Thursday, January 26, 2006

State Hornet

I know that I can be a little abrasive at times. I have opinions and sometimes I exhibit little tolerance when expressing them. I was given some sage advice quite sometime ago: Don’t submit anything in writing until I have had a chance to sit on it for a while and read it over. It’s advice that I must admit I rarely follow.

There was a recent feature article in our campus newspaper (The State Hornet) about the many winter activities in the nearby Lake Tahoe area. The article was poorly researched and was obviously written by someone who had no prior knowledge about the area or skiing and snowboarding. There is an opportunity to register comments at the end of any given article on the on-line edition of the paper. I took the opportunity to voice my objections. You can read the article here: NorCal ski, snowboard options are plentiful .

My response was:

Wow, I've been skiing and snowboarding for many years all over the Northern California Sierras, but I must admit this feature article has some facts that I didn't know.

First, I am simply amazed that Squaw Valley at 91 miles away can be 42 miles closer than it's next-door neighbor, Alpine Meadows? News to me!

Sugar Bowl has California's first ski lift. It must be a mighty old lift! I wonder where they find spare parts? (It's long gone with only a very few scattered remnants remaining).

Sierra-at-Tahoe has "46 slopes and trails?" What may I ask, defines a "slope?" Mountains generally don't have any more than 4 slopes... north, south, east and west. A slope and a trail, at least in reference to skiing and snowboarding, are not synonyms.

As close as we are to the snow country and with the vast number of winter sports enthusiasts in the area, it should be no problem for a reporter, even a reporter with limited resources, to obtain accurate information.

Internet research is an important tool in news reporting. It should not be, however, the sole source for a story, even a feature story. Simply looking at a road map would have raised questions regarding the mileage figures given for Squaw and Alpine. (When there is no snow, it is a short hike... a very short hike from one to the other). Imagine that, using a simple map to verify facts.

I am not expecting much, if anything more from the Hornet this semester than it delivered last semester. Nor do I intend to waste my valuable time pointing out its endless foibles. However, fortunately for both of us, it is at this point in the beginning of the semester that I have ample time to provide this service. No, no – no thanks necessary.

It was submitted with my first and last name and my email. I think it is obvious that I had far too much free time. Anyway, when checking for responses to my comment, I found this the next day:

Michael, since your time is so "valuable", perhaps you should spend your it doing something else, rather than bashing journalism students via the internet. If you don't like it, don't read it. Until next time, please, shut your mouth.

First name only, just short of complete anonymity. Well, if there could be anything written more poorly than the original article, this comment was it. Of course, I had to respond:

Kevin (last name and email unknown),

First, I am a journalism student (government-journalism to be precise). I pride myself on my accuracy – if I’m writing about something I know nothing about, I gather all the information available before I write one word – or I won’t write anything. As far as my “bashing” through the Internet (capital “I”, by the way), well you can call it what you want, and perhaps your right. I guess I shouldn’t hurt their feelings. I mean that never happens in the real world. For the record, I’ve been known to “bash” the pros too, although they don’t call it that.

“If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Until next time, please, shut your mouth.”

This is a direct quote Kevin. I keep reading it and reading it and no matter how many times I read it, I can’t quite figure out what you mean. How can I know whether I like it or not if I don’t read it? Although I have yet to use my “mouth,” I’ll assume that is a metaphor for any form of communicating. I get that, but not the until next time part. It’s like saying don’t say anything until you say something. Huh? Like there’s any other option.

Fortunately for both of us, any time I have for future bashing will be limited. I’ll keep my mouth shut until then.

So what do you think? Am I a total a**hole? Could I or should I have tempered my comment and response? I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t care. Any feedback, pro or con, will be considered and appreciated. Thank You.


UltimateWriter said...

I think it's our right to point out inaccuracies in writing. Especially JOURNALISM. If you're writing a novel, fine, but non-fiction you should have your facts straight. No need to apologize for wanting the public (or student body) to be accurately informed.

Ellen said...

I found the "journalists" response abrasive, and just a reaction... again, no real facts (other than their particular major). They should have thanked you for the research/ knowledge you had of the facts.

Your response to the original article was well put, containing facts they should have consulted before writing the article.
I'm surprised that you didn't ask them where they got their information. Seems like it came from old phamplets or encyclopedias rather than a more hands on experience.

Good for you to put your point across, and keeping it from being nasty. Too bad I can't say the same for them.

Jamie Dawn said...

I thought you were too harsh. I think your original email to him was written with a sarcastic edge to it that set him off. I think a gentler letter "might" have been better received. I said "might."
Just my two cents.

The Zombieslayer said...

My personal opinion, Kevin needs to get his ass kicked. That was completely uncalled for.

Michael, since your time is so "valuable", perhaps you should spend your it doing something else, rather than bashing journalism students via the internet. If you don't like it, don't read it. Until next time, please, shut your mouth.

No, if they can't write a decent article, they won't have jobs in the future in that line of profession.

Geez, Kevin. You're not ready to leave your mother's breasts, are you?

Michael K. Althouse said...

zs: Thanks for putting my thoughts into perspective!!
Again, acuracy is an important, not partisan issue. Me thinks Kevy might be sweet on Liz (writer of the original article). Kevin is not the sharpest tool in the shed...not that there's anything wrong with that.


Saur♥Kraut said...

Good for you, you meanie. I would've written the same response. I mean, WOW ... do we think alike!!!

Funny how immature kids can get so defensive. He may not like it, but I'll be he double checks his sources from now on!!!


Michael K. Althouse said...

saur: Ya, it's a gift!

UltimateWriter said...

Time to get out the intelligence dipstick and check the level...

...People who come out and lay out softballs like 'shut your mouth' should expect a double dose of venom in return...i mean c'mon what planet are you living on? it's not that hard to figure out.

Sadie Lou said...

You sound a lot like me.
I tend to come across as being very abrasive whenever I am being critical. I think the idea of constructive critisism was somehow lost on me. I think I need to learn how to reign in my sarcasm and make sure my tone of voice or in this case, my choice of words, read a little less offensive.
Online conversation is a fine art because so much is lost or assumed through translation.
Miscommunication is right there, you know?
I think you handled the situation exactly like would have--which isn't a bad thing but it's not a great thing either.
I think had you made a critisism face to face with this person, you would have been a little gentler and this person would be less defensive.
With being anonymous comes boldness that wouldn't otherwise be there.
I hate it when people step up without signing their name. They want the most impact for little to no accountability.
Rant over!
Sorry this is so long. I guess I had a lot to say....

Dawner said...

You just have to tell it like you see it and feel it and if they don't get the picture add color it simulates the brain. If you don't voice your opinions, the world might as well be flat.

Michael K. Althouse said...

Thank you all for your comments. I am glad to know that I am not alone in my dedication to the truth and that my hunch that I may have been able to say the same thing less abrasively is probably acurate. For some reason, I kinda take this kind of irresponsibility personally (I know it's not about me) and get offended. I don't know that, in this case I would have changed anything (especially in response to Kevin), but it does widen my perspective.

My appologies if I didn't respond personally. I mean I did and I thought I posted it, but obviously I messed up. Anyway, what i essentially said was I heard you and took everything into consideration. Once again,

Thank you


neal said...

Bravo. I would have been more blunt and abrasive in my response to his reply.

The writer, Kevin, is either an a**hole himself or has thin skin and connot take constructive critcism. If he was the actual writer of the original article and was working at a real newspaper he probably would have been fired.

I am sure you probably read the Bee and might have seen Diana Griego Erwins columns. She was canned for making up much of what she wrote about, much like Oprahs book of the month loser.