http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2010/01/06/menlo-park-blog-captures-local-life-people-vignettes


Almanac

News - January 6, 2010

Menlo Park blog captures local life, people, vignettes

by Sean Howell

It's a cool winter's day here in Menlo Park, California, latitude 37 degrees, 44 minutes; longitude 122 degrees, 11 minutes. The sky is beginning to show some sneaks of light in the east there, over the Stanford foothills.

The shops on Santa Cruz Avenue are opening up, getting ready for business. They're already open at Peet's at the corner of Santa Cruz and University, serving steaming coffee to the early risers on their way to work, or on their way home from an early morning walk.

Dan Dowler over at Cook's Seafood is preparing crabs; he's optimistic about this year's catch after talking with some of the fishermen in Half-Moon Bay and seeing the first haul. Dr. Bill, a chiropractor and a familiar face around town from his days coaching Little League and chairing the Chamber of Commerce, is greeting patients in his practice in the Sharon Heights Shopping Center.

A custom '53 Corvette is sitting in one of the public lots; a lone protester is standing on Sand Hill, holding a "Condi lied" sign; some road work's going on at one end of Sharon Park.

And in a Sharon Heights home, Linda Hubbard Gulker, Chris Gulker and Scott Loftesness are blogging about it, all of it — that is, assuming they're not out on the street already, talking to their favorite local people, poking around in unfamiliar territory.

They are the founders of a "hyper local" community blog called InMenlo (inmenlo.com), and they're striving to convey some sense of what it's like to live here. While the news divisions of traditional print newspapers, including this one, tend to focus on what's changing — warning residents of land development proposals or pending school expansion, for instance — InMenlo sketches the community, and the people in it.

"We love unearthing characters, scouting out stories," said Mr. Gulker, who handles most of the photography for the site (with rare exceptions, each story comes with a photo).

They catalog local people, hang-out spots, community events, trends, and weather reports. They give shopping tips. They look into complaints of increased ticketing by police — but not too deeply.

"We aren't a news site," said Ms. Gulker, who does most of the writing. "We want to focus on people."

There's not much "negative" news, the blog's founders admit, though they did post a blurb about a community meeting on preventing teen suicide. Though they say they would welcome contributors, they're wary of the blog getting hijacked by political activists.

The stories tend to focus on Sharon Heights and the downtown area, where the founders spend most of their time, though there have been a few posts from east of Middlefield Road. At the moment they are seeking topical rather than geographic diversity, though they say they will look to expand their scope as the number of contributors grow.

For now this is just a hobby; Mr. Loftesness pays the fees to maintain the site out of pocket. Visitors fluctuate wildly day-to-day, a sign that the site hasn't yet gained a toehold, according to Mr. Gulker.

Still, for a project that started on a whim, the bloggers have been remarkably persistent, posting at least one short story per day. The goal is to establish a "daily cadence" that readers can get used to, Mr. Loftesness said.

Ms. Gulker's favorite stories are the ones about places that people tend to overlook. She particularly enjoyed writing about the cemetery on Santa Cruz Avenue, where the street kinks.

"For most people, it's just noise, it's part of the landscape," she said. If her story gets people to pause for a moment the next time they pass the cemetery, she's done her job.

Comments

Posted by Alice MacCorkle Carrott, a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2010 at 10:17 am

Cheers to Linda, Chris and Mr. Loftesness! Great blog. . . great pictures. . . and it has found its way all the way to Kansas City! Keep it coming!