Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In my best Jack Nicholson: "Got a little substantiation for you, right here, Bruce"

1st ranked pic in "Bruce Barry" image search. Turnabout is fair play.
The high lords of journalism at the Nashville Scene are displeased with me:
Mike Byrd first posted Monday some commentary questioning whether Solidus is committed to high-quality journalism ... and rebuking without substantiation SouthComm executive editor Liz Garrigan's supposed view of alternative media.
Too bad I'm not a pro journalist or I could retreat from Scene writer Bruce Barry's criticism by insisting that my editors do not allow me the time or space to tell the entire, accurate, and balanced truth.

But since I don't have the same luxury of being able to hide behind editors' skirts while writing copy usually told from the side of the winners and the wealthy, here is my reply to Mr Barry's charge that I "rebuke without substantiation" SouthComm's interim executive editor, Liz Garrigan, for holding alternative media, specifically bloggers, with some contempt.

First, Liz Garrigan in her own words:
bloggers [whom she later accuses of wearing PJs while they research, reflect, and write for no pay] deserve some serious credit. For a motley crew of sun-deprived computer junkies with funky handles and audiences directly disproportionate to post prolificness—that is to say, miniscule though growing—bloggers here and everywhere are exerting an almost shocking amount of influence …. As parochial or arrogant as it may sound, there’s something a little frightening about the idea of giving some average Joe off the street, with no formal journalistic training, a camera, a mic and a license to report. [2006]
Most bloggers wouldn’t last an hour under the journalistic quality control that a newspaper demands ....

Just one more instance of bloggers exercising not an ounce of curiosity, which is confounding. For folks who seem so obsessivly interested in the world around them, I’d think they’d want to pick up the phone now and then. There’s only one blogger in Nashville who has ever written about the Scene (or me personally) who has actually reported .... He has my respect for that. I don’t read the others ....

Never has a blogger posting egregiously inaccurate content about the Scene ever reacted in kind ....

But I have no problem with subjective criticism the liks of which you peddle, characterizations about the Scene ... me or anyone else on staff. That’s just the stuff of the Interweb, and appropriately so. Opinion is just that .... I don’t care of you call us homophobic ....

As for falsehoods printed about the Scene, I can’t answer all this stuff and don’t have any desire to. If we did that, we wouldn’t get anything done ....

I wish more bloggers would take it upon themselves to do original reporting rather than sit behind their keyboard and sling arrows while demonstrating no real curiousity about the truth .... [2007]
And I sure as heck want to avoid putting words in anyone else's mouth, but I'm not the only person to have observed Liz's scorn for non-journalist sources of information and opinion. Bloggers and journalists make their witness:
Clint Brewer [former City Paper editor & Liz's tag team partner against blogger criticism in 2007]:
Liz holds some bloggers in disdain because they deserve to be.

Kate O’Neill:
This is the part that bewilders me. I’m not sure if this will come as a surprise to you, Mr. Brewer, but most of us make no pretense of being citizen journalists.

Of those that are making the effort ... you and Ms. Garrigan are nonetheless regularly dismissive .... most of us couldn’t be less affected by what you do or do not publish. That’s what makes your apparent hostility seem so bizarre.

But your recent non-journalism-related snark at S-townMike in this space as well as Liz Garrigan’s ongoing insults towards bloggers in general suggest that the hostility is broader.

Brittney Gilbert:
Not sure Liz would remember you if she had met you .... We were introduced at a (gasp!) blogger meet-up, then several months later she asked Kleinheider in the WKRN newsroom “which one is Brittney?” Bloggers must not make very lasting impressions.

I mean no disrespect but Liz ain’t getting it ....
I work in news too.
She needs to get over herself.
We aren’t dead, but we are getting our asses handed to us.

Alan Coverstone:
The editors will blog about it, but by their own disparaging of blogs, the work they do there lacks credibility compared with the work they do in print.

Katherine Coble:
Me, personally, my gripe against the Scene begins and ends with their continued elitism, which strikes me as odd coming from an “alternative” paper.

Brittney Gilbert:
there is more than a hint of “we can dish it out, but can’t take it” from some newspaper folks that really makes my skin crawl. The Scene is known for snark and sarcasm .... But, as soon as any of that snark is turned back on them they become humorless and broadly insulting.

I don’t blog to make friends, and I don’t think the Scene or the City Paper should get to shovel out snark (see every page of the Scene and Rex Noseworthy at CP) but take swats at bloggers who do the same.
Outside of my views of Garrigan's blog-side manners, I would ask that someone Scene-side clue Bruce in that I never claimed to be presenting a "complete handle" on venture capitalism just as I wouldn't demand that E. Thomas Wood have a complete handle on civic virtues just because he referred to venture capitalists as showing character. It's not the nature of sun-deprived blogs to present a complete handle, anyway. Right?

UPDATE: apparently, you question one person's alt-media, and you drop from the top of the list. Back in 2007, Bruce's wife Megan Barry emailed me out of the blue saying that Bruce held my writing in higher regard than he did a mere two years later.

You can do anything, but never go against the family.


  1. Hey Mike, Paul S. here...

    You want I should send them a street-side portrait of the Mike Byrd of Salemtown, so they can replace the Mike Byrd of Georgia (or would you rather "Scene" readers not know your secret identity?) ?

  2. Hey, Paul, it's not like I'm in hiding or anything. I don't have a secret identity. I show up for public meetings and identify myself. My name & address are out there. For 3 of the last 5 years there was a frontal picture of me on the blog profile. You could go back through the archives and find at least 1 picture of me in a post that I can remember.

    Writing a blog, I'm forever subjected to these criticisms about contacting people I comment on, even though Bruce could have gotten a picture from me if he had done likewise (and even though I do contact subjects only to be made fun of later by the journos for doing so). I suspect that it takes part of the pleasure out of the Scene's habitual snarkiness to ask for an actual picture though. So, sure, send them one of your impressive photos, but don't expect that those at the former alt-weakly will give it the due respect that you might intend.

  3. >>I would ask that someone Scene-side clue Bruce in that I never claimed to be presenting a "complete handle" on venture capitalism just as I wouldn't demand that E. Thomas Wood have a complete handle on civic virtues just because he referred to venture capitalists as showing character.<<

    Don't drag my reputation into your fight with others, Mike. I reported the fact that character, as judged by state bureaucrats, was a criterion in the TNInvestco beauty contest. I made no comment on the character of VCs or anyone else in my story.

    I did mention in my comment on your site last night that I like and admire one VC, Townes Duncan. I made no broad statement that VCs as a class "show character."

    I do my best to maintain what you call a "complete handle on civic virtues" as seen in my reporting. A search of my bylines would show much of that effort.

  4. That's not just any photo you have there Mike; that's my alter ego the founder and president of Wacky World Studios -- a guy who has been "designing and installing innovative themed environments that awe and inspire for more than 30 years."


    So let me know when you want me to design an awesome and inspiringly innovative themed environment for Enclave.

  5. Disputes between bloggers and alt-weeklies regarding said alt-weeklies' potential conflicts of interest and/or editorial judgment can end badly. Trust me.