Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Silence is golden

Longtime Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter Michael Silence is among dozens of people laid-off in a pre-holiday style that one media commentator aptly described as "Scroogified" on Twitter. I have had the pleasure of reading his column, "No Silence Here" for years, meeting him face-to-face on one or two occasions, and I can say without a doubt that Michael's support and even promotion of my blogging has been a personal buoy to me.

Having said that, I also acknowledge that he and I do not see eye-to-eye on a host of issues. Nevertheless, if you ever read his responses at to something I've tapped out you would barely be able to see that.

When I heard that his entire compendium of work at No Silence Here would eventually disappear into the ether, as if his good work had never been done, I went looking for a memento, a keepsake for myself to remind me of what a noble man Mr. Silence is.

Posted below is what I am keeping for myself. I'm posting it not to use Michael's words to convince readers that I am a nice guy but to show you all what I am going to miss: Michael's nobility toward a lightning-rod blogger with whom he disagrees.

Journalists and social media

I'm hardly the brightest bulb on the planet. In fact, on a good day I'm only dimly lit. But it didn't take me long in 2002 to figure out blogging was a great listening post. And it was clearly a forum to give people a voice who otherwise were voiceless. In 2004, we expanded that forum for online voices by creating No Silence Here, which cruises along to this day.
So I took interest in a posting by Mike Byrd of Enclave, a blogger I've respected and followed for years. His post criticizes his hometown newspaper, The Tennessean. I'll comment on the subject more broadly. I know little of the issue he writes about.
Byrd writes: "The more journos use social media to defend their product rather than act for the sake of the common or a principled good, the more they slip from a seat of legitimate gatekeeper of information. Hence, we need social media and blogs in particular to get information past the disingenuous branding and the flackery of the Tennessean. Reporters already crowd Twitter for specific reasons and hawk their product to many, many audiences. If we fail to strive to keep social media an authentic alternative then it will be colonized via this generation of acquisitive journalists by government power and corporate money. It will be sapped of its peculiar and distinct potential."
A valid point, but I would argue instead we need both. Social media and the traditional press are checks and balances and ferrets for news and information. And that makes journalism better. Do we need to sell some stuff along the way? You betcha. I've got a seven-year-old to feed and educate. That's a reality, too, for the wide array of bloggers who eagerly accept advertising. Byrd raises a valid concern, though: Don't lose sight of the mission: keeping people informed with facts, not spin. And I would add along the way, the kissin' cousins make each other better.

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