Dear Gwen Kinsey:
With all due respect, you are completely and utterly wrong. So wrong that reading your take on Kleinheider causes me to shudder in fear. So wrong that it makes me fear that you don’t know how to recognize your assets nor how to correctly value them.
Let’s just start with this little tidbit, which has been floating around the internet ever since it appeared at the Scene.
“My idea about blogging is less about people’s individual home lives and more about trying to give transparency to content…and to give people an opportunity to get involved with content in a way they can’t on the air,” Kinsey tells the Scene. “From a news organization’s standpoint, an appropriate use of new media as far as I’m concerned for blogging is to provide an extension and a forum for back-and-forth with viewers. I know that part of the blogosphere locally has been trying to assess whether there’s room for personal blogging with respect to some of what we did before…and, again, I just think that we can do something that has value and that’s additive to our mission as a broadcaster without necessarily getting into the personal and the opinion.” [emphasis mine, of course]
Yes, you can do something that has value and adds to your mission without letting Kleinheider share his opinions. But it doesn’t have as much value as letting him share his opinions does.
Why is an unfettered Kleinheider more valuable?
1. Your online audience has told you repeatedly in as many different forums as they can find that they liked Kleinheider’s old approach better. Listen carefully to me, Kinsey; I’m going to say it again for your benefit: YOUR AUDIENCE HAS TOLD YOU THAT KLEINHEIDER’S OLD APPROACH HAS MORE VALUE TO THEM.
2. Kleinheider with a platform was a man to be reckoned with. People knew who he was and paid attention to him because they understood that he shaped discussions. Lawmakers wanted to shake his hand; reporters and editors wanted to touch base with him. People around the state read him and associated him with WKRN. People cared about him–love him or hate him–and thus, by extention, made your station’s website a “must-stop” place.
3. Kleinheider doesn’t shape discussions now. He asks essay questions. Big whoop. Yes, people comment over at Volunteer Voters, but how many folks come back and write furious posts on their own website that link to him? How many people are chomping at the bit to see what he has to say every day? I mean, do you get that you’ve taken a man well-known for pissing everyone off–right and left–and somehow managed to make him mostly irrelevant?
Why would you do that?
If you have someone with power, who is well-read and well-regarded, why on earth would you make him irrelevant?
4. The beat that Kleinheider covers–politics–is not the kind of information you can just present to people. It’s complicated and often the ties between people aren’t completely obvious. Analysis is necessary and, once you have analysis, you’re going to have a person’s opinions. For you to suggest that you don’t need people’s opinions makes me think you are suggesting that the news doesn’t need analysis.
Do you realize that we just had a mayoral race in which the only place to get any idea, any real idea, of what the candidates stood for was on the internet? The Tennessean seemed barely to cover it at all. Your station and other news channels seemed content to just report whenever the candidates were doing something, but your viewers never could really discern from your “reporting” what the candidates issues were.
And you (I’m speaking in terms of the mainstream media, not you specifically) don’t even seem to have the good sense to be embarrassed about that.
And you (and now I mean you specifically) don’t seem to have the good sense to realize that one of the places people could actually go for information and discussion and analysis is sitting right in your building. You especially don’t seem to realize what an asset that is.
Is a completely unfettered Kleinheider a good idea? No, I think probably not. Kleinheider is smart but he’s kind of undisciplined. On the other hand, he seems to flourish when he has structure, especially when that structure gives him room to play. So, sure, he could benefit from an editor; who wouldn’t?
But it seems to me that there’s got to be a medium ground that would suit everyone between “Kleinheider the Paleoconservative pundit scares the shit out of the locals” and “Mr. Kleinheider’s On-going Essay Questions from High School Civics.” The fact that you can’t imagine some middle ground troubles me.
And I’m telling you this as someone Kleinheider irritates the shit out of. If he worked for me, I’d spend ten minutes every day telling him to stand up straight, fake some confidence, and to eat some god-damn lunch. Then I’d have to fight with him about how wrong he was about just about everything he writes.
But I’d be thrilled to have someone in my newsroom people were afraid to not take calls from.
p.s. Is it true that you’re not paying Steve Gill?! Pardon my French, but what the fuck is wrong over there? You’re a business. If you want people to work for you, you pay them for the work they’re doing for you. You’ve at least paid the last few bloggers you still owed money to, right?