The curtain between writer and reader isn’t particularly thick on this site. We welcome readers to contribute, and we attempt to maintain a presence in the comment sections beyond the requisite moderation.
Still, there are questions that have arisen, and I’d like to address them.
First, the story choice. We have been accused by some (and praised by others) for covering Trump heavily. There are a few reasons for that, but they winnow to one primary reason, from which all others flow: every writer chooses their own story subjects.
We each have at least one regular item, something which is particularly interesting to them. Steve’s essay series; Beth’s short-take notes, Tiff’s tweets, Lenny’s polls, my weekend features of conspiracy debunking and book reviews. Beyond that, most of us try to fill one slot a day with a news item (Lenny does most of our image work instead, which means he works amazingly hard throughout the day, and Steve often formats the submissions of other writers, both regulars like Don and Andrew, Lyin’ and Stig or guest pieces.) The Night Owl is an open slot for all, a piece of oddity designed to entertain people still awake in the middle of the night and encourage conversation. That leaves Lenny and Steve as de facto “editors”, because they’re juggling factors from multiple submissions, but realistically we all fully control our own work.
This is a good system, for a volunteer effort.
The reason for the Trump focus is, then, that he and his administration take many actions which people here find interesting. As this blog was created in response to sites seemingly abandoning traditionally conservative principles in order to promote Trumpism, it’s only reasonable to expect his actions would bear extra attention. There’s also the fact that all of our writers are human and like to know they’re being heard. The smallest pieces here take fifteen minutes to produce; many larger ones take hours. Nobody likes to write a huge piece and get one response. It’s disheartening.
People know how they feel about Trump, and they pay attention to his actions. Writing about them is almost certain to encourage people to comment.
Then there’s also the tendency for people to want to write about things with which they’re familiar. Particularly if you’re trying to take a position where you’re pointing out bias, you don’t want to spend hours trying to determine where the bias lies. The writers here are all knowledgeable about American politics. American politics gets the bulk of the attention.
Now, on to my story choices, specifically. Recognizing that Tiff and Beth are going to be able to cover things that happen on the national political level, I regularly go hunting for international and state/local stories which have a reasonable chance of affecting our national policy. The target of this blog is Americans, so the story choices are guided by that. Situations where emergency aid may be sent, or where trade or conflicts may be affected are prime choices for me on the international front. Items where there is violence or where issues are arising that may influence national policy are easy picks on the national scene.
Mind, I’m picking one story per day… in addition to being the default person to handle the Night Owl if nobody else steps in (because I have a depth of knowledge about odd subjects to fall back on.) Often things will be missed. For instance, right now I’m debating on whether to cover Erdogan’s “re-election” or the Nevada pimp story, while waiting to see if an interesting Supreme Court decision drops. The Night Owls, well, that’s whatever strikes my fancy to write about that day. Reading those Night Owls is the closest you’ll get to what a regular conversation with me is like if politics isn’t a subject.
My stories often don’t get much in the way of responses. People don’t know enough about the political situation in Zimbabwe or Nigeria to be able to add to something I’ve written about the recent assassination attempts. That’s fine: I’m trying to ensure people stay informed. I don’t need a bunch of comments (although, yes, they’re nice for the ego) because my ego’s already fairly healthy. I want to believe that I’m telling intelligent people something useful that they might not already know. That’s my goal. That’s how I choose my stories.
Sourcing is slightly different. Sourcing is guided by a simple principle: we always double-source here, and try to triple-source on everything. On world stories especially, there may only be two or three English sites covering a story (and the only other language in which I was ever competent was Latin.) That makes my sourcing choices easy.
For domestic stories, there are typically a variety of them. I will read a variety of sources for a story and attempt to pick out key elements for source links and concise or unique quotes for quote links. I use CNN fairly often because it’s free, and I don’t have to worry about readers wanting more information to have to deal with a paywall. That’s the same reason I use Business Insider when I’d rather use the Wall Street Journal, and why I like to link to UK and local US papers.
I also prefer to use sources from as close to the story as possible. A breaking story out of Duluth is most likely to have insightful coverage by local reporters. The fact that it’s likely to be free only makes my job easier.
I also cover a portion of my own images, just because I see how much work Lenny’s doing and I don’t want to overburden him. In case any of you wonder why so many of my images are weak compared to the others here, that’s why. Not enough Lenny.