Audio interviews - by on Monday, July 28, 2008 12:19 - 1 Comment

Interview with Monica Guzman about cultivating conversations

“Despite what might happen to our industry, despite what form it will take, despite the business model, people will always want to know what is going on and will always want to have an intelligent conversation. They just need to be empowered to do so.”

For Monica Guzman, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s first online reporter, empowering people is a major way to cultivate comments and build a community. She runs The Big Blog, a blog dedicated to keeping tabs on what’s happening in Seattle and the Seattle blogosphere.

“I’m convinced that newspapers need to rise up and take responsibility not just for the quality of the news, but for the quality of the conversation,” Guzman said.

Guzman believes newspapers need to cultivate comments. She is a fan of hoisting comments and is working on implementing a comment of the week feature.

“It tells readers that you are listening,” Guzman said about hoisting comments. “You’re actually watching what they say. And it rewards readers for being smart and actually taking the time to make their comments useful and intelligent.”

Guzman is surprised about how much people care about the news.

“As soon as people are empowered with their own tools like blogging tools and a publishing platform like the Internet, [it’s amazing] to see how many people will take the opportunity to become reporters for their own blocks,” Guzman said. “And I just think that’s a beautiful thing.”

When she first started there were a handful of community blogs, but now a new one pops up every month. Part of what she does is link to other bloggers and keep tabs on the blogosphere.

Guzman knows that some of her editors are uncomfortable with the ethic of collaboration. Many journalists are still stuck in the competition mindset.

“I love the blogging ethic of collaboration and I hate the ethic of competition,” she said.

One time Guzman wanted to link to a Seattle Times story because her paper didn’t have the story. At first her editors didn’t want her to do so because that was the competition’s work, but she insisted. Her editors eventually said if the PI doesn’t have a story, she can link to the Times as a last resort.

“When it comes down to it, sometimes your competing paper will write a good story that you didn’t write,” she said. “I wanted to become a trusted guide for my readers for what’s interesting going on in Seattle. How can I be trusted as a good guide if there is some sort of curtain over our competitor?”

Can you imagine a blog without links?

Much more is tackled in part 1 of my interview with Guzman.

Click here to stream the interview. Or click here to download the MP3.

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About was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.

About the Author of this post
Patrick Thornton is the editor and lead writer of BeatBlogging.Org. He is @pwthornton on Twitter.