Have you ever had an article written about you? Or perhaps you were quoted in one? I’ve had the experience many times and they have all ended the same way — me with a bittersweet feeling. Of all the articles that I’ve participated in, all have left me somehow disappointed.
Last month, I was interviewed as a podcaster for the local business magazine called the OCMetro. I read the article, was pleased with the majority of it’s content, but at the same time, experienced that familiar pang of bittersweetness. Close. Really close. But not perfect.
“Nice little article on me in a local OC magazine. The reporter got most of it right:-)”
There was no malice behind the comment. I was just expressing that familiar bittersweet feeling. At 11:26 AM, though, just 38 minutes after my tweet, I received a one-line email from Linda Melone, the journalist who interviewed me. It said:
“So…what did I get wrong? Saw your post on Twitter.”
Wow. My first reaction was to laugh at the irony. Usually, an interview happens, the article comes out, the bittersweet reaction sets in, and everyone is done. The reporter works on other projects, I add the article to my personal archives and we all move on. But this was different. The conversation between journalist and subject continued — all because of comment on a fledgling social media service.
In an email conversation, Linda explained that both her husband and a writer-friend had seen the tweet, and forwarded it onto her. She expressed a concern that my tweet reflected poorly upon her, as if she wasn’t doing her job.
Wow again. I instantly saw the flaw of Twitter — the downside of expressing oneself in 140 characters or less.
I went back, studied my tweet and determined that it was indeed unfair. The biggest mistake that I made was stating that the “the reporter got most of it right.” Not true. The reporter executed her job flawlessly. My beef is not with her, but rather with the religion of Journalism.
Here’s the part of the article that caused my heartburn.
Creating a podcast can be a challenge for most non-techies, although in the past several years, podcast software has made great strides in becoming more user-friendly. But Ploof admits it takes him about 10 hours to produce a podcast. That’s why he dropped the frequency of his broadcast from bi-weekly to once every 5 to 6 weeks.
Linda did not misquote me; this is exactly what I said. Everything in the article would pass the toughest of fact-checkers. She did an amazing job considering the 400 words that she was allocated to capture a broad topic such as podcasting. Add the fact that she was bound by the sacred rules of journalism, and that an editor probably added a few words to the final copy, and we have a piece of journalistic beauty — 400 words of balanced facts sans writer opinion.
Unfortunately, the rules of journalism frequently filter out important parts of a story — like meaning.
Griddlecakes Radio, the storytelling podcast that I’ve been producing for over two and a half years, is one of the most labor-intensive podcasts in the podosphere. Each show is hand-crafted. Each show contains personally-researched podsafe music which is blended meticulously with the words of a custom written story. Does it take me 10 hours to produce my podcast? Yes. Does it take everyone 10 hours to produce a podcast? Not by any stretch of the imagination! Griddlecakes Radio is the exception as opposed to the rule.
From the article, however, it looks like ALL podcasts take ten hours. And as a member of the Orange County Podcasters, an organization dedicated to helping others create their own podcasts, I felt that this paragraph would scare off future podcasters unnecessarily.
And there’s something else in this paragraph, something that needs to be addressed. It’s the hand of professional journalism at work and is demonstrated by the words “But Ploof admits…”
Let’s take that phrase apart.
“But,” is journalism’s way to say, “Okay, the article has included enough positive things about podcasting, its now time to balance that positive stuff with some reality.” The transition word then precedes a very provocative phrase: “Ploof admits.”
Think about the process of “admitting” things. Nobody ever “admits” to anything good, right? We’ve all heard people admit guilt, admit to lying, or admit to cheating on a spouse. One never “admits” to telling the truth, winning an Olympic gold medal, or walking on the moon. Statements like those are usually prefaced by another journalistic codeword: “claims,” as in “Ploof claims to have won his Olympic Gold medal while walking on the moon.”
Journalism is designed to find and report accurate facts. Yet, humans cannot live on facts alone. We seek meaning. We crave opinion. We want the truth. All things that unfortunately can end up on the editing room floor during journalism’s ruthless quest for the facts.
Journalism is a necessary part of our information-gathering process. We need our facts in black and white. But facts aren’t the only pieces of data humans require to make informed decisions. We need to add color to those facts and New Media tools give us the paint brushes to do so. In today’s Read/Write-Web world, printed articles are no longer static documents that enter our mailboxes, get read, and then leave through our trashcans. They are conversation pieces for anyone with a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, Facebook or Twitter account to discuss, add their opinion, or to clarify meaning.
Content creators of the new world unite. It’s time to start writing in color.