August 09, 2002
That can-do spirit

Now that I've discovered it, I have the ten-car-pileup kind of fascination for the Chron's Crawford weblog. So much about why our daily fishwrap is the way it is can be gleaned from her permalinkless dispatches.

Let's start with today's, in which Our Cub In Crawford answers reader mail about why she's there and why she's blogging about it:

I am in Crawford essentially in case of news. Many of the major news organizations in the country believe that it is crucial to always have someone with the president, especially in these turbulent times. That way if another Sept. 11 happens, the president is hurt or the United States bombs Iraq, we are here to cover the cataclysmic events. None of those things are likely to come with advance warning, and so we must endure the boring times, just in case. Trips to Crawford have added importance to the Chronicle because it is in our home state.

"In case of news". Excuse me while I fall on the floor and laugh hysterically. Do you think it's ever occurred to Rachel Graves that reporters sometimes ask questions of people who are in a position to know things that maybe the public might also like to know, or do you think she was given a Stern Admonishment not to pester Mr. Bush and his busy staffers with her bothersome inquiries? How exactly do you threaten someone who's been consigned to a month in West Texas in August? "You behave yourself, young lady, or we'll ship you right back to civilization!"

Which brings me to the point of this weblog. Usually we leave the boring parts out, synthesizing down for the readers what is most interesting and/or most important. This is sort of an experiment for us, showing you what goes into what you read in the paper. We thought trying it from Crawford and sharing the rural flavor that characterizes the president's Central Texas vacations might be more entertaining than giving you the day-to-day rundown of life in the newsroom.

I know from my friends and family that many people are curious about what it is like to cover the president, and so we thought we would try to explain it. But, like I said, this is new for us, and we are interested in whether you think it is informative and interesting or not.

Well, she's sure done a fine job of not taking the boring parts out. How do you synthesize down nothing?

Maybe I'm being too harsh on Rachel Graves. Maybe there's such a fanatical level of control in Team Bush, such a harsh code of omerta for loose lips that there really isn't anything to do but cogitate about chicken fried steak and the meaning of life. Of course, smartass that I am, I'd suggest that perhaps that's a topic for exploration. At least someone there understands this, as witnessed by this pool report:

"Karen Hughes dropped back to chat with her pals in the press pool, and much frivolity ensued. Oh, how your pool laughed and laughed!" reads a report from Tuesday. "She went on with other platitudes, which your pooler dozed through."

But alas, Ms. Graves appears to have learned at the feet of Thom Marshall, the Chron's Seinfeldian sultan of nothingness. Tune in tomorrow and see if her quest to find someone, anyone, in Crawford who did not vote for Bush ever yields fruit.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 09, 2002 to The great state of Texas

Charles...I've been thinking about this whole Steve Olafson deal over at the Chron and it sure seems to me that if the guy has caused this much of a stir with his out-of-school opinion, then the Chron (whether they know it or not...) may have a diamond in the rough. This baby could sparkle.

As a plain vanilla reporter, Olafson really was off-base editorializing on the side. that he HAS editorialized and done it in a manner that has reached all parts of the globe, the Chron might think about parlaying this into something good. It's unconventional...but I've noticed we're living in some unconventional times.

What I'm thinking is this: what if they gave him the Chron Weblog? I mean, the gal they've got down in Crawford is enough to make me weep with boredom. I'm half tempted to ship her off a pink princess phone so she can get off the keyboard and dial home to the girlfriends. She is not having a good time.

As first and foremost a consumer of weblogs...I love the reading part more than I do the writing, it's become apparent to me that blogging is largely about editorializing, and when the boardroom news guys/gals try to suppress that element of the genre, they end up strangling their own efforts. That's what's happening, I think with Rachel Graves.

I say...bring Olafson back and this time, make him The Blog Guy.

Ya hear that, Thom Marshall?

Posted by: Lisa English on August 9, 2002 6:23 PM


I like the way you think. It'll never happen, of course (this is the Chron, after all), but it's a great idea.

As I said originally, it's not that the Chron lacks for writers who could do a good job with this. Unfortunately, whether Rachel Graves is being mercilessly shackled or is just a boring writer, what they're actually getting would be marginal for the West University Place weekly throwaway rag.

It's just a shame, but then there's a reason why the Chron is America's largest paper to never win a Pulitzer. They never figured out that Enron was imploding, after all.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on August 9, 2002 6:35 PM