Sonoma Online Media Smackdown

The more the merrier/murkier. Pick one.

I’m not too proud to admit it took me 15 minutes to realize that “#SOTU” was the Twitter hash-tag for Tuesday’s “State of the Union.” I was too busy trying to decipher J.M. Berry’s tweets to follow the President’s speech through the proxy of 140 characters.

Of course, Berry’s own commentary reads like a typography salad that requires a few cranks of the Enigma machine to decrypt. Defeated, I went back to “#SOTU,” which I figured was some hip, Japanese noodle craze I’d missed since I never eat anything I find on the Internet. It is, after all, a “cesspool” according to some pundits.

Sonoma must have its hip waders on, for cesspool or not, Sonoma is deep in the digital mire as one of the most well represented communities on the Internet. There are a dozen or so websites that now complement its media ecosystem, proffering information from hard news to tips on what wine to bring to a fistfight.

Among the NKOTB (yes, I just used an ’80s boy band acronym) is Sonoma.Patch.com, the local iteration of the AOL-backed community news site that recently made its local bow.

Ditto, the New York Times-driven “YouTown” initiative, which also boasts a Sonoma edition. This, of course, is in addition to the sites of our local newspapers and a smattering of other homegrown initiatives telling Sonoma’s stories via pixel like so many bubbles in glass of Gloria.

Why the sudden flurry of interest in Sonoma by media companies great and small? Well, in the case of the venerable, 132-year-old Index-Tribune, “sudden” might not be the most accurate notion, but the there has certainly been an up-tick in local online coverage the past five years. The reasons are myriad – the barrier to entry is nil, everyone’s an “expert” and Sonoma is intrinsically interesting not least of which because we’re all here (well, I’m in hiding but that’s beside the point).

Likewise, there’s a misapprehension among a certain sort of media huckster that we’re early adopters. We’re not. We’d still be pulling corks out with our teeth had some tourist not left a winged-corkscrew on a Plaza picnic table back in the ’70s. Even then, everyone first thought it was a lewd jumping-jack toy.

Perhaps we’re serving as some sort of test market – media guinea pigs let loose upon an ever-expanding proving grounds. This is about as palatable to some locals as the Tuskegee syphilis experiments of the ’30s, wherein citizens were injected with the disease under some diabolic pretense for the sake of science. For the record, Sonomans are perfectly capable of getting syphilis on their own, let alone local news, which, given the size of this town, they’re apt to have made themselves. I mean, how many times have you thumbed through the latest edition after a wild weekend to see if you made it into the police blotter? It’s damn near a rite of passage here.

This hyper-local coverage trend can lead to a kind of homespun myopia. Here we have the greatest communications tool ever invented in the history of humankind, one that can connect us to the world at large and most everybody in it and yet we’re more interested in our backyard.

Surely, this is why I mistook the State of the Union for a noodle. And what of the State of the Valley, to be hosted by our local Chamber of Commerce this week? I’ll find myself a Navajo Code Talker and follow it on J.M. Berry’s Twitter stream, hash-tag #sonomamediaechochamber.

Any thoughts?

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