This ain’t a blog

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Blog Zone.

A fun part of running a news site like Capitol Hill Blue is interaction with readers.

Some 2500 emails a day flow in over the electronic transom. ReaderRant, our lively discussion board, boasts nearly 4500 members and grows. Our daily email newsletter goes out to more than 150,000 readers.

So, at the beginning of February, I decided to try Blue as a blog-style format, inviting direct reader feedback to our daily news articles.

For a while it appeared to be a good idea: Lots of lively discussion on key issues, excellent interaction with those with ideas to share.

Then the crazies moved in: Homophobes, racists, conspiracy theorists and troublemakers whose goal was to control this web site or turn it into a breeding ground for hate, fear mongering and hyperbole. Frustrated writers with an ax to grind decided to post long essays and treat our comments section as their own personal publishing system.

That’s not what Capitol Hill Blue is about. That’s not why I’ve spent the past 11 and a half years of my life building this web site into a place where our readers can find unbiased news and a standard for accountability that applies the same rules to elected officials from all political persuasions.

For the last few weeks, our email from readers ran 2-1 in favor of pulling the plug on the direct article comments and a return to our old system of publishing news and using our ReaderRant forum for comments. On Wednesday, those who work for me and contribute articles, information and time to this web site conducted an intervention and laid it on the line: Blue is not a blog. It’s a news site. Let’s get back to basics.

As a recovering alcoholic I know a thing or two about interventions. They spring from love. Capitol Hill Blue is a collaborative effort by many people who share my love for the project.

Blue is not a business. Never has been, never will be. It’s a labor of love by a dedicated group of volunteers who donate their time and efforts to put together the oldest political news site on the Internet.

From our moderators who run ReaderRant to the writers, editors and production staff who put together a news side every day and to the readers who make this effort worthwhile, Blue is many things.

But it ain’t a blog. Never has been, never should be.

Technorati tracks some 30.7 million blogs and reports thousands more springing up every day.  Readers can find many excellent blogs on a variety of topics, including politics, which has always been a popular focal point. More than 2,000 blogs link to Blue daily and Technorati says we rank 166th in links among the 30 million sites they monitor.

Linkage is what most blogs provide: a collection of links to information resources. A few do original research but most blogs, political or otherwise, are one-person, stream-of-consciousness sites based on a singular point of view based on that person’s political leanings or philosophical bent, linking only to articles and information that support that narrow point of view.

Blogs often become the back yard fence of the Internet, a place where neighbors gossip and spread unfounded information or wild-eyed speculation. While some of the the same misinformation can be found on purported “news” web sites that are little more than partisan shills for parties or ideologies the “blogosphere” is where you find the conspiracy claims that the CIA brought down the World Trade Center and similar tin-foil hat theories.

Over the past two weeks, those of us who work to keep this web site up and running have had to spend too much time dealing with flooding of the site by racists, hate mongers, political extremists and conspiracy buffs. In one day, we had to “junk” more than 2,000 comments that used racial epithets, threats of violence against elected officials (a federal crime) or libelous comments. Last weekend, when my wife and I needed to deal with the emotional trauma of learning we could not save a pet we both love, I spent 12 straight hours on the computer protecting our system from a spammer who tried to disrupt the comments sections of our news articles.

All of this detracts from our primary goal of uncovering, and reporting, news. We’re here to serve the hundreds of thousands of readers who turn to Blue for unbiased news and considered analysis, not lose time dealing with a handful of disrupters who seek to subvert the process for their own narrow purposes.

So Blue returns today to its news format. We continue to encourage and welcome reader comment, both in our ReaderRant forum and via email and we’re sure that those with something to say will use both venues to let us know how they feel. And I thank those who tried to make our experiment a success by offering good ideas and reasoned debate on the issues raised by our articles. Please continue to do so in our ReaderRant section or talk with me via email.

Here on the news side of Blue we will also concentrate on the political reform project we launched over the weekend. In addition we will soon launch a new grassroots initiative aimed at increasing citizen involvement in politics and generating positive change in the system that has been ruined by money, power, greed and corruption.

Lesson learned. My apologies to our readers for the brief detour into The Twilight…er I mean the Blog Zone.