Saturday, April 22, 2006

Advice for citizen journalists, with Doolittle-related illustration

May 9 and May 22 updates: for whatever reason, the story still doesn't appear to be online, at least not in The Union's archives for the day (Apr 18) it appeared in the paper.
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April 25 Update: Big apologies to Q. I jumped the gun, I assumed intent where it did not exist. Much as it pains me to admit it, Michael (who took me to task for this in the comments) was right.

Sorry again Q.

The advice still holds, but the illustration doesn't.

so, what to do - leave the post in its current insulting (and cringe-inducing) form, or edit to make it acceptable (which would violate my stated blog policy of not papering over my faux pas after the fact)?

Answer: Both. I've edited it here, but have also posted it in its pre-edited form as a comment. (don't go there, you have better things to do with your time.)

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The renovated post:
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Be dense and rude (but politely so, by pointing out your denseness) when asking questions; limiting yourself to normal, intelligent and polite social exchanges will leave ambiguity that can hide a multitude of sins.

Here's an example of how ambiguity could be (but, in fact, wasn't) used to mislead:

I had wondered why The Union's "Doolittle's campaign raises almost $800,000" story from Tuesday hadn't appeared on their website, so I tried to find out.

I asked:
...why isn't yesterday's "Doolittle money raised" article online?...

Answer:
The Associated Press does not allow us to post their stories online...

I followed up:
the article on the front page of the paper paper was bylined "The Union Staff". Not the AP. So was it really from the AP...?

Answer:
If a staff member adds a sentence or two to an AP story, then we put staff byline. But we are still prevented from posting it.


OK, let's pause for a second.

What has the polite, reasonably intelligent citizen journalist learned from this exchange?
Likely this:
"The Doolittle story was from the Associated Press; a staff member modified it slightly, which changed the byline to "The Union Staff", but the story couldn't be published online due to The Union's arrangement with AP."

Right?

Not necessarily. Note that "this was an AP story" wasn't stated. If this omission had been deliberate, this would have been an instance of dishonest implicature* ("state something true and simultaneously implicate, in the context at hand, something false.")


(In fact the story does not appear to have been from AP; the closest corresponding AP "campaign fundraising reports" story, which was Erica Werner's 'Pombo has fundraising lead over GOP, Democratic opponents'*; see it here, here, or here, or compare it with The Union's story here.)

While we still don't know exactly why the story wasn't published online,
a) My respondent had nothing to do with it, and fully believed the "AP origin" theory;
b) There are innocent and likely reasons, which have been explained to me;
and
c) The Union editor Pat Butler - fresh from last week's vacation and no doubt now wishing for another one - has assured me that it will get published.
(however, as of May 9, it still hasn't been, that I could find.)
(and as of May 22, even after emailing him a query/reminder a while back, still haven't heard back from him or seen it published.)

8 comments:

Sadie Lou said...

That is weird. Now you've got me curious. I wonder what kind of reason would prevent them from posting it online. Are you pursuing this line of questions with "Q"?

michael r. kesti said...

I, too, wonder what cosmic conspiracy it might be that The Union is now wreaking on its rueful readers. Imagine inhibiting those who have paid a paucity of pennies from procuring anything less than each and every expression supplied to subscribers. The nerve!

Or, are we trafficking in teacup tempests?

As for Q’s delusive deceptions, one may do well to hold to Hanlon's Razor. (In this case, however, I am inclined to substitute “ignorance” for “stupidity.”)

Anna said...

Thanks Michael; I hadn't known that Hanlon's Razor was its name.

(a side observation: it's been my experience that those most inclined to label others (or others' actions) with blame/shame words have themselves been less clueful than average. YMMV however.)

And you may be correct that this incident was purely accidental; but since it fits into a pattern that's clearly not, I'm inclined to give this possibility less weight.

And Sadie - I've sent Q an email about this post; will update the post appropriately if corrections are received. I don't want to apply pressure though, for reasons stated in this email.

Anna said...

p.s. for Michael - In a previous comment I'd requested that you read Smashing Heads Does Not Open Minds, and invited you to come back if you found its message convincing.

Did you read it and find it convincing?

michael r. kesti said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anna said...

michaelkesti.blogspot.com is available (I just checked) and Michael, if you make use of it, I'll be happy to link to it on my sidebar.

But I don't want to play hostility games with you here. Life's too short and there's too much to do. Please avail yourself of your blog, or The Union's comments, or Russ's, or now George's.

(To other readers: I've known Michael for almost 20 years, and have worked with him off and on for many of them. I know this terrain well, as does he.)

Anna said...

Monday evening update:
Q reports that I am all wet, barking up wrong trees, seeing demons etc. Hey, it's certainly possible that Q is right. I have responded with questions as to what, why, and whether [The Union should feel any obligation to explain the non-posting of this story]; will report back what I hear, or better yet perhaps Q could comment here.

Anna said...

Tuesday evening update:
Q is convincing.

I'll edit the post itself to retain what's of value only; but here's what it said that misattributed motives, before the editing.

(and yes, reading it makes me cringe too)

(Please, feel very free NOT to read it.)

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Be dense and rude* when asking questions; limiting yourself to normal, intelligent and polite social exchanges will allow your interlocutor to lead you by the nose.
(And, most likely, not towards the truth.)

Here's a real-life recent example:

I wondered why The Union's "Doolittle's campaign raises almost $800,000" story from Tuesday hadn't appeared on their website, so I tried to find out.
(the point isn't to name names, so we'll call the respondent "Q")
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I asked:
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[Subject: So Q, why isn't yesterday's "Doolittle money raised" article online?]

(the one that was partly on the front page, that was by "The Union Staff")

I looked yesterday on the front [website] page, and on the archive page, and today on the News page...no luck.

Any idea what happened?

thanks/sorry
Anna
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Q responded:
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The Associated Press does not allow us to post their stories online. They can only be used in the print edition. ...
Q

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I followed up:
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Q, the article on the front page of the paper paper was bylined "The Union Staff".

Not the AP.

So was it really from the AP, or was there a mixup somewhere?
(Who wrote it?)

thanks -
Anna

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Q replies* with helpful explanation:
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If a staff member adds a sentence or two to an AP story, then we put staff byline. But we are still prevented from posting it.



OK, let's pause for a second.

What has the polite, reasonably intelligent citizen journalist learned from this exchange?
Likely this:

"The Doolittle story was from the Associated Press; a staff member modified it slightly, which changed the byline to "The Union Staff", but the story couldn't be published online due to The Union's arrangement with AP."

Right?


no.
Reread Q's emails; see where they say "This was an AP story".


They don't; it wasn't.*
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I followed up:*
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Q, _did_ this come from an AP story?
(if so, do you have a reference to it? (title and/or author would be great)
or if not, do you know who _would_ know?)

sorry to be a pest, but, well, I'm curious...

thanks
Anna
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No reply from Q.

The Union's story bears no resemblance to the closest corresponding AP "campaign fundraising reports" story, which was Erica Werner's 'Pombo has fundraising lead over GOP, Democratic opponents'*; see it here, here, or here, or compare it with The Union's story here.

What would the motivation be, for not putting their story online?


(In fairness to Q, Q is between a rock and a hard place here; the paper's publisher also engages in this sort of rhetorical maneuvering,* and with him at the helm, it's likely Q was not free to provide an informative answer.)

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