P-I experiments with interactive journalism. (Hint: it’s called “blogging”)

A quick link to Mark Trahant’s column in the Sunday Seattle P-I: “Journalism as interactive medium.”

Mark writes about the P-I’s experiment of attaching online polls to nearly every editorial (but curiously, not this one.) Their goal is a noble one, to make journalism more interactive by easily facilitating reader feedback. But you all know my opinion about these stupid, lame-ass, online polls: they’re, um… stupid, and uh… lame-ass.

Online polls are too often leading, and too easily manipulated by OCD-like freepers, who would rather create the illusion that the people agree with them, than go through the actual effort of persuasion. Online polls also are not particularly all that interactive.

But how does journalism — especially opinion journalism — feel the pulse of what’s important to our readers? How do we measure and share those concerns with other readers? How can we contribute to a community’s conversation about itself, reflecting the concerns that people tell one another?

Um… why not attach a comment section to every editorial (or even every article for that matter) essentially turning the online version of the P-I into an uber-blog? Many real journalists are rightly concerned about the growing influence of us bloggers. So why not beat us at our own game?

See, I’ll let you in on a little secret, Mark. It’s not content that drives blogs… it’s community. Oh sure, content is important, and I’m gratified that so many people stop by to read me on a daily basis. But let’s be honest, my most engaged readers aren’t checking in a dozen times a day just in case there’s a fresh post. They’re itching to read the latest comments on their comments on other people’s comments, and so on.

Trust me Mark, you’re readers are just dying to share their comments with you — so much so, that for want of the opportunity, they’re going to leave their comments here on HA, by proxy. You say only 277 people responded to a recent poll, and yes, I understand you didn’t promote it. But HA has a tiny, tiny fraction of your daily readership, and yet three out of my last four posts have generated triple-digit comments. These people didn’t just push a few buttons… they took the time to thoughtfully put their opinions into words. (Well… some of them.) Now that’s interaction.

This brave new world of open-source journalism is a scary place Mark, but if traditional journalists like you don’t start to embrace it, it will pass you by. Do you really want public opinion to be shaped by propagandists like me and Stefan? I sure don’t.

So please… no more baby steps. It’s time for the P-I to jump right in and open a comment thread on every article and editorial you publish. Be bold. Be creative.

You’ve got to stop thinking of your website as the online version of the P-I. Your website is the P-I… and that thing the Times prints for you every day? That’s the paper version.

Make that paradigm shift, and you may even have a chance of surviving in a post-JOA world.


  1. 1


    You are correct. It is the discussion of ideas and opinions that drives blogs. Newspapers are all about presenting their bias. Having a letters to the editor page does not come close to direct and open feedback. They will learn soon. The hard way.

  2. 2

    JCH spews:

    But.but…but what about the NY/LA Times, and The Boston Globe? How will the liberals get their view out without being laughed at??

  3. 3

    Chee spews:

    Your the wave of the future already happening. Like Will Rogers said, get there first, they will follow. The eyes of the curious are upon you. Bloggers have become a draw card. Your blog rocks.

  4. 4

    Diggindude spews:

    True, liberals are by far overshadowed by the flailing rants of right wingers on most mediums.
    Its refreshing to find a place where liberals can actually be heard, without being outgunned 100 to 1.
    Im not always on their side, but at least hearing both sides for a change is unusual.

  5. 5

    JCH spews:

    4.Diggindude……”outgunned 100 to 1.”?? Let’s see..CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS, NY/LA Times, San Fran Cron, Boston Globe…..Who did I miss? Diggindude, what color is the sky in your world?

  6. 7

    JCH spews:

    6..D, You must be joking. Have you read any of the editorial pages and any of these papers? Can you tell me who they endorced for president in 2000, 2004……..hell, in the Clinton years? As for CBS, NBC, et al……….Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, etc, etc, etc. Diggindude, do you really believe what you write? [Don, here’s another career Democrat for you to lead!]

  7. 9

    JCH spews:

    D.Answer the question. Who did these papers endorse in 1996, 2000, and 2004? [one question, all or nothing, D!!]

  8. 10


    JCH – What’s your beef? The discussion here is about newspapers added blog entries to supplement the printed version. Do you favor such a concept or not? That’s the question here. I’d have thought you’d be all for it so you and Mr. C. and others can submit your comments on issues the same way you do here. That way you can moan about their endorsements on their blogs rather than this one.

  9. 11

    JCH spews:

    D…….Time’s up!! All these “MSM Conservative” papers endorsed…..The Commie Lib Democrat!! No Hershey Bar for you, D!!!

  10. 12

    Dave spews:

    Remember Diggindude, the only thing people like JCH would want is 100% conservative bias. Even though there were tons of papers who endorsed Bush you obviously won’t see him gripe about them, because they MUST have been more balanced – right? Real conservative bias is in how the mainstream media distorts the news on a daily basis to support Bush’s policies, not just the presidential endorsements that end up in the opinion pages. The more obvious bastions of right-wing bias are groups like Talon News who got a Republican activist/former gay escort “reporter” into the White House under a fake name to report White House press briefings as his own news articles. Or Fox News’ doctoring of AP articles to replace “suicide bomber” with “homicide bomber” even if it means intentionally misquoting people like Hillary Clinton to maintain their standards of bias. Or Bob Novak misquoting Howard Dean to support privatizing social security. Or the Bush administration paying jounalists like Armstrong Williams to propagandize to the American public in support of administration policies. There really is no such thing as the liberal media, it’s a matter of which news outlets are telling the truth versus which are an extension of the Republican party. So the standard that people like JCH are going by is pretty obvious.

  11. 13

    wes.in.wa spews:

    I’m thinking the PI would never post unfiltered comments on their site, for liability reasons.

    But there wouldn’t, in theory, be anything to stop any enterprising blogger from posting a near-mirror of each day’s headline page, with links to the newspaper’s own articles, and adding such a comments option.

  12. 14

    John spews:

    Goldy, I’ve seen comments sections on the websites of major papers like the LA Times. They are really bad. As bad or worse than anything we’ve seen here at HA.

    I want papers and the rest of the MSM to do better journalism period. I like the tension right now between the MSM and the blogs. As much as I despise the people behind the Rather flap they did a good service by exposing sloppy journalism. There’s no excuse for it. Thanks to the blogs there’s at least some hope that the MSM will raise their standards.

    That being said, I want to see editors and reporters not waste too much bandwidth on the rabble out here. I want them spending at least 95 percent of their time developing good sources and chasing down stories. We’ll make our voices heard here on the blogs just fine. If the MSM is smart they’ll check with us on the blogs to see how they’re doing otherwise they will truly end up irrelevant.

  13. 15


    It would be nice to see more columnists, like Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune (he’s very good BTW), produce blogs. I just wish he’d allow comments, although people obviously contact him via email.

  14. 16

    Aaron spews:

    Actually the PI does have a on-line comment section, you can find it by clicking “Forums” on the left edge of their home page, or at this link:

    It tends to be pretty quiet, and they don’t have links at the end of every article to the forums (like Slate does for example) as Goldy suggests. But it is there.

  15. 17

    Chee spews:

    Taking the yellow poop out of journalism ain’t ever gonna happen as long as MONEY runs the major meatgrinders. Dixie Lee Ray, former Wa. governor, was not the first victim of the press that found the major meatgrinders can make you or break you. Her haircut might have been too short for their britches. Like.. do they need a reason for their political hangings?