I try not to beat this to death here, as I am far inferior to others who have made the same points more effectively elsewhere, but traditional media organizations and many of their employees just don't get it: the more they fight people-powered media coverage, the more they lose.
The last time I touched on this was in early April when I linked to this essay over at Maize n Brew, SBN's blog for the Michigan Wolverines. Well last Friday, Bob Kravitz of the Indy Star wrote a piece suggesting that we have become "a culture of weenies", citing Mark Cuban's e-apology to Kenyon Martin's mother. On this, we agree. To be fair, I'm biased in a very traditional, Southern way: female family members are off-limits in 99% of conversations with other men. Don't talk about my mother, my wife, my sister, or any future daughters I might have unless you want some free dental surgery compliments of my knuckles. After that, Kravitz loses me. Allow me.
We are a culture in hiding. We are scared to death of confrontation. We can't look another person in the eyes and say what needs to be said. We say what we want to say, and then we want to run to a safe place where nobody can tell us we're full of baloney.
E-mail. Blogs. Twitter. Text messaging. Anonymously written Web posts. Message boards.
One-way converstaions? Really? Twitter is based on the very opposite of one-way conversations. In fact, the prime example of a one-way conversation is a newspaper article; Mr. Kravitz writes something, people read it, and that's the end of the conversation. Sure, you can comment on the piece at the IndyStar's website, but after 34 comments and a week of letting this sink in, Mr. Kravitz is yet to respond to any of those comments. I guess I could send a letter to the paper, but I seriously doubt I would get a response. So to rail against one-way conversations and the negative effect they have, Bob Kravitz exploits the oldest one-way conversation medium in history.
My biggest objection is the proliferation of blogs and posts by anonymous weenies -- or pansies, if you will.
Everybody is big and brave behind a pseudonym, but confront them face to face, and next thing you know they're changing underwear.
Who are you confronting and why? Really, though, that's not the point. To extrapolate that a sample of people who you confronted and realized they were pussies to suggest that anyone who writes online under a pen name is a pussy is stupid. That would be like Bernie Miklasz confronting me, and then suggesting that anyone who covers sports online under a pseudonym is a gun-loving, beer-drinking hyper-masculine asshole. In fact, let me throw this out, since as I'm going to get to, it seems Mr. Kravitz seems to have an issue with SBN: feel free to confront me and try to pass it off as if I'm a weenie. To be fair, using the word weenie makes you a weenie. I haven't said that or heard anybody say that since I was about 10.
I don't mind personal criticism in the least; if you dish it out, you take it. Some of it is kind of funny, if I'm being honest. But who are these people writing in Stampede Blue and 18to88?
We're becoming a culture of weenies.
We hide behind technology that makes one-way conversations possible.
We hide behind technology that provides us with pseudonyms and takes accountability out of the equation.
Journalism, and life, are about true human connections. We lose that, we lose the essence of what it means to truly communicate.
Essentially, his point is that people who write under a name other than the name given to them by their parents are "weenies" simply because they don't write under that name. Why? I'm not sure. They just are. And you have to accept it, because he can hide behind technology that makes one-way conversations possible. But his next sentence disparages that notion, one that he promotes by doing what he does. He suggests pseudonyms take accountability away from ones opinions, as if people haven't argued with me here at TST...often. Let's just ignore his final sentence, since he tries to equate the core of journalism with the meaning of life.
So at this point, Mr. Kravitz has written a hypocritical article that does nothing but suggest he doesn't understand the essence of people-powered media. Had he left it at that, I could have given him some lenience, attributing this to his experience in an industry that relies on a legacy system that is forced to ignore the power of people-powered media because it inherently weakens that industry. The authority of his opinions are weakened because someone like me can rip on him, and that's tough to take. I get it. But it didn't stop.
Later that day after being specifically called out in the article, Stampede Blue's BigBlueShoe responded to Mr. Kravitz on a radio show and did so much more professionally and with much more restraint than I would have been able to. For the duration of the "interview", Kravitz continues to cling to the fact that BigBlueShoe doesn't post under the name his mother called him. And really, he seems to be upset at the fact that he doesn't like the name BigBlueShoe. I went at his piece for the Star, so I'll leave this audio clip alone, but only because people have more time to think through their own ideas, opinions and positions before writing them than they do in voicing them.
So let me wrap this up without making some kind of jackassed point that the meaning of life is the same as the value of journalism -- Bob Kravitz doesn't get it, because if he did, he'd have to admit that he's not that important, and that his opinions are as valid as anyone else who is equally informed. That is hard to do, because, apparently, his opinions are pretty fucking stupid.