These days, it seems that best-blog lists are almost as ubiquitous as bloggers themselves. Recently, however, PressThink’s Jay Rosen and his students at New York University managed to find a fresh angle on the subject — ranking the best blogs at America’s biggest newspapers. After surveying the blogs at the top 100 newspapers (as determined by circulation), and judging them based on such things as ease-of-use, quality of the writing, reader participation, voice, and originality, Rosen & Co. published its results yesterday on its newly launched site, Blue Plate Special.


Though to some purists the term “newspaper blog” is itself a contradiction wrapped in a non sequitur, Rosen and students rolled up their sleeves and immersed themselves in their research. “Fifteen undergraduates in journalism, two grad students, and one professor set out to determine — by our lights — the top blogging newspapers in the U.S. among major dailies,” wrote Blue Plate Special. “We found six standouts, two honorable mentions and some wacky blogs. Number One in our eyes: the Houston Chronicle. By a mile.”


In addition to the Houston Chronicle, Rosen and cohorts admired the blogs of the Washington Post, USA Today, the St. Petersburg Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the San Antonio Express-News. Additional honorable mentions went to the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Oklahoman.


“The list is not a map of innovation,” added Blue Plate Special. “In some ways, bigger newspapers may just now be going where smaller ones have already been. All we did is look at blogging at the major dailies — old media renewal — in the biggest markets, to see how they responded to a demand for innovation, and a new area in which to excel. We did not evaluate the newspapers themselves, just the blogging part.”


What did bloggers make of the bloggers’ survey of newspaper bloggers? So far, most bloggers seem to be ignoring the results — except, of course, for the winners.


“Excuse us while we toot our own horn,” noted Dwight Silverman of the Houston Chronicle’s TechBlog. “The real reason our efforts have been successful, though, are because of the bloggers we have and the people who read them.”


As it turns out, at the Chronicle, those two groups aren’t necessarily distinct. Currently, the paper is recruiting additional bloggers from its reader pool, and editors have even put out a wish list of topics to blog upon, which includes fishing, wrestling (the fake kind), fish/aquariums, and quilting.


Elsewhere, blogger Citizen Brand saw the Blue Plate Special’s study as a cheerful sign of newspapers’ continued evolution and relevancy.


“There are many places to find information today and I’m of the opinion that when new avenues come along, it doesn’t mean we have to instantly throw out the old,” wrote Citizen Brand. “So I was very glad to have Jay Rosen conduct this survey with some of his students and demonstrate how the old media (newspapers) are working to figure out how to work in the new media (blogs). … Those of us in the public relations profession are right in the sweet spot of figuring out this convergence of media forms.”


How will that convergence continue to play out?


If the Chronicle’s success is any guide, one thing is for sure — the future of humankind and blogs and newspapers is sure to involve quilting.

Felix Gillette writes about the media for The New York Observer.