Thursday, July 17, 2008

In defense of dane101

Full (and very obvious) disclosure: I've been a regular contributor to for a couple of years now, and I'm rather fond of the little collaborative-blog-that-could. So it's likely to be with an extra amount of bias that I come to its defense when attacked. Also, I'm exhausted and a little cranky. So, you've been warned.

Over at Fearful Symmetries, Palmer takes aim and fires a series of salvos over dane101's bow. Among some of the many issues he seems to have lately taken with the site are its perceived lack of hard political coverage, the inclusion of personal essays, and a lack of diversity.

I have to give credit where credit is due: we don't always do a good job of covering everything that deserves covering. The Madison area is itself more than a bit diversity hungry when it comes to media, so it's not a huge surprise that dane101 sometimes suffers the same fate. I have to say, though, that compared to some of the more mainstream news and culture outlets, and especially when you consider that dane101 is entirely volunteer run, we do a pretty damn fine job.

If articles are skewed a bit toward the twenty-something crowd, that's because most of the writers we're able to attract are in their twenties. But dane101 is always open to new contributors--young, old, middle-aged, black, white, and everything else. Perhaps the author roster is simply reflective of the demographics of internet-surfing Madison, or maybe it's a chicken-and-egg scenario: if we covered a wider variety of subjects, would a wider variety of authors come out to help? Or vice versa?

My main beef with Palmer's post is that, in all of his complaining, he fails to mention that he, too, once wrote for dane101. And then stopped without warning. That's fine--contributors move on all the time, we have lives, and some have even landed more lucrative (see: paid anything at all) writing gigs. But he doesn't seem to recognize that that's exactly what happens all the time, and that it makes it difficult to maintain consistent coverage of anything when there's such constant turn-over.

In fact, I suspect that much of the griping that I've heard leveled against dane101 is the product of a similar misperception. Are some of the criticisms valid? Absolutely, and any publication/organization worth its salt should be open to them so that they can learn and improve. But I can't help but get a little miffed when said criticism is misplaced, or when it doesn't include possible solutions or offers for help. The people who run dane101 are attempting to provide a community service, to give something back, and to provide information and activities that might be valuable to their friends, neighbors, and strangers. Why tear an effort like that down? What good does that do anyone? Instead, why not attempt to help improve it, or even start your own version that may (or may not) be an improvement?

We need to and are constantly striving to include a wider variety of subject matter and opinions on the site. We could certainly use more contributions from people who are in Dane County but not necessarily in Madison. We could use more of everything, really. So the question becomes, if a site like dane101 is valuable enough for you to read and critique, is it not then valuable enough for you to contribute to in some way?

1 comment:

M Big Mistake said...

I don't think that Dane101 purports to be all things to all people. I certainly don't think it is supposed to be a hard news outlet. All content is user driven. If something is missing...a new user should probably provide it. The way I feel...nothing can be missing because nothing is promised.

Personally, on the one occasion that someone at Dane101 told me what they thought I should write, it kind of pissed me off. I don't work for Dane101 and they don't get to say what I should write.

When you start saying what it should ruin the open collaborative nature of the animal. Then it eventually just turns into another corporate mouthpiece.

The Lost Albatross