Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Sensitive New Age Reporter

Many of us who blog think we are some new breed of professional called "citizen journalists." Some of us(ahem) actually are or were journalists -- practicing a centuries-old craft that depends on accuracy, verification and accountability.

The Web, which giveth plenty of information, also taketh much of our brain. Newspapers, desperate to remain alive, are no longer buying ink by the barrel; instead they are pandering to readers by encouraging their participation.

There is a way for the average person -- at least the average person who reads -- to sound off to a newspaper report her or she doesn't like. It's called a letter to the editor.

Now on rare occasion, a "citizen" might call a reporter with something interesting. That's what phones are for. We don't need no steenkin' blogs or e-mails, a view expressed by Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein -- who says what most journalists would love to say. And like the way reporters are supposed to look at politicians, Mr. Stein looks at readers the only way possible -- down!

That address on the bottom of this column? That is the pathetic, confused death knell of the once-proud newspaper industry, and I want nothing to do with it. Sending an e-mail to that address is about as useful as sending your study group report about Iraq to the president.

Here's what my Internet-fearing editors have failed to understand: I don't want to talk to you; I want to talk at you. A column is not my attempt to engage in a conversation with you. I have more than enough people to converse with. And I don't listen to them either.

... Where does this end? Does Philip Roth have to put his e-mail at the end of his book? Does Tom Hanks have to hold up a sign with his e-mail at the end of his movie? Should your hotel housekeeper leave her e-mail on your sheets? Are you starting to see how creepy this is?

Not everything should be interactive. A piece of work that stands on its own, without explanation or defense, takes on its own power. If Martin Luther put his 95 Theses on the wall and then all the townsfolk sent him their comments, and he had to write back to all of them and clarify what he meant, some of the theses would have gotten all watered down and there never would have been a Diet of Worms. And then, for the rest of history, elementary school students learning about the Reformation would have nothing to make fun of. You can see how dangerous this all is.

I get that you have opinions you want to share. That's great. You're the Person of the Year. I just don't have any interest in them.

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