Tuesday, October 05, 2010

About my Twitter fight with a SouthComm editor

Same Twitter stream in which the City Paper editor sized me down to a kid with Mentos and Diet Coke after I suggested that journalists accusing bloggers of conspiracy theories is pot-meet-kettle. It's actually club soda or nothing for me, thank you.

Local news editors continue to show that they just do not get it. Down these years I have been blogging, one editor after another has at one time or another taken swipes at certain bloggers who do not merely link their editorializing but who dare to question their balance, who raise the question of bias.

In spite of the fact that blogging has made its own contributions to understanding local politics, over and over it seems a remarkable number of editors cop a tone of arrogance whenever a blogger dares charge bias and self-interest in reporting and "analysis."

Being a blogger who will not blindly promote or otherwise genuflect to the corporate generation of pro journalism, I'm now catching heat from Nashville's newest editor, Stephen George, who hasn't even been here a year but already knew enough about the local convention and tourism industry (as well as risks of encumbering Metro's General Fund to support that industry) to write a shill editorial in support of Music City Center construction months ago.

After I challenged his support of the Davidson County branch of "Government Goldman" (a term that captures the pandering, patronizing relationships that governments develop with finance industry brokers like Goldman Sachs, which is the primary financier for Music City Center), the editor characterized my views as conspiratorial. I did not ask, but I'm sure that branding was meant to lump me in league with those society lampoons with references to black helicopters, UFO probes, and the grassy knoll.

As if criticism of the lop-sided power of the banking and lending industry, which undeniably brought this country well-nigh to its knees, amounts to paranoid speculation or a lunatic fringe.

Frankly, that's rich from a local journalist. The news media here has not given a second thought to performing conspiratorial hatchet jobs on out-spoken opponents of Mayor Karl Dean's policies. Courthouse class savaging of Mike Jameson for speaking out on East Bank Riverfront development and of Emily Evans for questioning broken funding promises on the convention center was abetted by the media echo chamber.

Both were rumored to be over-politicizing opportunists. Both have been generally above reproach. They just were bold enough to dare to block the bandwagon, unlike Nashville's newspapers.

Moreover, it is not conspiratorial for me to challenge self-interested "4th estate" promotion of Music City Center within this constellation of government power and private, special-interest wealth. We live in a world where the journalists we used to read and listen to end up as communications directors in government and information officers in industry or they move to start their own public relations firms with intentions of using connections to garner deals with government and industry. We live in a world where journalists are coached by PR flacks to write columns and where newspapers donate money to the cause of Metro launching its largest capital project ever to serve the smallest number of Nashvillians ever.

It is entirely reasonable and realistic common sense to argue out loud and in print that journalists' motives in promoting Music City Center fail objectivity and neutrality tests given the rewards for so shilling. Mr. George would have acted more honorably by not writing an editorial following the chatter class crowd down the road of growth and development.

Because, you see, the insider access the news media enjoys at the Courthouse also seems to bind them to pass on unchecked, speculative innuendo that damages reputations even when refuted. And their guild gives them a sometimes unearned cloak of balance and fairness. They end with the mantle of official gatekeeper for news even when they behave more like Courthouse information curators.

Hence, editors like Mr. George cannot without self-contradiction charge informed, engaged bloggers of "humping conspiracy" for expressing common sense suspicion toward elite power moves while defending journalism's co-dependent relationship with Courthouse sources.

In the end I do not think the news media should ignore innuendo. But raising the specter of ignorance is missing the point. Journalists should admit that they have "humped" a few conspiracy theories themselves and looked more like PR flacks than seasoned pros who refuse to stand to post at the government house threshold.

1 comment:

  1. George is one of the most self-righteous, arrogant lacks-of-talent in town though. I wouldn't be worried about this.