The Heart of the Story

Generally, a blog is a two-part operation: the blogger posts something, and then others comment on that post. In some cases there's more than one contributing blogger, but conceptually the process tends to be a one-to-many broadcast followed by a many-to-one response. While it's easy to think of this loop as a collection of readers' opinions on what's already been posted—and in some cases the horror of the blog's descent into chaos and madness—it can be more than that.

For example, suppose you pay your trash-collection company an additional amount for recycling; instead of hauling your plastic, paper, and maybe even glass to the landfill, they collect your recyclable items separately and charge you a bit more for this added service. Suppose, also, that one day you hear from a neighbor that someone recently spotted one of this company's recycling trucks at the landfill, dumping its load of recyclables into the trash heap with everything else. A few days later, you hear the same from a different but equally reliable source. The local news outlets don't have the resources, and maybe not even the interest, to pursue the story; you've already called them, and they seem ambivalent. The trash-collection company is denying everything. How to get the story out to the world, or at least your corner of it?

In a situation like this, a blog could be the answer, and the concept of blog-comments could take on new meaning. If the primary blogger were to write something about this problem, maybe even in the larger context of waste-management companies in the recycling business, at least some of the resulting comments could be more than just reader opinion; some of those comments might include similar stories, maybe even involving the very same company. Commenters would become contributors; their stories would be woven into the whole; it would no longer be a case of simple "reader feedback." With any luck, the story might even have a happy ending.

The so-called hyperlocal citizen journalism concept is already in use; it isn't a new idea. Neither are blog comments, of course. But if the blogs I see every day are any indication, comments are an underused opportunity to contribute to the heart of a story, instead of merely adding layers of opinion to it.


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