Letters to the Editor
Vote Republican for revolution, reporting for Twitter and more
Published: September 14, 2011
Double your Dubya
Jack Lessenberry has it right ("Lansing's closet reds," Sept. 6) — almost. The Republicans are Republicans qua Marxist-Leninists: They are functioning in the capacity of Marxist-Leninists, even though that is not, of course, their conscious intent. This has been going on for a long time. Dubya did more to raise consciousness, radicalize and mobilize people than his opponents (e.g. a nonentity named "Kerry" — or something like that) ever could. In fact, the Democratic "opposition" does the reverse: It puts people to sleep. The Bush years saw the growth of a robust anti-war movement (now collapsed under the delusion of a "progressive" Obama), and even many self-described "conservative Republicans" were so disgusted that they left the party, or flocked to Ron Paul, or began subscribing to The Nation. Bottom line: We need more Republicans in office — the more batshit, the better! Palin, Romney, Bachmann, whoever. Vote for a progressive awakening! Vote Republican in 2012! —Alan Lewis, Ann Arbor
Re: Jack Lessenberry's "How to Kill Journalism" (Sept. 7), I have never taken a single journalism class, but Jack Lessenberry seems to have gone right to the heart of the problem with today's journalism. This unnamed editor's enslavement to technology reminds me of the Walt Whitman poem "When I heard the Learn'd Astronomer." Sometimes it's best just to clear away all the proofs, figures, charts, and diagrams or, to reference the editor's memo, "crowdsource" (whatever that is), Facebook, Twitter, live chat, and all the other trappings of high tech that she mentions. Only after doing this are we able to look up "in perfect silence at the stars" or in this case provide an audience with the clear, concise material required to make sense of events that newspapers have traditionally provided to their readership. If this technology-driven editor wants to see how it should really be done, I suggest that she rent — or in her case probably download — Page One: Inside the New York Times and watch some of these journalists at work. —Gail Gilchrist, Berkley
We had dozens of posts about Jack Lessenberry's "How to kill journalism." In response, Jen posted:
I'm also a local reporter, one that has worked mostly in print that is trying to adapt to new media.
All I can say is that Jack is saying what I've been thinking: that a lot of this social media crap is taking us away from where our emphasis needs to be. It's cutting into the heart of our traditional role as watchdogs, especially at the local level.
I'm trying to determine, after 10 years, if I need to change course in my career, as a lot of this stuff simply isn't what I signed on for.
I know many other reporters are feeling the same thing.
Well put. The social media thing could be useful as an adjunct to the story, providing extra info that doesn't fit in the paper, but too often these days it seems as it's more important than the actual story. Just watch the evening news and count how many times the anchors reference, tout and otherwise shill the station's Facebook and Twitter accounts — along with breaking news apps, weather apps, etc. It's insane.
Robert Quigley posted:
Although this poor editor has gone overboard (edit and post the video during the meetings, really?), going overboard on something shouldn't be used as a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is value in using social media as part of journalism (see what Nicholas Kristof does at The New York Times for just one example). Wishing that people didn't get their news through social media channels doesn't make it so. You can either be a part of the conversation or completely irrelevant to them.
Don Jozwiak posted:
The social media stuff can be a great asset to publications, but not at the expense of the linchpin of the operation: The ability of reporters to report. All the other jazz should be coordinated by a social media editor. Is there a J-school out there teaching students to stop taking notes during council meetings to edit video, or to "crowdsource" questions while at an accident site?
Tom Henderson posted:
All that frenetic and mostly pointless busy-ness will burn out young reporters at a faster-than-ever pace. They'll be looking for PR jobs at 24, not 44. As a reporter who was once young and covered city council meetings and park commission meetings and didn't always look forward to them, I can't imagine trying to get motivated over covering that stuff with this editor's checklist of crapola. Or doing it for longer than absolutely necessary to find a better job.
I try to do what I think of as the basics — put a development online immediately if it's worth it, tweet something that's compact enough for that to work, and write a fuller web story after the event is over. That means maybe 250 words. The trick is to use all that work as the basis for a solid, more detailed and nuanced story for next day's paper. Sometimes, but not always, you get reader interaction that actually advances the story through these online items.
The problem with the "Digital First" strategy is that the reporters, who have no video or website skills, are wasting their time shooting footage that looks worse than a third-grader could produce, throwing up copy on a website before editing it ... on and on. And when a scandal breaks in their city ... guess what? They'll miss it. They're getting away from what journalism used to be. Oh, and at the expense of the print readers who actually pay for the product. What's wrong with this? Everything.
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