Monday, October 03, 2005

Bad Journalism

I was bored this morning, so I googled myself to see what would come up. It turns out that one of the articles I wrote for Swine Inc. some years ago caught the attention of a Cincinnati blogger who felt the need to “rip me a new asshole” as the saying goes.

I wonder what he would have said if he’d responded to this article.

Now, you might expect me to fly off at the handle and respond in kind, but I won’t. And the reason for this is that I agree with him. That article was, in fact, poorly written and amounts to little more than senseless whining. I didn’t actually believe the things I was saying when I said them. I was born and raised in Cincinnati and I actually wanted to stay there when I graduated. Had I not been offered the job in which I currently work, I would have stayed.

So why, you ask, would I say such bad things when I don’t actually believe them? The answer lies in the words at the top of the page. It was a point counterpoint article. I had to pick one side and since the good side was taken, I had to write from the “I hate Cincinnati” angle. There is also the small fact that my articles were due at noon on Sunday mornings, and I often started them at 11:30. It wasn’t that I was lazy. It was that I just didn’t care.

This kind of thing happened often. Isaac or Brian (the opinion editors) would come up with an idea and Mark and I would fight over who got to pick which side. This would work if you had two people who were diametrically opposed on everything from politics to social issues. But we weren’t. Mark and I were generally in the middle of the road, and both of us were steeped in the mythology and culture of our city. So one of us got screwed each week.

I remember once, while standing around waiting for Nancy Zimpher to meet the News Record staff, we shared baseball stories. He says he knew several people on the West Side who had gambled with Pete Rose on a regular basis, and that this kind of thing was (and probably still is) par for the course with most blue collar workers from that area. I told the story of the time my dad got a ride home from Crosley field with Johnny Bench.

Oftentimes, I didn’t like the issues they gave us. Like the above linked article on Cincinnati, these issues were often one-sided and rarely relevant. If you look at the history of my articles, you will see that the subject matter is inconsistent. I’d criticize something one week and praise it the next. This is because, all too often, my opinion was not in fact my opinion. It was assigned.

This is why I refer to the News Record as Swine Inc. I also refer to them as such because they still have not paid me for over half of my articles. Since I was a full time staff member at the University in addition to a full time student and part time journalist, they had to jump through some huge hoops to pay me. Rather than do this, they chose to simply not pay me.

Many of the people with whom I worked are currently working in professional journalistic careers. And some of you wonder why I hate the media.

Sometimes, however, it was fun working for the News Record. There was the time I got to criticize Nancy Zimpher’s new strategic plan for the University of Cincinnati. This is the same strategic plan that took advantage of Bob Huggins’s name recognition to get the sports program into the Big East conference (thus getting the University a ton of new money), and then fired him before the season started. I do believe that Bob “2nd round and out” Huggins was overrated, but he did more for the university than anybody over the past twenty years, and those players who took the initiative ti follow his lead have succeeded both on the court and off. He didn’t deserve to be taken out back and shot like a rabid dog.

It was also fun to get an e-mail from Nancy Zimpher telling me not to write such critical articles in the public forum lest the News Record should come under fire from her office.

All told, I have to agree with Brian Griffin. My articles did suck. That’s because I didn’t try to make them good, and the News Record was only interested in filling space. All of this makes the fact that I actually won a collegiate award for editorial writing that much more astounding.

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