Hot off the Wire: AP Blogs!

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By: Brian Orloff

If blogs are the journalism trend du jour, it’s only natural for the media’s big guns to join the party. The latest big gun to arrive is The Associated Press, which joined the now-clogged blogosphere at the start of the month when it launched “Bad LANGuage.”

The defining features of Web logs are their interactivity and their conversational — some would say snarky and unfettered — tone. So, the arrival of the AP blog came with a flurry of questions, the two most pressing being: Why now? And, how could the AP, long praised for its “straight” reporting, pull it off?

It’s no fun being left out, and the AP admitted as much in its “welcome announcement” earlier this month. “Yeah, we know we’re like two years too late to straddle the blog bandwagon,” the first installment read. “But we’re backed by the largest and oldest news organization in the world. So, you know, we’ve got nothing to prove.”

“Bad LANGuage,” like AP’s pre-existing entertainment content, is wire copy that member papers can print either online or in newspapers. It features a daily nugget of news and gossip and can be found online through whichever of AP’s members opt to purchase it.

But given that format, purists could question even calling this a blog. Aren’t these simply AP entertainment stories, sassed up a bit? AP Entertainment Editor Jesse Washington explains the service is first being tested now, and he swears that more “blog-like” features are still to come.

“We are actually familiar with what a blog is, and we know we are not quite up to that standard yet,” he told E&P. “We’re revamping that blog software now, but we didn’t want to keep that content under wraps until the new blog software was ready. So we decided that we would roll it out so folks would start reading it, even though from a purist definition, some might have issues with the definition of it as a blog.”

He adds: “I’m also aware that to edit a blog is somewhat of an oxymoron. Generally, we just make sure there are no libelous issues in there.”

The blog’s writer, Derrik J. Lang (better understand its name now?), has fairly free rein to opine in his writing, which is one of the only features that makes this new content blog-like. In recent articles — er, posts — Lang has displayed a splashy penchant for parenthetical remarks and sardonic quips galore. And he has written about everything from the launch party for a “Godfather”-based video game to sitting behind Regis Philbin sidekick Kelly Ripa at an “All My Children” 35th anniversary event.

But constraints of the AP — these are wire-syndicated pieces after all — don’t offer the satisfying feel gossip mavens relish after getting the scoop from a legit blog. There are no links to related content for those readers dying to consume every drop of ink spilled on the matter. Forget about instant updates and breaking news. And what are faithful readers to do about keeping tabs on the dispatches after each day? There’s no simple way to read them chronologically and follow-up on the development of a celebrity saga.

Since the pilot test just began, Washington says it’s too soon for any substantial feedback (which also doesn’t seem very blog-like). And, he adds, “Bad LANGuage” is only part of the AP’s attempt to reach out to the coveted 18-34 demographic with its content available in print or online.

“One of the things we’re waiting to see if the editors feel like this is something they want to put in their paper or they just want it on their Web site,” Washington says. “This is content we feel can be used in a variety of ways.”

Unless AP is more painfully unhip than it admits — and we think that’s not the case — it would be smart to advise buyers to run “Bad LANGuage” exclusively online and to quickly unveil that interactive technology Washington claims is lurking somewhere within AP headquarters.

Until then, there’s always Gawker Media.

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