Friday, April 27, 2007

Something Rotten in the State of Northampton

Note: for this post, I have decided not link to the blogs of the warring parties. This is so that none of the parties involved believes themselves to be endorsed by this blog. I will only link out to some radio podcasts, as they are interesting (as in the Chinese curse:"may you live in interesting times") conversations on the topic of bloggers/journalists. Overall, I am simply trying to figure out how the blogger/journalist issue breaks down on the geographic local level. I find it sad, discouraging and frightening.end

Normally I don't do much commentary on poltiical issues--and prefere my teapot tempests to be things that are pretty bloody obvious--but this a.m. I tried to unravel the war that's been brewing between NoPornNorthampton, MoPornNorthampton, and several folks over at, and how all this got pulled into some radio broadcasts on the issue of bloggers and jouranlists...

From what I gather, there have been personal attacks from one side to the other. Who started the attacks, I can't really say--it's hard to tell in all the mess and I don't know if posts have been deleted (I know comments have been deleted and persons have been banned) When posts/comments are deleted, the train of thought and consequence can't be clearly delineated.

What I can say is that the rhetoric is super-hot on all sides.

Then again, the idea of a porn shop on King Street does raise an eyebrow or two.

But from what I see, one issue is the nature and purpose of a blog. Are all blogs journalism and should all blogs be held to the same standard? Well, that's as thorny a question as the placing of certain businesses. Blogs are, as has been said by Jay Rosen, little First Amendment Machines.

So, as often happens with the First Amendment, some folks will go overboard, push boundaries, make lots of others unhappy...

And maybe some blogs aren't journalism. Maybe they shouldn't be.

A local radio personality Bill Dwight's produced a few podcasts to bring up the blogger/journalist issue: you can scroll through this site to find them....they're interesting in many respects, as they're bringing something that's taken place mostly in the blogosphere--and perhaps might have been solved in the blogosphere--into the broadcast media realm.

Yet I worry about who's presenting the arguments, and who's controlling the conversation. Where are the conversations about blogging and journalism happening in the W. Mass media landscape--print or broadcast? Are they happening only in pockets where rhetroic--right or left--reigns? Does one side--right, left, activist, citizen, journalist, blogger--have the better understanding of the First Amendment and free speech than another? Is it appropriate to bring a blogospheric argument into broadcast?

I'm listening to the podcasts, and I wonder if any of the guys involved are reading stuff on, if they're reading Jarvis or Rosen or any of the people that are having the larger discussions on the topic of bloggers/journalists. Those national discussions are important to the local discussion.

Another aspect that's a little frightening in these dialogues is that there is nary a woman in the argument. Perhaps a little estrogen in the testosterone contest might help? ;-)

Then again, perhaps the women don't want to be involved. Perhaps they don't want to be steamrolled by the testosterone. I can't blame them, really.

One thing, though, that I've concluded in listening to the podcasts, and having read some of the mess that's going on, is that I don't think there's room for any independent citizen journalism out here in W. Mass. No room for an H2oTown, no room for a WestportNow, no room for The Forum (Deerfield, NH) a The msm outlets--from the main paper, to the alternative paper, and now a radio outlet coupled with, I think, some activists--seem to have created this super-heated atmosphere and struggle for control over who's entitled/qualified/sanctioned to publish online that to steep one's toe in the citizen journalism pool might cause one to get it bit off by a Great White shark.

And that, in its own strange and peer-pressure-y way, feels like a kind of censorship.

Think about it.

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Heather B said...

Well, I'm doing citizen journalism, and I'm in western MA, but I haven't been a voice in the discussion. In my mind the discussions about civic issues to which you refer have focused very much on Northampton, and there's nothing wrong with that - every locality has its interesting issues. But I speak up because I believe there's plenty of room for me; there's just no radio play.

However, there is the NENF:

Tish Grier said...


yeah, I got the invite from Bill Densmore yesterday, know all about it (been involved with the NENF too...)

I know you're doing cit j., but I've got a couple of quesitons that I'll email you about. We may have a difference of opinion on this, which I think, for our own friendship, is probably better debated offline...

My chief concern is how the rhetoric, which spreads beyond Northamption, may be coloring people's opinions of blogging outside of Northampton. There's a lot at stake here--not just for journalism.

Heather B said...

It occurs to me also that your definition of citizen journalism might exclude me, since my blog is currently hosted by the Valley Advocate, so in that case my point would be moot. I appreciate that there's a range of types of work out there. But my work is largely volunteer and so I feel I don't fit into any camp if the parameters are strict.

Tish Grier said...

h...there are lots of us that are falling into gray areas at this point. Gray areas are good. But when some folks (such as some of the folks at try to muddy the waters vs. be on a continuum, then we gots some problems.

IMO, if one is being paid, esp. by a newspaper, and even if it's to keep a blog, you're doing a form of journalism. If what you write goes thru a process--as some of mine has--then you're doing a form of journalism.

You explained what you're doing at the Advocate--which is one of those weird gray areas. And one of the gray areas I get concened about. I worry that the labor of the citizens, who could publish on their own, is being taken in by publications for the profit of the publication. I worry that citizens will sacrifice their freedom to publish (which we now have with blogs) because they fear they won't generate eyeballs.

So, The gray areas are popping up because msm doesn't want to pay reporters any more. And that sucks for both the people and for reporters.

But the gray areas are where lots of us end up disappearing when the folks who are cultivated and paid by msm outlets (yes, Masslive IS an MSM outlet) pretend they're just like us.

rogerio christofoletti said...

I'm a brazilian journalist and I teach journalism online, ethics and law in communications.

Your blog is very interesting.


Wendell said...

I work in - and humbly blog about - literacy. In the Canadian province I work in, one family owns and operates Every single English-language daily and most of the weekly papers. They are very serious about being the only print-media voice around.

In the past few months, some members of this family have decided they know how to "fix" our literacy problems, and have begun running their ideas in the guise of news stories.

I don't do journalism - you're right, not all blogs are jounalistic - but I do talk publicly about literacy. So do a few others. We're all starting to look over our shoulders a bit.

It's silly, of course.

But it's real.

Tish Grier said...

Hi Wendell,

thanks for your comment--and we, apparently, worry about the same thing. It's a very bad thing when one family or one corporation thinks they are the authorities on literacy and that no one should challenge them (or even provide a second independent voice.) and yet they cry "poverty" or some other nonsense and expect the people to "save" them. but if saving them means fearing them, and means dissenting opinions are filtered, then perhaps we shouldn't save them at all...

good luck in all your endeavors...