Monday, June 27, 2005

What's This All About?

In the early days of Media Notes, Fort Wayne Business Weekly's Derrick Gingery interviewed me (via email) about what exactly I was looking to accomplish with this little blog. I asked him at the time if he would mind me eventually posting the entire contents of the interview here on the website, and he said no. And so here it is. It's the closest thing to a Media Notes Manifesto that you're going to get.

1. Why did you decide to start the blog?

I started Fort Wayne Media Notes because I didn't want to have to sit down and write a letter to the editor every time I saw something in the paper or on television that I thought deserved praise or criticism. Blogging is much more immediate, and I don't have to go through any newspaper bureacracy to have my opinion heard. The other important factor is that blogging is interactive. I can post on something I read in the newspaper and the author of that article can read what I wrote and respond to it -- either in an email to me or by making a comment on my post for everyone who goes to the website to see. And anyone, for that matter, can comment on any post, so instead of just one person giving their opinion, we're having a conversation. And let me point out, I'm not afraid to be proven wrong; I've already posted a correction and I've received an email prompting me to clarify another post. If someone makes a good point, I'm happy to acknowledge it. Just like a newspaper or television station, a blog can't exist without readers, and I want those who read Media Notes to be a part of things, not just idle spectators.

2. Is there anything specific you have noticed about media in this town that you like or dislike?

I've noticed a few things about media in Fort Wayne. The first is that good work -- and there is a lot of good work being done – is rarely, if ever, recognized. I'll give you an example: when Janette Luu was first hired as a reporter for WPTA, one of her first stories was on a fire in Lima, Ohio that resulted in multiple deaths. I remember the piece because it was so detailed -- it was literally like she was reading a newspaper report under the video, that's how thorough she was. And of course, no one noticed, or at least no one said anything. Janette had clearly put in a lot of effort and done a heck of a job, but did anyone point out how good the story was? No. (Full disclosure: I know Janette, and worked with her at WPTA in 1999, though I haven't talked to her since probably 2002.)

On the other side of the coin, there are a lot of people in FW media who have been doing what they do for a very long time, have gotten comfortable with it, and, frankly, aren't doing very good work. I mean, I get it that Fort Wayne is not New York or Los Angeles, but I'm still having to pay for my paper and sit through commercials during newscasts, and I think it's still reasonable to expect a certain standard. And often times it's not just the writer or reporter -- there are editors and managers and news directors who also play a part in the quality of the work, but ultimately, the buck stops with with the person whose name is on the piece. My feeling is, embrace the ownership of your byline or tag, because that's what you keep regardless of whom you work for or the market you're in. And if I'm criticizing something that was heavily influenced by an editor or someone else up the food chain, the responsible party will read the criticism and hopefully realize that they're partly to blame. (And the reporter or writer can take solace in knowing that the critique isn't really directed at him/her.) Will something written up in Media Notes really have an impact? I don't know. But I do know that if no one says anything, things are even less likely to change.

3. You mention you want to point out what you like and dislike, and more importantly, why? What did you mean by that?

The purpose of Fort Wayne Media Notes is not for me to have a forum to discuss who in local media I like and who I don't like. Sure, we all like certain people and dislike others, but I don't think publishing that information serves any great purpose, other than self-indulgence. What I want Media Notes to be is a place where good work is lauded and poor work is critiqued. That, I think, can have a positive impact. When you know people are paying attention to your work, I think it's going to effect the effort you put into it and ultimately its quality. We all like it when what we do is praised, and we don't like it when it's criticized. And remember, the people we're talking about here are professional journalists -- they're being paid for their work and they're putting their name on it. They're putting it out there, so I think it's fair game for criticism -- the work, not the person.

One of the main reasons I decided not to blog under a pseudonym is because I think I need to be subject to that same accountability. It's going to make Media Notes a better blog, and, I hope, it's going to help me gain the respect of the people whose work I'm writing about.

4. How much time do you spend here and in LA?

How much time I spend in Fort Wayne varies, depending on what I'm working on (apart from the blog). When I was in school, I would come home during winter and summer break, but now that I've graduated, it's less predictable. I was in Fort Wayne in March and April to do some research for a script I'm working on, and I'm going to spend most of the summer in the Midwest (most of it in Chicago and north central Indiana). Luckily for me, the JG and N-S both have great websites, and WPTA puts a lot of video on their website, so I can run Media Notes from Los Angeles...or anywhere with internet access...pretty easily.

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