The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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This blogging life

Macbook_jh2ec8nc Over the past few weeks, whenever I've told someone that I'm starting a new Big Picture blog here at The Times, they invariably have the same reaction: That's nice, but are you going to keep the column?

I know it's meant as a compliment, but it's also a bracing reminder that people prefer familiarity to, well, unfamiliarity. It's why Hollywood keeps churning out sequels. It's why "Law & Order" has been on TV forever.

It's why, back when I was a kid, whenever I'd go see the Allman Brothers, before they'd even had a chance to play some of their new material, some scruffy dude up in the rafters would invariably bellow out, "Whipping Post!"

But in journalism, it's time for a change--big change. As you might have heard, this newspaper, along with virtually every other paper in the country, is under siege. Our whole business model is in free fall--circulation is dropping, profits are down and lots of talented people are losing their jobs. We can moan and groan about it or we can try something new.

That's the idea behind launching the Big Picture blog. As much as I've loved writing a once-a-week column, the world of entertainment and pop culture is moving so fast that it's become impossible to keep up with all the action without weighing in more often than once a week. Over the past few years, I've found myself addicted to reading blogs. The best ones offer a wonderfully brainy, personal and irreverent way of seeing the world. You'll see the paper now has 40-plus blogs, with more being launched all the time.

My guess is that someday soon our blogs will be the backbone of the paper. Journalists have discovered, to our chagrin, that information is everywhere these days. But readers still crave informed analysis and lively writing, which is something we can focus on as newspapers make the transition from mass circulation entities to niche-oriented publications. So while I've got lots to learn about the blogging life--and will surely stumble many times along the way--I'm eager to be a part of that new conversation.

But how will the new Big Picture blog be different from the old Big Picture column?

The honest answer is that it will be a work in progress. I'll be writing with much the same style and sensibility that you've grown accustomed to in the column. But the blog will be broader in scope. As our new logo reads, the blog is "where the worlds of entertainment, media and pop culture collide.

I’ll also be experimenting with new features: Expect to see quicker hits off the news, earlier sneak peeks at new movies, more analysis about how the media covers entertainment and, yes, more “interactive” elements. Translation: The blog will be more of a group effort.

When "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" opened last week, I knew I was out my league trying to offer any opinions, so I posted a review of the film from the smartest 10-year-old girl I knew. If anyone ever makes a movie about free-spirited seventysomethings, I expect you'll hear my mother's take on the subject.

I'm also eager to showcase the contributions of the rest of our entertainment staff, so when one of our reporters has a timely news story or a lively feature in the paper, expect to read more about what they uncovered--or who took them to task--in the blog.

And I encourage you to take me to task as well.  As with any blog, a big part of my job is to encourage readers to turn the blog into a running dialogue. I'm hoping some of my best posts will be follow-up interviews and debates with people who see an issue in a different light from me. When I write a column, I always test out my ideas on people who often know far more about a topic than I do. In the past, that's stayed in my reporter's notebook, but now it will be in the blog, where I hope it will make for a lively exchange of views.

As for that original question: What about the Big Picture column? It's not going anywhere. It will run every Tuesday, as it always has, culled from all the material I've written up in the blog. My editors say they'll also run separate blog posts in the paper on other days of the week. I look at the blog as a way to pursue what makes anyone a good writer: our curiosity about the world. It will be a learning experience for us all. As the great John Wooden once put it: "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."

photo: Paul Sakuma/AP

 
Comments () | Archives (8)

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Good luck with this new journey Patrick.

I've only been blogging for two months but I know how difficult it is to have something new and fresh to say every day. The great thing is you get immediate feedback on your story (good and bad) - like talking to someone at the kitchen table.

Check out my blog if you have a chance.
Terrence Paquet
Author of My Penis & other short pieces
http://snipurl.com/2ki9z

"We can moan and groan about it or we can try something new."

Way to blaze a radical new trail -- a movie blog! Others will surely follow. I bet even Peter Bart will start blogging. Oh wait...

If what you have to offer is such a real good thing to consumers, then it only begs the question:

why not leave the times, get some server space, a web address and take your blog direct? If you sell enough ad space, wouldn't you be sitting pretty?

Why do I need a newspaper's minion to tell me a about entertainment, the media and pop culture?

Have at it taskmaster?

Patrick,

Welcome to the blogosphere. If a former tv and radio sports guy who's now an actor can write a Wednesday blog mostly about politics and attract a few readers, YOU'LL have no problem(s) at all.

Economic problems with newspapers? You should see what's happening at MY former two occupations.

I've always enjoyed your newspaper stuff (I'm a subscriber) and I'm very much looking forward to reading your new musings in the blogosphere.

If you were an actor, I'd say, "Break a leg!" So whatever the newspaper equivalent is, know that I'm thinking THOSE words on your behalf!

Scott St. James

... so this is supposed to be a new blog? How come I can't subscribe to this blog in my RSS/news reader? Does any of you guys actually know how the internet works?

Thomas,

That was a rhetorical question, right?

C'mon these peons of pulp only know what their editors leave in the stories that are actually ever published...

As a public relations specialist, I'm finding that my little niche in the world of words is changing rapidly, as well. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of all areas of media over the next decade or so. I have a feeling that we are seeing only the beginnings of the blog-o-sphere revolution. Good look with your new venture.

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