On the Whitewater Banner

I’ve written about the Whitewater Banner before, and I thought that I’d post more about that website.

The Banner’s greatest strength is that it posts more Whitewater information online, more quickly, than any other website. Some newspapers post less (e.g., Daily Union, Janesville Gazette, The Week), or nothing at all (Whitewater Register).

I’ve called the Banner a bulletin board, and have not covered it critically, as I have with the no-journalism-at-all approach of the Whitewater Register.

I’ll address the ever-cheerful tone of the Banner in a moment, but first a few matters on format.

As far as I can tell, the Banner has no news archive, and no way to link to individual stories. (Without an archive, linking would be temporary in any event.) Many websites have both of these things, but I don’t know why Stewart’s Banner takes a different approach. Navigation is also sometimes awkward, as stories on sports appear at the bottom of the screen, without a quick way to reach them. (A navigation bar near the top of the page would be helpful.)

Otherwise, it’s a bright, bold format, with strong use of photographs.

Jim Stewart’s on Common Council, and simultaneously a news publisher, but I have met few who seem to mind. One reason might be that readers consider Stewart scrupulously fair; the alternative is that his consistent cheerfulness is easily ignored in the search for basic facts about Whitewater.

Stewart’s Banner reminds me of an anecdote that Reagan told, about a boy who wanted a pony. The boy expected a pony from his parents, but instead discovers only a pile of horse manure in his backyard. Upon seeing the large pile of manure, the boy starts digging furiously, and squeals with delight, “Gosh! I know that there has to be a pony in there somewhere!”

Stewart’s Banner is that small boy from Reagan’s tale.

That’s also why the Banner is not a true journalism site; it would not likely investigate, question, or probe for the truth and deeper meaning of something. I cannot imagine that Stewart would present a contrary opinion on many issues.

The City of Whitewater should not have troubled itself to create a new website — adopting Stewart’s Banner would have been faster.

In fairness, if Stewart started questioning life around here in print, he’d trade one conflict (politician and publisher covering city life) for another (politician and genuine journalist covering city life). I would guess that Stewart will continue as he has, without significant changes, and will publish the most optimistic perspective on life since that of the boy in Reagan’s story.