Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Note to Our Readers

Sunday barely. We postponed the note for a number of reasons and once postponed, the only hope we had of doing it was around midnight due to the time schedules of the six of us.

So what an edition, huh? Believe it or not, it was like pulling teeth at times. Not in the writing of any article or feature, just in getting to them. Ava and C.I., though not the only ones -- but the first two to holler out just now "pin the blame on me" -- were among the most vocal about not wanting to do several of the features here. But, though each feature had a level of support, every one of them went that way. "Do we really want to do this?" was probably the most frequent asked question this weekend. (And at one point or another, all but Jim and Dona asked that question -- all includes everyone who helped on this edition and not just the six of us writing this note.)

Consider it the "F.U. Issue." Not f.u. to our readers. But f.u. to the people who want to play while the world burns. We are angry and, judging by the early e-mails on the edition, so are our readers. We've got two wars waging and Bully Boy wants to provide a third (check out C.I.'s "And the war drags on . . ." near the bottom for target Iran). But people want to talk about cartoons (some involved just groaned that I, Jim, made that statement). It's a cartoon. People's reactions of outrage are very real but between that and Oprah's book club, a lot of time is being wasted on story cycles focused on "incidents." My, Jim, opinion. (C.I. just said that, as with Terry Schiavo, The Common Ills made a point not to note the cartoon or all the stories surrounding it.) Again, people's reactions are very real. And a serious study on the issue might be worth noting. A serious study won't be written for some time. But everyone's got an opinion and weighing in, aren't they? Since no Muslim contributes to these editions, we'd be talking out our asses if we rushed to weigh in on the water cooler topic. But you'll note that knowledge hasn't been a requirement for most people rushing in to tell you "what it means!"

That's not the only story (or stories if you include Oprah's book club) that's taken up serious time. Serious news space. You've had 15 US military fatalities since last week (again, see C.I.'s "And the war drags on . . ."). But that's 'just' 15, apparently. Nothing to be concerned about or of or over. Those elections really changed everything, didn't they! Iraq's just a peaceful bedroom community now, right? And the electricity runs too, right?

We're tired of it. We're tired of bad writers like one who wrote this week about the "mood" on campus. Tom Hayden offered some reality in the otherwise non-reality based article. (Hayden's quoted.) But we saw that article and thought, "Maybe wanna be film makers should stick to attempting to become film makers?" Five of us our college students, C.I.'s been all over the country at various campuses last year, this year, 2004, 2003. Wally's a college student, Mike's one as well. We didn't see any reality in that article (until Hayden showed up for a quote at the end).

So maybe we (and our readers, judging by today's e-mails) are just in a mood this week? Or maybe there's too much nonsense these days? Hey, you can talk about Oprah's book club, but you can do it in intelligent manner. (Hint, Jon Stewart did it in intelligent manner. All those trying to expand on Stewart? Well they're copying . . . badly.)

Ava and C.I. have a TV review. They're not just blowing smoke up people's asses. They're trying to examine in a serious manner. When Ava passed on (Saturday night) that she'd seen PBS's so-called American Masters on Bob Newhart, C.I. scrambled to find someone with a tape of it so that they include that in their review. So you've got a commentary that addresses a show currently airing and notes how it's like similar shows previously (women aren't important to it) and how in all the hoopla over Bob Newhart, women and African-Americans are surprisingly stripped of their own accomplishments in what PBS bills as a documentary. Now that's some heavy lifting in "TV Review: On the lack of layers" we're sure some fans of The Office and Bob or Newhart will be bothered. But unlike your water cooler critics, Ava and C.I. regularly do heavy lifting. (One e-mail came in this week from a former self-billed "hater" who noted a recent "review" in a magazine and wrote, "At least Ava and C.I. do more than fluff." Indeed, they do.) And they do. Within the context of TV shows, they're tackling issues. They're not writing as though they possess no intellect as soon as the TV comes on.

They're groaning, but Dona and I (Jim) want this in. There's no subject that's necessarily off limits, no topic that can't be addressed, provided you have some context. Writing "Veronica Mars is so cool! And it's just like Buffy!" isn't criticism. It may be cheerleading and it's certainly embarrassing coming from over-thirty writers trapped in a perpetual adolescence, but it's not criticism. Go down in flames, but try. Try to be an adult, try to move beyond the buzz in the high school cafe. A friend of ours on campus wanted to know if he could collect some of the TV reviews for a self-published book he's doing to raise some funds (for charity). We had no problem with that but it wasn't up to us (Dona and Jim). We weren't surprised that Ava and C.I. said "Go for it." But we're also not surprised that he wanted to use their reviews. While a lot of "critics" are writing fluff that should embarrass them, Ava and C.I. are tackling some pretty big issues. Week after week, with still no promised break for them. (We swear, we're trying to schedule that.) It's been over a year now and almost exactly a year since they started soloing on those TV reviews. We appreciate their work (we is Dona, Jim, Jess and Ty) and wanted it noted here.

Let's note highlights because Jess pointed out that we talked Elaine into letting us spotlight her post but as soon as this goes up, it will no longer be visible on the main page (in the sidelinks):

Ex funcionario de CIA en Medio Oriente acusa a gobierno de Bush de seleccionar informaci�n sobre Irak en forma ventajosa
Blog spotlight: Cedric on The New York Times editorial silence regarding Coretta Scott King
History weigh in
Ruth notes FAIR's 20 years of watchdogging
Blog Spotlight: Elaine on things that don't get attention
Interview Spotlight: Mike questions Wally
Bully Boy Spotlight: Wally reporting on Bully Boy's attempts to write a new book
Dream Spotlight: Rebecca on JFK, MLK and RFK
Humor Spotlight: "Thomas Friedman plays the woman scorned" (Betty)
Recipe Spotlight: Chilled Dill Peas in Trina's Kitchen
Blog Spotlight: Wally on Bully Boy's "Knowledge"

Those were our highlights for this edition. We thank everyone for allowing us to repost them. (And we thank for Dallas for hunting down links.)

And new content? Along with the TV review, we have four new pieces.

"Editorial: What Are They Saying, What Do They Mean?" was one of the items Ava and C.I. both didn't want to do. They ended up adding a great deal. At one point, they were both making points so quickly that we had to ask them to both stop. (When they're both making points, we're left without the two best notetakers among us.) We think it says a great deal about the state of the party and we don't think it's pretty. Cedric and Betty contributed to this editorial in many ways but weren't present for the final writing due to the fact that they had church services to attend. We hope they're in agreement with the final version but we will note that they worked on the discussion of this and had impact there.

"It's all White" is our contrarian take on the way one death was greeted and another wasn't. We've been over this terrain before. When John H. Johnson couldn't get any traction but another person could. (Not surprisingly, that person was White.) C.I. kept shooting this idea down as well because "Not another word on Betty Friedan. Haven't we all heard more than enough in one week?" But the point here was to compare and contrast. And other than C.I.'s entry last Sunday, we've seen nothing but hagiography on Friedan. When the idea first came up, we began talking to people with the intent of doing a feature. We had many more quotes than what we used. (We thank Anne for saying we could use her first name. Most women said, "Don't put my name to it, I'll be ripped apart for telling the truth. It's like when Reagan died.")
Once we finally got C.I. on board, the actual writing went rather quickly. (Dona notes that C.I. didn't attempt to kill the piece, only stated, "Write it without me." We didn't see that as being possible since C.I. was the only voice, on the left, that we knew of who wasn't stuck in Saint Betty mode.) We had the worst time with titles this edition. We even posted one entry without one to get it up at the site while we attempted to figure out what to call it. We were going to do that with this one as well and were about to publish it title-less when Cedric, who'd been doing impersonations of a White Docker "dude" throughout, said, about posting it without an entry, "It's all good." Jess and C.I. both exclaimed, loudly, "Oh my God!" and the rest of us were wondering what was going on. "It's All White!" Jess and C.I. cried in unison. That's the perfect title.

"On playing the fear card" was the piece that posted without a title. Rebecca finally thought up something we could all live with and that's what we went with. We're trying to note Laura Flanders as often as we can. Why? We listen to her. We want the word to get out on her. And if the left isn't supporting and steering people to the left, what's the point of the left existing online? If it's all about "here's a story in The New York Times" and "here's a story in The Washington Post" -- what's the point? Our feeling: we need to be sure that we're building awareness of our left voices and not just noting the mainstream. This piece is about Bully Boy's love of playing the fear card and how, hopefully, that card trick's gotten old.

Finally, we have "Cowardly Journalism Review (Parody)" which is a parody (note the title). We've been wanting to do another parody for sometime but divided upon which to parody next. (There's talk of The New Republic but C.I.'s shot that down thus far arguing that some of us participating might buy the magazine or visit the site to get the feel for it.) So we take on CJR proper. Why? When Dona read an entry by C.I. where C.I. took the so-called watchdog to task last week for the attack on Eason Jordan, Dona knew C.I. would be up for it. Dallas asked to note that there's never been an easier time for him in hunting down links because C.I. would tell him exactly who the author was and when the piece ran. We think it's funny. We're sure CJR won't but hey, don't get on an editorial soapbox about the kind of coverage the nation needs on Iraq and then fail to offer it in your own edition. We're not in the mood for that nonsense. We're tired of posturing to demonstrate how "reasonable" you are. Eason Jordan, to focus on that topic, raised an issue. Instead of addresssing it, the supposed watchdog attacked. Now they've been loathe to bark at the mainstream press (currently still working there) and they've been loathe to seriously challenge the administration spin (until others have established the points), but they can kick Eason Jordan because they assume he's "down." (C.I., who knows people at CJR and Eason Jordan as well, calls the attack "cowardly and shameless.") While Editor & Publisher has wondered for years now which paper will be the first to editorialize that we should pull out of Iraq, CJR finally gets around to noting (and dismissing) that option (as an aside). Do they think that cuts it? Do they think their embarrasing pieces where reporters explain how they sat on a story are worthy of printing? They're not questioning those positions. They're noting them. "I didn't report on a kidnapping because the hostage was my friend . . ." first person accounts. With the press under prolonged attacks (from government, not bloggers), you'd think the First Amendment would mean something to the supposed watchdog.

You'd also think that since Eason Jordan gave up/lost his job at CNN for raising the issue of journalists dying in Iraq, when he had the courage to raise it again, CJR (online was where the attack ran) might use it as an opportunity to seriously explore the topic. Instead Eason Jordan was seen as "marked" and "fallen" and the watchdog rushed in to attack. That's some watchdogging . . . for the administration. We're not sure how journalism was served, but, hey, you demonstrated that you're not lazy all the time.

While FAIR (which is celebrating 20 years, congratulations and read "Ruth notes FAIR's 20 years of watchdogging" for more on that) is calling the press out for killing stories, CJR weighs in with what? Memogate? No, not on the Downing Street Memos but on the Dan Rather memos. Always peering over everyone else's shoulder to figure out, "Is it safe?" -- ladies and gentlemen, CJR. Remember their blistering coverage when it turned out Bob Woodward covered up his own involvement in the Plame outing? No? Well that's because they didn't know if it was "safe" or "prudent" to go after Woody. He's a journalistic institution. Now if his paper kicks him to the curb, look for them to give him the full Eason Jordan treatment for any statement he later makes.

They didn't lead on the Judith Miller coverage. They were silent on it. They ran a piece by Liza Featherstone on it but in their own pieces written by people at the magazine, after the invasion, they mention Judith Miller and others covering Iraq like she's just another outstanding reporter.

That's the sort of nonsense we're tired of. The timidity, the refusal to lead. We're seeing a lot of it and we're sick of it.

So consider this the F.U. edition. We'd like to tell you that, having completed the edition, we've purged ourselves of that emotion but we can't promise that. C.I. feels like since witnessing the Alito hearings in person "it's been non-stop outrage on my part." We say more power to you and second that emotion. The Common Ills has done some of its strongest work in that time period. (C.I. notes that tomorrow's entry will not be like that because it's late and C.I.'s tired.)

So we do need to wrap up.

The following helped with this edition (with writing, with debating, with suggestions and in every way possible) on all new features except for the TV review (done by Ava and C.I. only):

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim;
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of The Daily Jot.

See you next week.

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

P.S. Dona said to note that we're setting back the clock before posting so that this will show up in the weekly archives with the other features for this edition.
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