Watching the watchdogs

When documents used by CBS in a report that cast doubt over President George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard were exposed as forgeries by bloggers, the role of bloggers as media watchdogs was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight.

Media in the Tampa Bay area may come under similar scrutiny with the creation of a new blog focusing on Bay Area media. The blog, Tampa Bay Media, which went online earlier this month, aims to give the public a forum to comment on local newspapers and TV and radio stations.

Blog publisher Jim Lamb, a USF alumnus, describes himself as a “news junkie.”

“Tampa Bay has a lot of media coverage, but I did not really see anybody covering the media,” Lamb said.

Lamb liked the idea of giving the people in the Bay Area the chance to comment on local media and then, perhaps, produce some interaction.

“What I want to do is toss things out there and let it get a life of its own,” Lamb said. “My hope is that it is more playful and fun, while recognizing that there is a serious side to life. I do not want it to be all negative; I hope that there can be a balance there.”

Neville Green, deputy managing editor for the Metro section of the St. Petersburg Times, said that a good blog should provide stimulating commentary that causes people to think about things in a different way. He said he did not see that in the content of the Lamb’s blog.

“I like the idea and hope it improves,” Green said.

His comments were echoed by Diane Egner, content director for WUSF Broadcasting.

“At this point there is not enough content, but it has the potential to blossom into something wonderful,” Egner said.

Lamb, who graduated from USF in 1977 with a degree in mass communications, has worked for a number of media outlets, including The Tampa Tribune and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. He has also spent six years developing Web sites for firms in the financial service industry. Lamb said he is the kind of person who is always looking for the next adventure, and this is his newest one.

“This is not the first idea I have had, nor will it be the last,” Lamb said. “I have had some great successes and some horrible failures but the important thing is that I tried.”

Lamb said he is targeting 35- to 45-year-olds for his site, however, he expects that initially it will attract a younger age group simply because younger people are more frequent Internet users. Postings on the site include discussions about who is the Bay Area’s favorite personality and the problems WMNF 88.5 FM is facing with its broadcast antenna.

Lamb plans to update the blog weekly. His plan is to give this site until the end of the year. If people respond and the blog eventually becomes self-sustaining, he will consider that a success. If not, he said he will move on to something else.

Lamb emphasized that the site is still in the experimental phase for the summer months.

He also wants to get as much feedback as possible in order to make improvements where they are needed. He says he is just as open to negative comments as to positive ones.

If the blog achieves success, then Lamb will start looking for major advertisers after September. If the idea catches on, he hopes to set up similar blogs in other communities.

Tampa Bay Media can be accessed at .