Monday, September 11, 2006

Round-Up time again

This blog, or an earlier incarnation of it anyway, was born one year ago this month. It began as posts on the main Capital Press website.

If was our first attempt at providing "live" coverage of an event, the Pendleton Round-Up. And it didn't look or act very bloggish (click here to see last year's "blog" posts related to the Round-Up). There were 14 posts in all, with entries from before, during and after the event, in addition to the coverage that ran in the Sept. 23, 2005, edition of Capital Press. Ten of the posts were made from the Round-Up grounds or some more remote location in Eastern Oregon (namely using a dial-up connection from my parents' home/business on Buttercreek Highway outside the small town of Echo).

But it was something of the beginning of an experiment. When I first started talking about creating a blog for our website or making multiple live updates a day from an event, there were a few people that looked at me a bit funny. You could read the "why?" in their eyes.

Even now, I'm not sure I have a good answer. In no small part, the potentially unsatisfying answer was simply "Because we can."

The world of technology has come a long way since 1985, the year I covered my first Pendleton Round-Up. But if you drive east on Interstate 84 toward Pendleton, the landscape looks much as it did 21 years ago. In fact there are probably at least a few pieces of farm equipment that work those rolling wheat fields now that were working those same fields more than two decades ago.

You have to look close to see the difference. Some of the equipment used to farm that land today is filled with all sort of technological gadgets not found in wide use, if used at all, back them. Cell phones are standard issue for everyone from the farm operator to the lowest-paid farm hand. Global positioning satellite equipments directs the airplanes that apply fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides to the crops. Farmers not only have e-mail, they can check it from their cell phones or other palm-sized electronic devices they can carry with them.

And even on the Round-Up grounds, there were phone lines for laptop computers and even wireless access in 2005. That's what made posts from the grounds possible, sometimes mere minutes after an event had ended.

While the people who make of the core rodeo fan base -- farmers, ranchers and rural residents -- are the same folks who make up the Capital Press subscriber base, our newspaper has not made a habit of covering the sport as a sport. Our staff members have been known to attend a rodeo or two, and put a picture or even a short story in the paper. But we have not covered the sport per se, complete with results event-by-event. For our sister paper, the East Oregonian, which is based in Pendleton, Round-Up is part sports event, part community festival, part tourist attraction and and part freak show, all wrapped in rawhide and topped off with a fancy felt hat. They cover the event like a proverbial Pendleton blanket.

This week I will be heading back to Pendleton, along with Mark Rozin, the Capital Press photo coordinator. And the plan at the moment is to do more blog posts from the event, on Thursday and Friday. So look for live updates here and on, and see Mark's photos in the Sept. 22 edition of Capital Press.

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