Increasingly personal journalism from the Chronicle?

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The Chronicle‘s makeover seems not to have ended with the big layout changes that reduced the amount of actual information in the paper in favor of more text boxes and graphics.

We’ve been noticing that, more and more, serious journalism is being displaced by what we’ve deemed the LiveJournal approach — all sorts of personal accounts taking up space where we’d prefer to see harder news.

This past weekend, cafe news columnist Dai Huynh wrote a personal account of her return to Vietnam. She seems like a nice lady, and we have nothing against her, but this isn’t especially our idea of front-page journalism at a serious newspaper:

Growing up in the United States, I never felt entirely at home, was never quite sure who I was supposed to be.

I always wondered who I would have become if I’d stayed in Vietnam. I wondered about the world I left behind. But I was also afraid of it.

Maybe there’s room to run that as a feature — maybe — but on the front page?

There’s metro-state columnist Rick Casey’s recent personal account of his run-in with a home invader:

As I turned at the landing I saw him at the bottom of the stairs. He was not a large man, a skinny 5-foot-7 or so. He was wearing slacks and a T-shirt, but what I noticed first were the tattoos covering his arms.

He didn’t appear armed. I decided to act out of my anger, not out of my fear.

“Who are you and what are you doing in here?” I yelled. Then I called to my wife: “Kristen! Get the gun and call the police!”

I was grateful she didn’t yell back: “What gun?”

While it’s refreshing to see Rick Casey recognize the utility of gun ownership for self protection, there’s still way too much “I” from the metro/state columnist for my taste.

Then there’s Lucas Wall, who has regularly turned his transportation column into a personal LiveJournal.

UPDATE: I inadvertently left out the Houston-area coven’s favorite, Cragg Hines, who used his Sunday editorial space to tell us about his diet several weeks ago.

There’s Andrea Georgsson, who has used the editorial pages as her personal LiveJournal to recount her adventures in giving away leftovers to neighbors.

And certainly not least, there’s opinion page editor James Howard Gibbons, whose editorial page reminiscing about cabaret singers and his trip to the gun show led us to create an actual LiveJournal account for him.

News consumers don’t turn to the front of hard news sections or editorial pages to read mediocre writers reflecting on their daily lives. We can find that all over the web. Good features writers reflecting personally or humorously on events of the day are a different story, of course (think Ken Hoffman, who is properly placed in the features section, and maybe even Leon Hale).

All of this personal writing on what should be harder news/editorial pages can’t just be coincidental. Jack Sweeney and/or Jeff Cohen must be pushing this greater personalization of the harder news pages. It’s unclear what they’re hoping to accomplish with it.

UPDATE (04-27-2005): Kimberly, my professional-journalist blogbuddy, posts her reaction.

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Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX