James Protzman is one of the founders and primary bloggers at BlueNC, a community-driven website about news, policy and politics with a focus on North Carolina. The site’s content is generated by a small group of front-page bloggers, with daily contributions from other community members. In this interview, conducted by e-mail, Protzman offers a look at the inner workings of the site.
Q. What is the objective of BlueNC, and how does the site fit into the media landscape of the Triangle and the state?
A. BlueNC is a vehicle for creating community among progressives in North Carolina. Our first focus is North Carolina public policy, but that tends to give way to politics during election cycles. Unfortunately, those cycles are becoming a year-round blur.
We are not affiliated with the Democratic Party in any way. Some would say we are a source of annoyance to Democratic Party leaders because of our criticism.
Our blog has around 5,000 unique visitors a week for most of the year, peaking at close to 10,000 around elections. As such, we are a small fish in the media landscape.
One of our missions, however, is to watch the watchdogs. We cover the mainstream media carefully, taking laziness and bias in reporting to task. We are followed daily by many reporters, as well as by leaders in state government.
Q. You are one of several “front-page authors” who can highlight certain posts and other interesting content on BlueNC. How does that work?
A. I am the sole source of funding for BlueNC, but not the sole source of content. Our community relies on volunteers to stay on top of the countless technical and logistical details that have to be managed. For example, we have spam attacks and trolls nearly every hour. I currently spend five or six hours a day keeping tabs on things.
Over the years, a number of individuals have stayed with the blog, showing up regularly with strong writing skills. After careful vetting, some of those individuals have been given “admin” privileges.
That means they can delete offensive posts, remove trolls and spammers, and move posts to the front page. Those decisions are made informally, largely a function of who’s busy, what other posts have been made and whether the content is highly relevant to North Carolina.
Q. Do posts and headlines go through any sort of editing process before or after posting? What about comments from users?
A. We edit and clean up headlines routinely to keep control of the tone and tenor of the front page. If we have a problem with the substance of a post or comment, we generally do not edit. We ask the author to fix the material, or in some cases, delete it. Repeated offenders are banned.
We really have only one editorial guideline. Posts and comments that are “intolerably obnoxious” will be removed. I personally am the decider.
Q. You are a graduate of the UNC journalism school, and you have, on occasion, criticized it. How do you see the role of journalism education now and into the future?
A. My criticism of the journalism school has been confined to three areas: (1) collusion with corporate funders, (2) the use of state resources by faculty to promote their political views, and (3) the blurring of the line between journalism and public relations. That said, I think very highly of the school – and believe leadership has done an extraordinary job navigating the tricky waters of the industry today.
From my perspective as a freelance writer, I see a steady increase in the value of writing, with growing appreciation among leaders across every industry and sector of business. If j-schools can keep producing great writers, everything else will be just fine.