For years, my mother – Homecoming Queen, class of 1955 -- insisted on introducing her three daughters by rattling off our ranks of royalty.
"This is Leslie," she would say, "Homecoming Queen, 1977. This is Toni, Homecoming Queen, 1980. And this is Connie. Connie? Well, she’s very smart."
See? I’m not always a Very Serious Person, which is perhaps the most stinging indictment against me in recent posts on Daily Kos. You can’t be the only girl in the family with no crown – not to mention a liberal and a feminist in the Midwest -- without a sense of humor. And it’s always best to make yourself the punch line.
First, I want to thank those who posted comments here in support of me. I am especially grateful to Jeff Seemann, who wrote a diary entry on my behalf.
Now, on to the other comments: According to some people who posted, I’m an idiotic, resentful, jealous, thin-skinned, stupid, evil, traditional (or is that the same thing as evil?) journalist who rubber-stamped Bush’s war in Iraq and is now clinging to a dead-tree career that is plummeting in a downward spiral faster than oak leaves in October.
All this from people who supposedly share my politics. Whew.
As a fellow human, I admit it’s likely that I’ve inflicted the worst of myself on others in my 52 years of living. Idiotic, resentful, jealous, thin-skinned, stupid and evil – yup, I’ve probably been all those things and more. Apologies all around, starting with my younger siblings. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
As a journalist, I must correct the misperceptions and false claims, starting with my alleged position on the war in Iraq: I opposed it from the very beginning, in speeches and in my column – and before I had even met the guy who is now my husband, Sen. Sherrod Brown. He showed up here in comments about me, too, which made this week’s Daily Kos feel just like home-sweet-home on The Plain Dealer’s Web site at Cleveland.com.
This dust-up started after I wrote a column about the difference between journalists’ standards and most of those who blog. Yes, I said most and I mean most. Specifically, I mentioned the journalists’ tradition of fact-checking, and how most bloggers are unwilling to check even the spelling of a name before posting.
In response, Daily Kos’ SusanG lumped an excerpt from my column with the New York Time’s mile-long paragraph of corrections on a story by Alessandra Stanley. I don’t know Stanley, I don’t work for the Times and I had nothing to do with her error-wrought obit of Walter Cronkrite. If Susan’s point was that not all journalists hold to the same standard and I should have made that clear, she is right. I do, however, think she should have added that the credibility of most blogs, particularly those who cover politics, would soar if they adopted the traditional journalism practices of fact-checking, admitting errors and running corrections.
I would like to argue that blogs should also monitor comments for civility and accuracy, but I’m in no position to do that when most newspapers fail to rein in the vitriol on their own sites. I’m often accused by some bloggers of being hopelessly steeped in old ways, and I concede the point when it comes to my affection for civil discourse. Discussion is lost whenever the exchange devolves into a string of comments best titled, "I Know You Are, But What Am I?"
As for anonymity: I hate it. I do. Especially on original posts and diaries, and most particularly when they make personal attacks against named individuals. That is cowardice, plain and simple, and represents the worst of bloggers who want all of the access of journalists without any of our accountability.
Yes, I know the counter-arguments: You’re just like the Founding Fathers. Let’s hope not, since the trend of slavery and oppression of women is so two centuries ago. Or you’re afraid of retaliation for your views. I hear ya. I spend a lot of ink on behalf of the people I come from: factory workers, restaurant servers, home healthcare workers, nurses’ aides. Those columns rattle a lot of gilded cages, and their inhabitants tend to have job titles that rocket their complaints to the top of newspaper management. I also write a lot about race, which really ticks off a certain percentage of fellow white people whose middle-of-the-night calls sure can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention.
Please don’t misunderstand my meaning: I’m not arguing that I’m heroic. Far from it. I’m doing my job, which requires me to put a name to everything I write. Not only does this make me accountable, it makes me easy to find, which matters when it comes to whose stories I want to tell.
That brings me to the issue of all the premature tap-dancing on newspapers’ graves. Many on the Web predict the demise of newsprint with great glee, but a lot of the people I cover don’t ever go online because they don’t own computers, particularly those who are uneducated, poor or elderly. They’re often nervous and a lot of times they’re scared, but they pick up the phone because they read my column in the newspaper and believe I want to hear what they have to say. They have given me some of the most powerful stories of my career. I don’t want to lose them, or their voices.
This is my first diary for Daily Kos, but I hope it’s not my last. I’m writing because I’m tired of all the shouting and the chest-thumping over our respective specialness. It seems to me that what most bloggers and most journalists have in common is our desire to and be recognized for our contributions, and respected for our intentions.
Sounds like a good place to start a different conversation, don’t you think?