P-I citizen journalist wonders what's next

The bloggers who do it for love, not money, are sad too.
The bloggers who do it for love, not money, are sad too.

Although I'm not one of the unfortunate 170 Seattle P-I employees who will be out of a job soon, I am somewhat concerned about my future as a P-I Reader Blogger. I started blogging for the P-I in September 2006. Along with around 170 other bloggers, I cover a specific topic, and in my case it's one of 16 neighborhood blogs, simply called Whidbey Island Life.

Here's the official description:

Puget Sound is home to dozens of islands. Sue Frause has lived on Whidbey Island since 1975 and still thinks it's fun taking a ferry to get home. Read about her island's colorful characters and what makes Whidbey such a unique place.

My readership has grown over the past 2.5 years, and the last report I received had me at 11,269 page views for December 2008. Several times I even made it into the Top Ten, but I've yet to beat out Bus Chick or Digital Joystick. To date, I've posted 1,048 entries and readers have left 1,186 comments. Most of them printable.

So why write a blog for free? OK, "unpaid citizen journalism," that's how the P-I describes it. First off, it's a different type of writing than most traditional journalists are used to cranking out. It's shorter, snappier and can simply be random thoughts and opinions on any number of things. Having been a columnist for The South Whidbey Record from 1988-2003, it was fun for me to write about island life again. I was missing the connection to the place where I've lived so long.

Then there was the scoop factor. I can't deny that it's fun now and again to scoop the local media, or find an interesting person to profile who hasn't been overexposed in our island's newspapers. But the real reason I like blogging so much is that not only am I my own editor, it's current and correctable, and I don't have any mandatory assignments hanging over my head.

If I want to write about the annual Island County Fair, fine. If I can't face its barnyard scramble and curly fries one more time, that's OK, too. As far as deadlines go, it's my call.

The majority of the time I try to post daily, keeping it fresh and lively. The other big difference between print and online are the comments, which I generally answer. As I replied to one anonymous commenter who was unhappy that I would dare write about anything except Whidbey Island, "It's my blog and I'm pretty much free to write about what I wanna write about." That was the last I heard from him.

I'm also hooked on putting together the look of my blog, which combines both my words and photographs. It's the ultimate luxury in having it your way, right down to the headline. And in terms of marketing, it's been a good tool. I've been offered a number of paid writing gigs thanks to my blog in the P-I. (In fact, Crosscut is one of them.)

The P-I has been my newspaper of choice since I first started reading columnist Emmett Watson when I was a young girl growing up in Arlington, Washington. Shortly after word got out that the paper was being put up for sale, a reader stopped me on the ferry and asked what would become of my blog. I told him I didn't know. What I do know is that I'm sad to see the print edition of my newspaper fade away.


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