But you know, as much as we love a good caption contest and admire a fourth-grader's school art project as displayed in the "On The Fridge" segment, we're addicts who refresh the blog every few hours or so in search of real news, so we're still waiting for Kelley to keep her reportorial promise to us from yesterday morning.
Here's how her post, "Fire and Nice," from 8:16 a.m. yesterday, began:
Oh, right, this is a chatty small-town blog. Howdy, Tina! She goes on:
There was a two-alarm fire this morning on Ridgewood Road near Mountain Avenue, and Maplewood Online was up later than I was, posting about it, saying everyone seemed to be O.K. By 1:20 a.m. firefighters had made sure no one was in the house, according to the folks at Breaking News Network. Has anyone heard anything more in the meantime?
Apparently not. No comments in the last 24 hours! Dang. Anyway, that doesn't mean Tina Kelley plans to shirk her reportorial responsibilities.
Now that's journalism! And don't you know it -- by 6:25 last night, Kelley had confirmed and posted the news that had been revealed on the Maplewoodian blog two days earlier, about those three cops and firemen getting cut from the budget. Which, it should be noted, was reporting the contents of a press release from the Mayor of Maplewood.
Isn't Tina Kelley getting her City Hall press releases yet? Come on, Tina, press releases are the backbone of local journalism! Time to get get cracking.
Plus there was no followup on that fire, despite Kelley's promise. What started it? We'll never know.
A close look at "The Local" reminds us of the small-town weekly newspapers we read as a kid: police blotters, reports on public meetings, stories about the budget. Yesterday Kelley even posted an essay on the comforts of hearing the local train whistle, a piece that could have been published oh, say, 80 years ago. There's nothing here to suggest the backing of the nation's newspaper of record, or the involvement of an ace local reporter.
It's boring. There, we said it.
And the really sad thing is that it's not even providing a unique service to the residents of Maplewood. In addition to the Maplewoodian, there's a website known as "MaplewoodPatch" that's offering essentially the same coverage of the community, and competing directly with The Local for attention and advertising.
An interesting Bloomberg story this morning makes clear that this competition may not really be leading anywhere, either. Right now, all these blogs are fighting over the advertising of a tiny sliver of retail business. Bloomberg reports that a local bookstore in Maplewood got a NYT reporter covering a recent reading and the offer of a chance to blog on the website.
A Maplewood pizza operater tells that he has now been interviewed by every blog in town.
"Isn't that great?"says Dan Richer, the owner of Arturo's.
No, not really. How soon before the NYT ad sales force returns to request advertising from the retailers the website covers? And how soon before the walls between journalism and advertising collapse completely, the way they so often do at the hyperlocal level?
If this idea is going to work -- and we're really not sure it should -- Tina Kelley is going to have to get up earlier in the morning than Joe Strupp and the Patch kids, and get some scoops on her website. She can't promise fire followups she can't deliver, and she shouldn't be wasting so much space on ephemera like kids' pictures and a contest that's a pale imitation of the one in The New Yorker.
If the NYT wants to make its mark in Maplewood, it should do so the way it has for over a century in the rest of the world -- through its unique brand of sharp reporting, original ideas and stylish writing. So far, there hasn't been much sign of those elements on "The Local."
But on the bright side, there's never been better odds of getting your 9-year-old kid's painting published in the NYT. That's progress, right?