Weather: Cold today, but milder Thursday-Sunday — 50s-near 60 for highs Thursday/Friday, 60s-some low 70s possible Saturday/Sunday. Next chance of rain ahead of cold front late Saturday/Sunday — maybe some thunder.
A couple of my colleagues, Mark Taylor on the Wild Life outdoors blog, and Aaron McFarling on his sports blog, had some good takes on the Facebook-commenting situation on Roanoke.com, due to take effect Thursday afternoon, that I largely concur with. Mark had lots of nice things to say about me and this blog. I do have to pick a bone with Aaron though, about his statement that Andy Bitter’s and Dan Casey’s blogs are the most popular and “it’s not close.” I’ve seen the numbers, and the Weather Journal Nation OWNS winter! And the last couple of years, due partly to some extraordinary “off-season” weather events, we’re holding our own in the other seasons too. (OK — NOTHING’s going to top Virginia Tech football around here for a whole year!) But I don’t really see the Roanoke.com blogs as a horse race, but rather a buffet full of different tastes. Did you know I’ve commented on Fridge Magnet, the food blog, a few times?
My comments below are not meant to endorse or criticize the coming changes. As Aaron and Mark have each stated, these are decisions made well above our pay grade and sphere of influence. I’ve been in the newspaper business 25 years now, and in the concurrent/overlapping online publishing business for the past 15 years. System changes, “upgrades”, are old hat. I once assisted in launching a newspaper website from scratch. This is the third content management system we’ve had to navigate in a year. Just life in the biz.
(1) It is important to emphasize that access to reading Weather Journal or seeing the posted comments WILL NOT require a Facebook sign-in. The Facebook sign-in is required for posting comments, only. If you “lurk” now — reading the blog without commenting — that ability will be absolutely unaffected by the changes. (I hate the term “lurking” because it sounds sinister, when really, lurkers are more numerous than commenters and therefore drive blog traffic even more.) Weather Journal is NOT becoming a Facebook page. If your company blocks Facebook on its Web but not Roanoke.com, you’ll still be able to click on Weather Journal.
(2) The Roanoke Times was purchased in May by BH Media after a long period of ownership by Landmark Communications. Changes are inevitable with ownership shifts. We got a new publisher on the first day, a change was made at editor about two months later, and the staff across the entire company was reorganized in September with an 11 percent loss of positions. That, to me, is by far a more painful thing to have been near than a switch in how blog comments are done. But it goes with the territory.
(3) Left up to me alone for the purposes of Weather Journal, there is NO WAY I would make changes like this in winter. This is the Weather Journal blog’s prime time, so yes, I hate that these changes are coming now. Joe Stinnett knows I feel this way. But it is what it is.
(4) Lost in the Facebook comments controversy is that there will be a whole new weather page, generated by Global Weather Corporation, with a new radar view and forecast graphics going out to 14 days (yes, as always, I will be skeptical of the specifics of long-range forecasts, even those appearing on our website.)
(5) Whatever the mechanism, the fact is that it was getting to where I could not personally and individually moderate comments for posting very easily, anyway, due to volume, especially near winter storm events, and complexity of life. It appears comment volume is likely to go down, but even if it stayed level, it was getting difficult for me to manage and function in the rest of life. Comments will post automatically now. You won’t have to wait on me to wake up to get them up. And maybe I’ll spend a little less time on the smartphone at dinner. We will still have the capability to moderate comments AFTER they appear, so especially offensive stuff will be removed in time. We’ve worked too hard to establish a congenial tone here, I’m not going to let it turn into a cesspool.
(6) I respect anyone’s decision to participate or not participate in the discussion for whatever reason. I’m not going to urge people to continue nor discourage it. A simple Facebook account with privacy limitations is fairly easy to set up, but I understand and respect those who choose to avoid it. Anyone is welcome back at anytime.
(7) I will miss the “Weather Journal Nation” blog community as it’s been constructed, especially over the past 4 years or so. Inevitably, it will be different come Thursday evening. I would like to have had a better send-off than this. Couldn’t we have had one more good winter storm run-up (whether it actually happened or not) rather than all this icky cold rain/mix/ice crap? I mean, today and Thursday are the fourth anniversary of the one of the two biggest defining events for this blog, the Dec. 18-19, 2009, snowstorm. This is no way to commemorate that! (June 29, 2012, derecho was the other.)
As long as I have this forum, I am committed to providing informative and hopefully entertaining material about local and regional weather, and beyond. The new system has some features that, once I get the hang of it a little better, will offer opportunities for more dynamic and in-depth display of weather information. It will look a lot different though, when it clicks on about 2 p.m. Thursday.
What we do here is not really a forecast, but a discussion. (I’m not competing with weather.com — as one commenter on Stinnett’s blog post suggested as a “more accurate” alternative — or even the National Weather Service or local TV stations for accuracy.) I hope there will be some to discuss it with in the days and weeks ahead.
My thanks to everyone who has ever clicked on this blog and to those who have commented — and to those who will click on the blog and comment moving forward.
I’ll see you on the other side …