The Gustafson Index

We don’t have a lot of celebrities around here. Bob Kovachick is certainly a star —and maybe Joe Bruno, but he’ll probably be in prison soon.

But we’ve never seen anyone popular across so many different platforms as Kristi Gustafson. She writes On the Edge, the wildly popular Times Union blog, she’s all over the newspaper, and now she appears regularly on WFLY and on WTEN’s 4pm news.

Kristi has her detractors. Two guys in my office, old school journalist types, are constantly criticizing her work as insubstantial fluff. One of them, Doug, was actually named “Biggest Killjoy” on her blog last year. They complain about everything she writes, especially stuff like today’s post, Turn Your Va-jay-jay Into Jewelry. Oddly, they seem to read every word.

Me? I defend her. I explain that they are not the intended audience –and that On the Edge is very, very popular. Newspapering is still a business, I say, and clicks equal cash. I tell them that the Times Union is like a smorgasbord with a little something for everyone. I think I heard Rex Smith tell that to Alan Chartock on The Media Project.

That’s why I’ve developed the Gustafson Index™ It’s an easy way for Kristi’s legions of devoted fans to gauge her influence over local media. And for those who don’t like her, it’s sort of a warning system that will prompt them to unplug for a few days. Today’s Gustafson Index™ is orange, or intense.

Report problems to

Tomorrow is TV day so we expect Condition Red. If you’re not a fan take cover.


53 responses to “The Gustafson Index

  1. Obsessed much?


    This is freaking wonderful.

  3. Since I follow her on Twitter, I guess I’m a fan. Nothing wrong with a little fluff.

  4. Are you just trying to butter her up so she doesn’t kick you ass at SMBTV tomorrow over the whole dog thing?

  5. I like you better Rob.

  6. Good stuff, Tony Shalhoub.

  7. As an OTE minion I have to say I like the Gustafson Index. What is there not to like about her? I’d be more worried if I was a TU blogger and Michael Huber was telling you your blog was going Code Blue. 😉 And if you just happened to log onto Facebook OTE, aka OTE Underground, you’ll find it’s ALWAYS code red and rated R.

  8. Geez, over on my blog it’s either Code Chrome or Code Neon. I must not be working hard enough. Must work harder.

  9. hey Rob – Camping is also “In-Tents”

  10. If Gibbon were writing contemporaneously, I think he’d point to the GI as a sterling example of a falling empire.

  11. Gustafson’s OK in my book. Her blogs are entertaining and probably aimed at a slightly different demographic than what these guys are interested in. Have they seen the number of comments she receives on each post? Sounds like a case of jealousy to me.

  12. #1: Not really. I used to write about local media every day. If I still had that blog I’m sure Kristi would be regular fodder. For example:

    And here:

    Wow…am I sensing a pattern?

  13. Roon – I’m bringing a helmet.

  14. Should a bring a video device to the SMBTV? This could be interesting.

  15. Is it blogger charisma coupled with popular culture and prizes? I am amazed in this virtual world of anonymous commenters and bloggers, her most loyal minion even provide pictures and bios.

    Kristi is clever – and I bet a book could come out of these efforts. Could it lead to a movie starring Meryl Streep?

  16. #16: Oh, there’s definitely a book lurking in there. I see Uma Thurman in the movie.

  17. I have no problem with Fluff.

  18. Rob, I’m glad you posted a link to the word fluff – because if you check out Urban Dictionary’s definition #2…I’d never be able to read “Man of a certain age” again without thinking something different.

  19. Okay, Rob, come on.

    Kovachick is a star? Huh. He’s a weath.. meteorologist is what the stations have been using for years. Which is I’m sure what he has a degree in and is quite skilled. However:

    He’s still a weatherperson on a station not too quick on the ball.

    I can get the same stuff he reads on air through the online weather sites. Quicker. I can even monitor the Helderberg doppler via the web so I know whether (no pun intended) to hang my landry outside or take cover. I can call my kids and husband to let them know approx how soon a storm will hit. It takes forever for Channel 13 to run those crawler weather warnings that I’ve known about for up to 1/2 hour or more beforehand.

    Man, let’s put things into perspective. I’m sure he’s a good guy, but jeez.

  20. iknowtruthismine

    Try pointing out to her how something she is pushing in one of her posts as great fun to do, is nothing but trashing a once proud class A trout stream by encouraging people to litter, urinate, and in other ways foul the river, by having hundreds of mostly drunk people ( as measured by the empty cans that float by all day)tube continuously over sensitive fish habitat all summer long. Trout must feed continuously taking advantage of every opportunity in-order to survive the winter and pass on their DNA to a new generation. The stream is now considered a joke, fish populations have collapsed, many support businesses have disappeared and the ecological health of the stream has been compromised. She has a very thin skin, especially when shown to be wrong.

  21. #19: Amanda: If that’s what you want to think about when you visit this site, who am I to argue? I’d never heard definition #7, but it’s strangely appropriate.

  22. And IKTIM, every time you post on her site you always try and turn a class A blog into some political agenda. Go back to CapCon. By the way, Kristi hates trout.

  23. Besides, you can freeze eggs and bank DNA. No worries.

  24. North Greenbush Dad

    IKTIM needs to attack KG about her enviromentally damaging joy ride through the arizona desert as well ! Lets face it, we love Kristi because she hates eveything this country stands for : blind Dogs, crass commercialization, rampant materialism, and exciting new products like the latest line of necklaces at ETSY !

  25. Hahaha Rob – if you wanna think about Kristi lady-farting when you visit her site, who am I to argue? 😉

  26. Well apparently it’s just an ongoing, albeit at times dormant, obsession then?

  27. Rob, what is SMBTV?

  28. Im Mr. Anderson and youre not

    rob, trolling for posts eh? well anyway, as far as Kristi’s “fame” goes it and a dollar wouldnt get you a cup of coffee anywhere outside of the capitol region. its more about the people on the blog than the blogger herself. and thats her strength, she doesnt take herself too seriously or consider herself a star(indeed how could she when shes in my orbit)kristi coul indeed be a big local star, in the manner of benita zahn or kovachin or all the rest, but thats a fate i wouldnt wish on anyone! I would hope that kristi breaks out into the real world, but I dont know if shes ready for that. we’ll see!

  29. #26: C’mon Amanda… trying to eat my lunch here!

  30. #28: That’s the Social Media Breakfast-Tech Valley, and event to learn about social media and rub elbows with the digerati. I actually wore a disguise this morning to avoid being recognized by several of the attendees…

  31. #27: Just following orders. It’s very bad form to share private emails, but in this case I’ll make an exception.

    Dear Rob:

    Nice job on the blog lately, keep up the good work.

    One suggestion: you may want to try mentioning Kristi Gustafson now and then. That seemed to be a BIG hit. Remember: clicks equal cash.

    George Hearst

  32. Rob, just for the record, I don’t complain about everything Ms. Gustafson writes in OTE. Years ago, for example, she posted on the personal scare she underwent when she thought she had breast cancer. Very affective, very moving stuff.

    I’ve acknowledged plenty of times that she is a very talented wordsmith. Her columns and her straight news/ feature stories are more than serviceable. But as I’ve mentioned to you, I think OTE very often sinks to the lowest possible levels. Bacon lip balm? Is this what serious-minded people want to read about?

    I get it, it’s a blog about fashions and relationships. But it could be so much more. In my opinion, since OTE is so popular, both she and the TU are squandering an important opportunity to tackle subjects with a bit more meat and bite to ’em.

  33. Re #34: Doug is correct. I did not reveal that side of the discussion. Just to clarify, their criticism was aimed at OTE, not other work.

  34. Bah. It’s not as if the so called (or is that self-called?) “serious-minded people” don’t have tons of outlets to feed them. It’s also not as if (at least by now) you are not forewarned before you click on the link.

    I think that Doug (and the like) just wants to be king and can make homogeneity (to his/their personal tastes) our way of life. Just, of course, so that we could all be, all the time, in all places, serious-minded people.

    (For me, I readily admit that I am not one of those. But I still think I should have the chance to be fed)

  35. Any dog owner will tell you that bacon flavored lip balm is a recipe for trouble.

  36. Hadn’t heard of the Gustafson chick but, looking quickly, she seems clever enough. Can live without that noise below the comment line, though.

    What is troubling is this lady-f^rt business. Please. “Lady gas.”

    Now, then. To bring it all together, let’s apply the Lady-Gas Excuse Me Test to Ms. Gustafson’s work on her blog. The result? Strangely tasty.


  37. BL, I’m not a believer in autocracies, but I sure don’t wanna be thought of as the court jester either! Let’s just chalk this up to agreeing to disagree about what a good blog should be. My tastes are different than yours, it’s that simple. As I’ve said, gimme a Madeo anytime, it’s got the perfect blend (at least what I consider to be the perfect blend) of whimsy, wit and intelligence all rolled into one.

  38. I like the perfect blend too. In fact, I think I might head over there soon for a caffeine fix (is that jester enough?).

    This whole thing is just a big library. IMO, it would suck if there was only one book or only the same style of book. Not everyone likes reading same the thing, but, except for the all too many illiterate, everyone should be able to find *something* they like.

  39. Eye,

    Defending Gustafson?

    What’s next? Plan to back Osama bin Laden and Lloyd Blankfein, too?

    Reading this is like a Yankees fan getting up one morning and finding out that Derek Jeter has signed with the Red Sox – just to get a signed thank-you letter from Tom Henry and a wet kiss from Bob Ryan in The Globe.

    Or reading the front page of The New York Times (Columbia Journalism School Rat Hole that it is) to see a 120-inch, three-jump story on the intellectual brilliance, policy depth, and rigorous honesty of Sarah Palin.

    Or watching Senator Al Franken deliver a 60-minute speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate to introduce and passionately campaign for a proclamation to establish a national day of honor for the Greatest American: Then, Now, and Always – Rush Limbaugh.

    Or seeing Congressional Oversight Panel Chair Elizabeth Warren calling on every television network, radio show, and newspaper front page for the complete deregulation of the credit card and derivatives industry. With a tax cut to 5 percent and the promotion of usury rates, for good measure.

    Kristi Gustafson is a cancer – a cancer of self-promotion, feeble justification, and the slow death of journalism wrapped up in clothes more befitting a tawdry street walker than the professional writer with the duty to “comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable.” Gustafson and those who made coffee pot and bar stool gossip some sort of pseudo-panacea have committed treason against the First Amendment, against the free flow of accurate, useful, worthwhile information, against informing the public, and against the very vital role that journalism has played in the history of this country.

    Journalists are not – and will never be – perfect. Not even close! Too much argument. Too much debate. Too eager to react to justifiable criticism. Too willing to promote themselves riding personalized motor scooters around the streets of the state capital. Too pliable to hiring based upon parental affiliation, college and prep school background, and mere blood or personal relationship.

    But journalists, even at their worst and most self-centered, are not Gustafson. Not even those pansies on the Times’ editorial page or at Fred Hiatt’s gutless Washington Post. Journalists are just too damn bullheaded to be that shallow. Or that blatant. Or that cheap. (Well, there is Fred Dicker….)

    I never expected you to keep bashing Gustafson. I know the score. I just NEVER imagined that you’d buy your knee pads and drop to your knees so easily or with such ease. Remind me to send over a case of Vaseline. And a case of Chapstick. And a year’s supply of mouthwash.

    Seems we know who runs this blog – and it sure as hell isn’t The Albany Eye. Eye wouldn’t taken the sellout that typed in this Ode to Limp Justification and cut him to ribbons. Not to be “snarky” or rude. But because the public relations hack who pens such crap deserves little else.

    No one fought for you more. No one has been a greater ally. No one appreciated your efforts, Eye and post-Eye, as much. Now, you just make me sick.

    How The Eye has fallen. And for so little. How, indeed.

    • Michael Huber,

      Note to readers: You may know ‘Mark’ by another name, ‘Experienced Cynic’. He also posts as ‘Fire Fran Now’.
      Why bring this up? We want readers to post comments using only one username. Bear with us as we try to keep these conversations on a level playing ground, where one person = one username.

  40. #41: My biggest problem is that sometimes people don’t know when I’m kidding and when I’m not. Even people who’ve known me for a long time don’t always get where I’m coming from.

    You don’t think Mr. Hearst would actually send me an email, do you?

  41. Sorry, but as the other half of the “old-school-journalist types” Rob refers to, I have to agree with Doug.

    I get that many of today’s readers and bloggers want their news short and fast. No problem there. But, Kristi and her like, could do so much more with her platform then to serve up rehashed, warmed over drivel that does little more than fill space.

    Kristi – here’s a news flash: True journalists don’t just repackage news they found elsewhere. They look at that news and then – gasp – do some investigative reporting and research so as to further inform their readers. It can still be just as short and consise, but actually give the reader more than they could have found on any other site.

    One last thing: For the record, I am in no way jealous of Kristi or her like. I’ll compare journalistic chops with her any day. Mostly, I’m more than slightly ashamed and embarrassed that what she “writes” passes as journalism. And, you can quote that!

  42. > Bear with us as we try to keep these conversations on a
    > level playing ground, where one person = one username.

    How about banning anonymous commenting altogether? Every fix short of that is a half-measure. The nannying never ends.

    The technology for this is imperfect, so I’d just make an editorial rule: “Please use your real name. Anonymous comments will not be approved. Objectionable comments will be rejected at the proprietor’s discretion.”

    Done. Works well.


  43. Thanks Michael. FFN = Fraud. Credibility rating – 0. BS Factor – Code Red. DB Rating – Off the chart. Use of big words – B-. Windbag readings – Fujita F5. Readability – D-. Chance of joining OTE Facebook – 0%.

    Respectfully, a loyal OTE minion.

  44. btw, (one of) the owners of the Red Sox is *John* Henry. He gets pissed when Tom uses his stationary.

  45. Another thing, just for the cranks on this topic. Anything you read under a TU (or similar) banner that’s written in the first person isn’t objective reporting, whatever that is. Can’t be. It’s by definition editorial and “soft.” Duh.

    News flash (heh): many big-brand publishers and broadcasters have changed their editorial model away from an old-skool journalistic ideal. They’re businesses. They can do that. They won’t take you to a nice lunch and break it to you gently, then reconsider their fluffy plans if you object.

    Lament all you like, but your beef is not with Ms. Gustafson and there’s no excuse for behaving badly.

    Adults shouldn’t need this explanation.


  46. Hey, Lou. Just wanted to note that I think it’s cute you initial each one of your posts like a 13 year old girl would do on her myspace posts. We have a box to provide our ‘Name’ for a reason.

  47. LQ confuses me, makes me chuckle, and makes me think because I’m not sure if he’s being sarcastic at times, or not.

    Gossip Girl.

  48. Rob:

    Nice to see you at peace with the minions. Beati pacifici. If only Philip Habib or George Mitchell had been so lucky.

  49. Michael Huber,

    #45. How do we confirm that a commenter’s real name is indeed a commenter’s real name? How does a reader know for certain that you are Lou Quillio?

    The idea of requiring real names has come up many times before, but it’ll require a registration system that verifies a person’s identity. That system would be a detriment to many readers who post sensible comments, but are uncomfortable using their real names. I can’t blame them, either. You should see some of the vile and hate-filled comments directed at other readers that we’re forced to delete every day. We ought to wear bio-hazard suits!

    Also, we’ve had comments posted under real names, and subsequently gotten calls from the ‘real’ person telling us someone posted using their name.

  50. Michael Huber: I’m an unusual case, because my name is unique and I never obscure it. That means there’s a ton of material with my name on it, easily Googled. My “LQ” habit has a similar purpose: a terse, easily-searchable unique string that works regardless of venue (or aggregation) because it’s embedded in the content, not in metadata. Natch I’m re-thinking the “LQ” now, because I don’t want to answer the phone one day to hear Scott Ritter asking me what I’m wearing.

    This is all by design. I realized in the ’90s that there’s nothing I can do to prevent somebody spoofing my identity. The best antidote was to make sure that the real me would always be more discoverable than any imposter. It’s imperfect, but it works.

    WRT somebody posting under another’s name, how do you police that with a name like, say, “John Williams”? There are plenty of those, so how do you address the complaint? You know the answer: apply human judgment, look for patterns and intent, inquire at the registered email account, etc.

    That’s also how you enforce a real-names requirement. First, you make the rule (or express a strong preference). Make it clear. It’s then up to the blog owner to enforce it in some reasonable way, as part of approval and moderation, applying his or her own judgment. When in doubt, shoot ’em an email: “Hey robcanbiteme, I ask commenters to use their real names on my blog (link to policy). I want to approve your comment. What’s your name? Thanks for your help.” You might make exceptions for long-standing handles (or variant spellings of essentially real names) that also link to a substantial edifice, like their own blog. It’s actually pretty easy to sort these because the goal is clear: we don’t do anonymous. If you need to hide, you’ll have to do it elsewhere. It’s a big freakin’ Web.

    An example of allowable anonymity might be Albany Jane. She’s not hiding, far from it, just uses a documented pen name. Perfectly reasonable.

    WRT anonymity as comment-lubrication, that’s a matter of taste — and fortitude. For my money, anonymous comments have far more costs than benefits. More, a percentage of folks will use a real name if it’s a requirement, and only don’t because it’s not. People are basically decent — as long as you don’t invite them to misbehave. That’s what anonymity does. The anonymous have nothing to lose.

    A real-names requirement (or strong preference) works best when it’s the posts you’re promoting and the comments are an adjunct. In that case you only care about focused comments. If, however, the aim is to operate a comment farm and quantity trumps quality, then anonymity is your friend and you live with the costs. And don’t forget to include burn-out among the costs, because every blog owner eventually tires of managing comments, some because it grinds down their faith in human nature. No joke.



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