state parks? Or are you ignoring the honor system? What do you do and why? What do you see here?

Ironically, I’ve noticed that the Bremerton Sun now is sending out an island-oriented paper once a week into our mailbox. And the Bainbridge Review has created a weekly digest also to go to everyone’s home, not just subscribers. At a time when on-line would be easy, the paper wars are heating up. It doesn’t make sense to me, all this new newsprint arriving at our home. More for the recycling bin. In an environmentally-conscious community, that’s even more ironic.

So I’m not sure what to do next. How to start a Bainbridge Island blog. I’d need to find some other writers. I wouldn’t want to do it alone. I’d want to start with a community. And I’d need to find some way to host it. It seems like a big task to start. Especially when I’m barely able to keep my own blog afloat.

But I care about Bainbridge Island. And I think it’d be worth a try.
Anyone else feel the same way?

Tags: island

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 ann // Aug 11, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    I think a lot of local stories are worth telling and will not make the local paper for a variety of reasons. I cannot help you on a daily basis but think what you are considering is worth doing.