Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Anything Beyond a Savage Sounding Board?

It doesn't come anywhere close to a 60 Minutes exposé and Joe Savage does not exactly strike me as a Jeffrey Wigand type, but neither does Nashville Scene reporter P.J. Tobia's news story on the yellow lights of Downtown Nashville seem to rise above the bar that determines the difference between blogger fodder and sifted news. It's not that I was expecting earth-shattering revelations about a systematic conspiracy Metro-wide to finagle money via traffic stops. (Although that would have been impressive). But I was expecting more than mere transmission of one man's experiences running red lights and a follow-up interview.

Now, I'm not one of those rah-rah people about blogs; you know, those who spout about this so-called "revolution in journalism." I tend to agree with Molly Ivins that bloggers are not news-gathers, but opinion-mongers; but I would add that some of us who focus more locally are in a unique position to gather some news overlooked by the mainstream media. Nonetheless, bloggers are generally just emersed in opinion without restraining themselves to make sure they've covered all sides of a story.

Which brings me to P.J. Tobia's piece. He's got the Savage angle covered, and he did an interview with a city engineer, but for the life of me, I cannot find a stunning inside source that would back up Savage's conspiracy theory. There's nothing uncovered in this story that would require a professional journalist; indeed, a amateur hyper-local blogger armed with Savage's information could grab a stop-watch and follow up with Metro. And Tobia's reasoning that the Scene stands up for "the little guy," unless it is an attempt at sarcastic self-deprecation, leaves me incredulous.

At best, the yellow light story is a lead that requires further research, development, and bush-beating. It requires a deeper immersion than bloggers can give their free time to. It requires a reporter's connections to insiders. There may be a real story here; but I can't tell as is. It seems much more of a vindication of Savage's struggles and a hook for those frustrated by current police policy (one test of the frustration-quotient is to see how many bloggers jump on and link to this story as vindication of their axe-grinding in the coming week).

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