Blogger has his say with 'Buttermilk and Molasses'

By Phil Riggan - bio | email

Are you a news junkie? If you've read many Richmond blogs, then you're probably more of a hyper-local news junkie.  Blogs tend to touch on stories that major media outlets often don't have the time or space to cover.

"Blogging is just simply opinion," said blogger John Sarvay. "It's here's some speculation, some interesting things, here's some links to some websites, here's my opinion on an issue."

Sarvay is a Virginia Commonwealth University alum and has a graduate degree from Georgetown University in Organizational Development. He owns a management consulting business, Floricane LLC, which he started in 2008.

But he says he's best known in Richmond for his blogging.

"I started Buttermilk and Molasses in 2002," he said. "It started out as just a repository for abstract thoughts. Things that I stumbled across on the internet that I thought were interesting or weird."

He credits a friend for the blog's odd name.  He says it's the southern version of the "Land of Milk and Honey."

"I stuck with Buttermilk and Molasses just because it was a name that stuck in your head and was kind of unforgettable and doesn't make any sense," he said.

He says he began taking blogging more seriously in 2004, but found he could make a difference in Richmond when Bryan Harvey and his family were murdered January 1, 2006.

"It was kind of like woah! I mean, there's this audience of people who are just thirsting for information and they're not getting it from the mainstream media, or they're not getting enough of it," he recalled.

The blog gained traction on the web quickly with the Harvey family coverage -- through search engines, links and by email.

Traffic on the blog "went from a couple of hundred people reading my site to over a thousand people a day," he said.

A couple years later, the Richmond's Downtown Master Plan emerged as a new hot topic, and another level for Buttermilk and Molasses. He started taking cheap shots and ranting about the lack of public inclusion in the city's redevelopment meetings.

"And then somebody emailed a comment on my website and said 'If you're so pissed off about it why don't you do something about it,'" Sarvay said.

He got on the phone with the city's leader of the master plan -- Rachel Flynn -- and started asking questions for himself.

"Not only was she really receptive to having a conversation, but she was really curious about what are some other ways that I knew of that she could get the word out."

He realized Flynn wanted the public to have a say in the Downtown Master Plan and embraced the extra coverage from his blog.

"I think what also has happened with the rise of weblogs in Richmond is they've kind of shown light into all of the shadows so you kind of see where all the gaps are," he said.

Sarvay admits that with a blog, he can be focused on one topic for weeks on end, where major media has to gather all the daily news.

He also had a role in the development of the community news blogging sites.  He said took a cue from John Murden of the Church Hill People's News blog and helped create and run the North Richmond News community blog for a couple of years.

People wanted more updates than just once a month with paper newsletters.  He felt he had to be consistent with posting news, and made the choice to be impartial.

"I posted information about events, about news, about activities but I didn't editorialize," Sarvay said. "I tried very hard not to put my two cents into a story."

To see what Sarvay has to say in his blog, click the link to Buttermilk and Molasses at right.

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