Media Blog Frenzy

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

The label of blogger doesn't carry the baggage it used to -- or at least it shouldn't.

Time to freshen up your perceptions if you the term makes you think of self-centered curmudgeons firing off insults in their pajamas.

Around L.A. these days, the blog form has been subverted as a tool of the mainstream news media. The Times alone runs 27 blogs, some written by staff reporters and editors, the others freelanced out. More are on the way, including a new one to focus on the environment.

Of course, quantity doesn't always translate into quality. Some of the subjects make you wonder why they bother -- what is the Los Angeles Times doing with a blog about Las Vegas?

The paper also used to have one from Paris -- that one by a travel writer who annoyed her readers by seeming to be unfamiliar with the city.

But more often, I'm struck by how these corporate owned blogs are starting to deserve notice. Some are creative or show impressive ambition, but some I just like for allowing a glimpse into scenes the public might not otherwise see.

Here are some I think you should know about. All of the addresses can be found on the KCRW website under L.A. Observed.

One I admire is the Homicide Report on Crime reporter Jill Leovy was horrified that so many murder victims went unrecognized in the Los Angeles media, including the Times.

So she set a goal of covering at least the basic details of every single murder in the county of Los Angeles, from the Antelope Valley to Wilmington.

Leovy uses mini-profiles and an interactive map to describe a story of life and death in L.A. that hasn't really been told before.

I also respect Christine Daniels, the sports writer who blogs about the big challenges and small details of her new life as a woman after a long career in the press box as Mike Penner.

Sports has proven to be a golden opportunity for media websites. The Lakers blog is the Times' most popular. A site covering every facet of USC football is the top draw for the Daily News.

For pure adulation, though, nobody basks in the glory like Daily News scribe Rich Hammond. He gives long suffering fans of the L.A. Kings hockey team inside tidbits and insights they never got from a newspaper.

The Kings faithful are so blubberingly grateful I wouldn't be surprised if some name their kid Hammond. Or at least Rich.

His colleague at the Daily News, Greg Hernandez, covers the ins and outs of gay Hollywood. The paper also has blogs on television, theater, golf, Nascar racing and the fantasy world of Harry Potter -- and on a dozen other subjects.

A trend I welcome is the use of blogs to give readers or viewers or radio listeners the inside view of a news operation.

Meredith Artley, the editor who runs the Times website, discusses changes to the site on her blog. The small San Gabriel Valley Tribune has its assistant city editor talk about the newsroom.

Copy editors at the L.A. Weekly used to post their internal debates about commas and style, but they appear to have gone quiet.

Same for the assignment editor at Channel 2, who hasn't blogged about his job since July. But some familiar on-air reporters are regular posters.

Channel 5's Eric Spillman uses his blog to elaborate on news stories, but after longtime anchorman Hal Fishman died he provided details on Fishman's colon cancer -- and urged that readers get a colonoscopy.

These blogs vary widely in their value as sources of news or insight. That's to be expected and embraced – this is the blogosphere, after all.

But they help to open up the relationship between traditional media sources and their audiences. Smart, literate news consumers like the immediacy and conversational nature.

It's good that the news purveyors of Los Angeles are taking notice.

For KCRW, I'm Kevin Roderick and this has been LA Observed.