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Columbia Missourian

Community and reporter dialogue possible through newspaper’s blogs

By Scott Swafford
November 16, 2007 | 5:00 p.m. CST

Dear Reader,

Morgan Cook, one of your Public Life reporters at the Missourian, had an important question to ask of you a couple of weeks ago. You know Morgan. She’s the one who’s been shining light on the inner workings of the Boone County Family Resources Board of Directors.

Morgan has turned up some interesting stuff: an investigation by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office into whether the board is complying with statutes that govern the operation of public entities, an effort to remove board member Steve Tatlow and a debate over whether former board secretary/treasurer Alison Martin should have been bonded.

Morgan and I stand by her work. But she wondered: Was she being a good watchdog, barking loudly at what seemed like potentially significant abuse? Or was she yapping and nipping at the heels of innocent people trying to do legitimate public service?

She wanted to ask your opinion. And she did it at The Watchword, the Public Life team’s new blog.

You might, or might not, have noticed that the Missourian has finally entered the blogosphere. The Watchword ( focuses on reporter reflections and tidbits of news coming from Columbia and Boone County government. It offers biographies of reporters and portfolios of their work so that you can get acquainted and chat with them. But The Watchword’s primary purpose is to foster community conversation about the issues that interest you.

The Missourian is painfully aware that blogging is not new. Our rivals at the Columbia Daily Tribune have been doing it for years. We’ve taken our time, as we sought ways to make our blogs something different. They remain works in progress, but we hope you’ll check them out, offer some comments and let us know how we can make them better.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t credit Public Lifer Brian Eason for taking the lead on creating The Watchword, and the rest of my Public Life team for making the blog come alive. Credit also goes to my colleague Brian Wallstin, who has inspired us all to leap into the fray and who earlier launched the Missourian’s first blogs — U.Town and Faith in Focus ( and, respectively). It seems the effort is catching on. By the time you read this, The Watchword should be well above 4,000 page views. People are reading, and responding. Links to the blogs are available at

Meanwhile, Morgan has received some interesting answers to her query. I know she appreciates them. She told me so herself.

And she told you, dear reader, on the blog that made the conversation possible.