April 19, 2009

Oh my! LaKisha Jones is pregnant

There was a time when I would've been a lot faster to publish this news: American Idol finalist LaKisha Jones is expecting her second child, her rep confirms to Usmagazine.com.

That would've been back in the day when The Flint Journal's Idol Chatter blog barely let Lakisha Jones sneeze without reporting about it online. The woman of three cities - Flint, Baltimore and Houston - garnered a lot of space online and in print during season six. I tracked down all sorts of links and "news" - from her first audition in Houston, through New York, on the show in February 2007, March,, April, May and ever after.

The Idol Chatter blog grew out of discussions in my former employer's features department, which wanted to cover the popular TV show American Idol with overnight updates for print and online before 6 am. That was before the newspaper knew Jones, who finished fourth, was on the show.

The Journal's entertainment reporter Doug Pullen headed up the print coverage, that included comments from local Idol experts. Since in those days, I was the newspaper's Internet team, I got to push what was then new blogging software - MovableType - on mlive.com site, The Flint Journal's online home.

I tried lots of things - embedding videos; adding music, photos and a variety of widgets, plus linking to other things on Mlive on Advance and other web sites.

It seems routine now, but the online effort was groundbreaking for the newspaper. We used online comments in print stories. We published first on the web, and sometimes web only. On performance nights, we had something online within 5 minutes after our Flint connection performed or was judged.

A highlight was the Wednesday we had 23,800 unique users . For four months, the blog's traffic ranked up with the highest on mlive.com, even squeezing a sports blog out from its top spots from time to time. Better yet, Google News frequently had us as the number one source for news on Idol.

It helped to read comments like this:
"I would like to let the editors and readers of the Flint Journal know that the readership of your paper has been extended to the entire nation, like myself who searches for Lakisha news from California daily. While I surely understand that the resources of this local paper could be used for other pressing issues, the reality is, if you guys don't cover her, nobody else would. For many Lakisha fans, or for me anyway, your paper has become THE place to be for getting a daily dose of Lakisha. This will continue only until she finishes in the competition, so please please keep her coverage for now."
I recently ran across a conversation I had with an Mlive.com editor who had to report on the blog at an AdvanceInternet meeting. Here's some of that:
"What did this tell you or the Flint Journal about blogging and real-time updates?

... it showed us that the right content will draw people in. Folks expected something daily during the show and we heard from them if we didn't give it to them. Then, they started expecting we'd always have copies (or links) of the performances.

Do you believe this blog opened the eyes of others on staff about the power of blogging?

Yes. (Editor) Tony Dearing (now heading up AnnArbor.com) regularly shared what was being done at his weekly staff meetings so that helped.

Do you think it may have contributed to your current online approach?

Yes. What we were able to do with Idol Chatter using MovableType as the blog software helped more people realize the power we had to shape our coverage on Mlive. We got comments, we could marry photos with stories, we could have fun and we could seriously cover important news for our area online as it happened.

It also showed many the power of RSS feeds - the only way to keep up with the hundreds of Idol blogs.

It showed the power of Google and Yahoo search feeds, which alerted us to what others were writing; and the experience showed us the flexibility of presentation.

The biggest surprise - and compliment - for me was how many other newspapers were reading it to see what we would turn up. I think when other reporters and editors heard that when they were at events or conferences that helped make online and the efforts it takes legitimate.

Personally, I learned again how much I love blogging as a way of storytelling, although I still think American Idol is a waste of time and money."
Anyways, back to Lakisha whose Let's Go Celebrate single is currently available on Amazon.com. It is from her debut album So Glad I'm Me due out in May.

It's the first baby for Jones and financial adviser Larry Davis, whom she wed in Beverly Hills last October. The infant, due in August, is the second for 29-year-old Jones, 29. People magazine reported that Lakisha was thrilled that her 6-year-old daughter Brionne started calling Davis "Dad" even before they married.

Here's a quote from LaKisha:

"I may not have won American Idol, but I have won because I'm able to provide a better life for me and my daughter and that's all I've ever wanted."

And me?

I won because I learned so much from the experience. Even better, now I don't have to watch American Idol and can blog about anything.


  1. Oh, I remember those days! My only question is yes, we got a lot of hits. How did that translate to dollars and cents for the Flint Journal?

    Certainly MLive must have made a little money and, of course, Google makes money off its site. But did it translate to dollars for the Flint Journal, the originator of the content?

  2. The Flint Journal made money too from its share of the ads generated by page views. Plus, it introduced businesses in the community to the mlive-flintjournal connection. It helped with the next big 24/7 project, coverage of the Buick Open. That brought in a few more ads and dollars.

    Perfect, no way.

    Imagine, though, if we had been able to build on that experience by focusing coverage on Buick, or at least the GM business in our neighborhood. Some of that could have been behind a must-pay door. But that would have taken more resources then were being allocated to online in those days. Remember 95% of my Lakisha work was on my time.