Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Just the facts, ma'am

There is a big stink going on (again) between Liz Garrigan and "the bloggers." Liz is the Editor or publisher or something of the Nashville Scene. I may have met her once, I'm not sure. Liz says this:
Most bloggers wouldn’t last an hour under the journalistic quality control that a newspaper demands.
OK, first off, she's absolutely right. Most bloggers wouldn't. As long as you include all the bloggers on places like MySpace, where most of the entries are, "OMG! I totqaly got wassted last nit. LOL! I thnk I hokked up w/this cute guy.................cant rmeber!! LOL!!!!"

But methinks she's not talking about the MySpace bloggers. She's talking about the Blogspot and Wordpress bloggers. The occasional ones who can spell and know grammar and know how to develop lucid, persuasive arguments. That's a whole different animal.

Until blogging came along, it was rare that you could read the writing on a regular basis of someone you didn't know who wasn't a journalist. Now there are thousands of people like that. And it is a shock to the old school journalism set that there are other people out there who can write.

The Scene has had a holier-than-thou attitude toward area bloggers for a long time. There was once a parody of what went on at a blogger Christmas party, and it reeked of a juvenile piss-take written by the jocks, making fun of the geeks. It was truly pathetic, because it wasn't funny. And it struck home with me because I hosted that particular party at my restaurant, and I was only blogger that was (sort of) identified.

The main content in most Nashville-based blogs last week was about a meeting of bloggers at a restaurant owned by a blogger. Bloggers blogged about their anticipation of the event, they posted photos on their blogs of themselves with other bloggers, and many bloggers rushed home to blog about how nice it was to meet people who are bloggers—just like themselves!

“It was so neat to put faces with the blogging personalities,” one blogger says. “And I was surprised to learn that several of them have jobs.”

Now don't get me wrong. I wasn't offended. It just wasn't funny. Comedy ain't easy, folks, especially in print. And considering the condescending tone the Scene had against the bloggers, it just reeked of arrogance. Of course, many bloggers have taken a condescending tone toward the Scene as well. But the "journalistic quality control that a newspaper demands" also includes being above the fray of criticism. Most of the bloggers taking shots at the Scene have readerships in the tens or hundreds. Goliath, just ignore David and you won't get hurt.

I have been a journalist. I was not formally trained in college. Who cares. I was recommended by a friend. My interview went like this:

"So, you've got a degree with an English minor?"

"Yes."

"OK, go on in and get started. They'll show you around."

And I learned quickly. I worked at a publisher of sports magazines. My first job was a fact-checker. My training was this: "Everything that is a fact, you need to check. Everything. I don't care if it is 'Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs.' Look up the spelling and the home run total." And all those facts, no matter how mundane or obvious, got checked by three different people. That's the essence of the journalistic quality control she talks about. It ain't rocket surgery.

I have been published hundreds of times in countless newspapers. The most recent one was here, last week. I wrote that story. Every word. (Actually the opening sentence was changed to include the Sports Council, creating a grammatical error.) It was copied off a press release that I sent out. I have to write press releases in a manner that they can be copied, because in my experience, "quality control" and "journalistic standards" mean that if I don't write a good release that can be copied verbatim, you're not getting coverage. No one has ever called me on any press release I've ever sent out to question a fact. Never. Clarification, yes. Facts, no.

Granted, I'm not writing hard news. But that is the problem with Garrigan's broad generalization. That rigorous standard is played fast and loose at newspapers, depending on the topic. Is a pool tournament going to get the Woodward and Bernstein treatment before it goes in a local community paper? Of course not. Newspapers run press releases and wire stories every day. Without checking anything.

Do I hold my blog to Liz's high standards? Hell no. Why should I? I'm Nashville Knucklehead, fer chrissakes. If I did, I'd have to take this sentence:
Liz is the Editor or publisher or something of the Nashville Scene.
And find out what her title is, and get the AP Style Book out and find out if "Editor" and "publisher" should be capitalized or not, and italicize the name of the paper. And then go back and check all the facts and edit for content and style. Fuck that. It's a blog.

9 Comments:

At 3:45 PM , Blogger Kat Coble said...

Thanks for reminding me of that Christmas party article.

I wasn't done seething for the day.;-p

 
At 4:20 PM , Blogger Kate O' said...

Bless your knuckleheaded heart.

 
At 4:26 PM , Anonymous grace said...

your post described every single one of my working days.

And the past week has been hell because we have had one ginormous error in every issue. Awesome.

Fact checking=sucks.

Publicists=suck.*

Bad press releases=suck.

I'm starting to vent. Must stop.


*I can say that. I was a publicist. Then I went to "the other side....."

 
At 9:40 PM , Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Awww, can't we all just get along?

 
At 11:12 PM , Blogger Kristina said...

...where most of the entries are, "OMG! I totqaly got wassted last nit. LOL! I thnk I hokked up w/this cute guy.................cant rmeber!! LOL!!!!"

Well, crap. I guess now I have to write something new since you just bogarted my latest entry. Thanks a lot, dude.

 
At 12:10 AM , Blogger chez béz said...

My blog's secret mission statement is summed up by your last two sentences.

 
At 6:14 AM , Anonymous Roctavious McGhee said...

I have journalistic quality. Thanks to me, 4 or 5 more people became aware of the chickens on meth epidemic that's sweeping the nation. I didn't see THAT in the Scene. Of course I don't live in Nashville so I might have missed it.

 
At 2:07 PM , Anonymous triticale said...

Chickens on meth? How can you tell - their teeth fall out?

 
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