Seattle P-I and James Wallace’s blog

What is the decent thing to do as a publisher when one of your star bloggers leaves your publication? This has happened already of course, and will happen quite a lot in future.

Two obvious possibilities I suppose: you let them take their blog brands with them and carry on, or you don’t let them use the brand, keep the material they’ve already written and let the blog slowly die.

Taking the second course is sad, but perhaps inevitable if the writer moves to a rival. That’s what our company did when Graham Warwick moved to our arch-rivals. I mean you wouldn’t expect the writer to have all his more conventional output moved to his new employers. Are blogs different? Not sure, but probably not.

But here’s a third course – what the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is doing with the blog written by James Wallace, who didn’t defect you will recall, but was laid off – permanently!

That blog was called James Wallace On Aerospace – and very good it was. Now at the same url, and providing the same RSS feed of course, you get a continuation of the blog renamed, with spectacular lack of imagination, “Aerospace News”. And written by someone called Andrea James.

So you kick the guy out, get someone else to do his job off the side of a desk, give the blog he invented a stupid name, and carry on as before. Charming!

When the world discovered blogging all us journalists were suddenly leaned on by our employers to take to the blogosphere, come up with snappily written material, and above all be different, personal and interesting. I say again – personal.

Fair enough. Quite right too in fact. I was both a lean-er and a lean-ee at the time.

But when we go, well, we go. You can’t have it both ways.


, ,

3 Responses to Seattle P-I and James Wallace’s blog

  1. Tony Verow March 28, 2009 at 4:06 am #

    Thanks for this treatise. I don’t know Mr. Wallace personally, but I lived in Seattle for many years and enjoyed his columns. A true journalist, he always wrote them with an attention to detail and fact checking that is often missing these days.

    Should he have the rights to the column/blog name ? Absolutely. It was his creation and career. He probably didn’t (or wasn’t able to !) register or copyright his columns’ name decades ago when it took shape. There is a big difference between writing a column called “Obituaries” or “Daily highway construction warnings” and a column called “James Wallace on Aerospace.”

    Unfortunately this new issue that you describe is not new at all, only it has new modalities involved. (newspaper columns morphing to blogs and vice versa). Witness if you will aging musicians fighting over the use of the name “Beach Boys”, “Pink Floyd”, etc. The courts get involved and years later probably nobody is happy. It sounds like a good thesis subject for a graduate project in intellectual property rights.

  2. Dean Hollingsworth February 2, 2010 at 1:54 am #

    Eddy Edds

  3. Randy Smithe August 11, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    Will you be writing about this again?

Leave a Reply