San Francisco's KPIX CBS 5 Unleashes 'Eye on Blogs'

While KPIX journalists were making the rounds of polling places on Super Tuesday, the station's new full-time blogger, Brittney Gilbert, was making the rounds of Bay-area blogs looking for interesting and offbeat takes on the California primary.

Under the headline, “Voting to Make History,” she excerpted a posting from Back in Skinny Jeans -- a Weblog that usually focuses on body-image issues -- where author Stephanie Quilao writes that although she's “not that into politics,” she is fascinated by the question of whether it's more likely that the next president will be the first black man or the first woman to hold the office.

Gilbert added her own observation that the question inevitably leaves the Republicans out of the picture. “Sure, this blogger is a Democrat, but does it strike anyone else as supremely evident that Clinton and Obama are dominating the news, barroom discussions and blogs (even right-leaning ones), while the white guys seem to be getting almost no play? Does the Republican nominee, despite who it is, stand a chance against a first-ever President?”

With the launch of “Eye on Blogs,” the station is making a bid to attract Web traffic by making this section of its Web site a clearinghouse for links to the best of the blogs in the region. It's loosely modeled on a community blog Gilbert created for WKRN-TV in her hometown of Nashville, Tenn. As was true there, Gilbert operates on the periphery of newsroom operations, sitting in on daily news meetings and acting as a resource for reporters.

Although intended at least in part to attract visitors to the rest of the CBS 5 Web site and viewers to its broadcasts, the blog is “not strictly a cross-promotional tool,” according to Gilbert, and will not send a majority of its links to the station’s stories and videos -- except to the extent that they manage to get area bloggers talking about them. “It's more an attempt to reach out to people who don’t normally watch TV news,” she said.

A little like a newspaper editorial writer, Gilbert also has license to express her own opinions, rather than keeping up a front of journalistic neutrality. Jim Parker, director of Internet operations for the station, said he believes that's important to give the online column the edgy qualities blog readers expect. When the station has experimented with having reporters blog, the result of their trying to maintain their objectivity has too often been that “they don't wind up blogging about anything very interesting.” By recruiting a professional blogger -- particularly someone who has done it before, and in the context of working for a TV station -- Parker hopes to achieve a very different result.

“Instead of taking people who aren't bloggers and making them blog, I figure, if what we want is a blogger, why don't we hire a blogger?” Parker said.

Gilbert trained as a print journalist and had done some free-lance writing, but her introduction to the world of TV broadcasting came when she was hired to work at WKRN in 2005. She had been keeping a personal blog, Sparkwood & 21, since 1999. She left the Nashville station last year after a change in management and joined KPIX in November. The Eye on Blogs site was unveiled Jan. 24 under the headline, “A Bay Area Blogging Bonanza Begins.”

Although she has done this before, Gilbert said she doesn't necessarily want to do it the same way for KPIX as she did for her old station. “I was doing a job that was pretty new. In fact, I don’t know anyone had really ever done what I was doing. So I made tons of mistakes. Part of the point was to have somebody with a distinctive voice and point of view. But I want to find a way to strike a balance between having personality and point of view and, well, making yourself a little too open. I got a little too emotionally involved with some of the things I was writing about and got into some petty bickering with bloggers in the community.”

Some of those habits carried over from her personal blogging, and this time, she wants to make sure that the station blog “is not about me” and is instead about the community of bloggers. “I would probably avoid religious and political opinions as much as possible, as those always got me in hot water,” she said.

Fortunately, with all of the Bay area's active bloggers, there are plenty of other interesting opinions to choose from.