Why I no longer read the Whipple Clips

I don’t know when I first became aware of the Whipple Clips. Before I was a subscriber, I had a friend who would forward his to me each day. Finding it so useful, I finally asked for my own subscription. Compiled each morning by Tom Whipple, husband of retiring state Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, I found them fascinating.

Because the clips came early each day – I’d say 99% of the time before I was awake – they were the first thing I looked at. I’d grab my Blackberry and peruse them before even rolling out of bed.

When I started writing for The Virginian-Pilot in July 2010, my columns, like the rest of the editorial page items, weren’t online. Around October, the paper decided to put them all back online, even giving me my own little section.

I asked Mr. Whipple what it would take to get a column of mine in the clips. He told me that his compilation was primarily done for the members of the General Assembly so if I wrote something that related to them, let him know and he would consider it.

The thrill of seeing one of my columns in the Whipple Clips was about as big as the first time I saw my name in print. It was one of those op-eds – this one on redistricting – that caught the eye of some members of the legislature. It ended up being quoted on the House floor by Del. Joe Morrissey, a situation which caused my Blackberry to light up like a Christmas tree, as I received texts, emails and tweets about it.

Tom Whipple retired this summer and the non-partisan Virginia Public Access Project took over the production of the clips. At first, I thought this was going to be a good thing: I was excited about the inclusion of the links to the stories, which saved me time on the backend when I wanted a direct link for something I read there. But almost immediately, there were problems.

Formatting. Initially, I could not read the clips on my Blackberry. They simply would not load completely. I don’t know if that is because of the HTML formatting or what. In any case, after trying to do so over and over, I basically had to go to the website in order to read them. (Interestingly enough, this morning’s clips loaded.) The link at the top of daily email was not a live link, so I would have to copy and paste it into my phone’s browser in order to get to it. That wasn’t fun at all – blame it on my phone (a BB 9700) but I often had to get to a computer in order to read them.

Timing. I’m generally not an early morning person. But the days when I do get up early, I like to read my clips. Mr. Whipple spoiled me, getting the clips out so early. Typically, I don’t receive the VPAP clips until around 7:30am, which I consider to be late. And, of course, the clips currently are not being done on the weekends.

Content. At the end of the day, the most important thing is content. And it is this that is my primary reason for moving away from the clips, preferring instead to set up my own clips using Google Reader. VPAP has chosen to not include in the clips certain items, among them op-eds from people like me. And people like Brian Kirwin, J. R. Hoeft, and Don Tabor.Or any blogs not associated with newspapers. As the result, what we are getting today is less content than what we got before.

VPAP is a non-profit, non-partisan organization and one in which I have fully supported in the past and will continue to support in the future for its efforts at shedding light on Virginia’s campaign finance. But this particular effort is not a good fit for them. They have to be non-partisan – and I respect that.

But excluding voices is not my cup of tea, especially voices that are published in the newspapers. After all, the header on the site says “A daily compilation of newspaper articles about Virginia politics and government.” Not “a daily compilation of newspaper articles written by regular staff about Virginia politics and government.”

I’m still tinkering with it but Google Reader – which I can access either on my computer, on my BlackBerry or on my Playbook and they all stay in sync – has more than filled the gap.