Blog is a communication tool for city administrator


A blog is a relatively simple Web site that individuals can create to communicate their thoughts via words, images or video—and make them available literally to the world.

Paine said he started his blog in May 2005 while he was the city manager at Concordia.

His intention and target market were much more focused at the time, and born out of some frustration with the local press.

“I had one of the city commissioners say, ‘Larry, you need to write a story in the newspaper,” Paine said. “I sent some things over and they never got printed. So I figured I don’t need to do that. The effect we were looking for never happened.”

Then Paine received a trade publication from a city-management association. One of the articles was about city managers who blog.

“It told me exactly how to get on here and do my thing,” Paine said. “I said, ‘Hey, that’s cool,’ and I set out and did it.

“By the time I stopped writing out there, I had about 65 or so subscribers—which is not bad for a little town.”

Interested readers can visit a blog whenever they choose, or they can subscribe by typing in their name and e-mail address. When Paine posts a new entry, it goes directly to subscribers via their e-mail.

Paine said his purpose in starting his blog was to write about city and economic-development issues in a way the local newspaper wasn’t addressing them.

“The newspapers wouldn’t readily write abut those things because they’re after a different kind of information,” he said. “Newspapers write about the who, what, why, when and how— then they’re up and gone on to the next piece.

“Meanwhile, I can sit here and write in a little more detail about what’s going on, and what’s going on between the right ear and the left ear in Larry’s head. When you read that, you get a fuller picture.”

While at Concordia, Paine addressed topics ranging from the importance of voting in local elections to hot-topic development projects.

“Concordia had a group of people who were really whacked out about tax-increment financing,” Paine said. “They were always saying in letters to the editor that it doesn’t work.

“So, instead playing the same game they were playing, I’d come back to the blog and detail out what we’re doing, what’s going on, and why it’s working. It was a political issue for them; it was an economic development issue for me.”

Paine said there are some issues he won’t write about, and that he’s careful not to attack anyone personally—even if he’s tempted to from time to time.

“You have to be careful about what you say because it will be out there and everybody can read it,” Paine said. “I am a person in a position of influence in the community; I have a responsibility to verify my facts. I have the responsibility to do things right.

“If I don’t know something properly, I won’t write about it. I’ll go dig a little bit, using a reporter’s style—check and double check (facts).

“If I’m sitting in a meeting and I know some stuff that’s going on, there are times when I’d love to be able to write about it but I know I can’t.”

Readers can add their comments to a blog—but Paine said few of his readers post their comments where everybody can read them.

“The interesting thing is that I don’t get a lot of comments on the blog itself,” he said. “But I get a lot of comments one-on-one on the street. People who know me and have my e-mail address respond in that way.

“The majority of the things were encouraging comments: ‘Larry, keep that up, we really like it.’”

Paine said he tries to discipline himself to add something to his blog—whether “important” or not—every week or two.

“If you’re not there for a long time, people forget about you,” he said. “Part of the objective is that people know and understand what happens in local government—at least that’s my perspective.”

Since moving to Hillsboro, Paine has written about topics ranging from his transition to the business connection between locally based Golden Heritage Foods to Jerry Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie.”

Paine said he finds keeping a blog to be recreational and fun. But sometimes the events of life keep him off line for extended periods.

“I basically lost my enthusiasm about a year and half ago when (wife) Susan needed surgery,” he said. “Writing a blog was not my primary thought at that time, so I stopped writing.

“In any other kind of writing environment, how do you get started again? You just start writing. You’ve got to write in order to let the thing go.”

As a side benefit, Paine said blogging has affected his writing skills.

“My writing has improved considerably,” he said, adding with a laugh: “It doesn’t hurt to have a couple of grammar police in the house. But you try to make it work.”

 

You can read Larry Paine’s blog, called “City Hall Corner” at hillsborocityhall.blogspot.com.


Do you blog?

 

The Free Press is interested in hearing from readers who keep a blog, whether for personal or business reasons. Send your blog address to staff@hillsborofreepress.com. We may use the information for a follow-up article.


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