Things, stuff, and other items of interest

May 31, 2010

Meteorologists, Professional Critics, and shifting political realities.


Jules Witcover:  "The blog, that unlimited and too often also unedited vomiting of opinion, diatribe, rumor or just plain bigotry and hate."Tue Apr 20 03:31:17 via web

I'll be honest, I've never had much time for critics. By which I mean professional critics, and no I'm not referring to my boss at performance review time. I try to accept constructive criticism in both my personal & professional life in the manner in which it's offered, but that's not what I'm typing about here. I'm typing about the the professional critic who is paid handsomely to opine on any particular topic at hand.  The medium or topic doesn't matter; book reviewer, movie critic (as the case may be), art critic, restaurant critic, or even the geeky video game reviewer. It's always seemed to me that they're in the position of perpetually judging their target audience. Either we're too stunned to be able to spot an obvious lemon, or we're too unsophisticated to offer the due praise to a hidden gem. A perspective with more than a touch cynicism perhaps, but I'd wager more accurate than most in the profession would care to admit.

Everyone has a right to bitch and moan as far as I'm concerned, but it bugs me that some have developed and refined their "skill" to such a degree that they not only feel that this in some way makes a contribution to the greater good, but that they have the audacity to feel deserving of remuneration for their efforts. Those among us who are arrogant enough to feel entitled to proffer up their illustrious sense of taste and cultivated palates so that we, the unwashed masses, may seek to lift our knuckles from the dirt & gravel long enough to elevate ourselves to their lofty standards. Collectively, and with apologies to Mr. Black, I've held the vast majority of professional critics, meteorologists, and late night infomercial hosts in roughly the same low level of respect / disdain for some while now. Which brings me, in a rather round about way, to the tweet quoted above.

I've been following Roger Ebert on Twitter for some while now. He was probably in among the first dozen  people I started following. Given my rather negative view in regards to his profession, he seems an odd choice for me to follow, and yet there he is, on my "friends" list as though the man is even remotely aware of my existence. I didn't follow him in some sort of twisted vainglorious effort to validate my low opinion of his  choice of career; honestly I don't really recall why I chose to click on that weird little "+ Follow" button.  In the end, it doesn't really matter why I clicked it, I'm just glad I did.

Like every other ignorant numbskull who passes judgement before seeking to understand, I was woefully wrong in my opinion. Sort of. I remain perched on the fence in regards to whether or not the career choice of "Professional Critic" (or Meteorologist for that matter) is an entirely honourable option. I do however now recognize that there are those who count themselves among their (respective) number(s) who seek to elevate their profession(s) and in doing so, by virtue of genuine grace, honest opining, and a sincere desire to share & educate have succeeded to bring distinction and credibility to that profession. I can think of none other who has accomplished this so thoroughly as Mr. Ebert. The mans' tweets are thoughtful, intelligent, and come across as genuine & sincere. I don't always agree with his opinions, but I do consider them. He's a fascinating fella, who's had his fair share of curve balls thrown his way, and he's still here writing, reading, viewing and opining. Luckily for the rest of us.

For what it's worth, in a parallel vein, Mr. Black I believe is equally worthy of distinction as being the only Meteorologist on the planet who seems to be (a) honest, and (b) even remotely close to accurate. Kudos to you sir on a difficult job performed far beyond the benchmark of your peers if slightly short of the omniscient standard expected of you by the general public. You take an impossible task, and make it look easy.

Believe it or not, this post wasn't suppose to be an homage to Mr. Ebert, or Mr. Black, or even another entry in which I half-wittedly skewer some unsuspecting victim. This was originally planned to be a post about Quit Facebook Day, with the odd reference to online privacy and culminating in the recounting of a fascinating tale of a bumbling and ridiculously inept scam artist that a friend of mine recently had the misfortune to come across. Clearly, that stuff will wait for another day... well, most of it will, today remains Quit Facebook Day, and there's little I can do to change that. Not that I would if I could.

I got side tracked however, when I started looking up the article from which Mr. Ebert took the above Jules Witcover quote. I'm guessing it was this one. It's a good opinion piece on a topic that I feel is rather under played in the media for fear of lending credence to the opposition. No not that opposition, they couldn't borrow any credence these days even if they offered up his ego as collateral. While we're back on the topic of credibility, and accuracy in reporting... I'd like to see the numbers & methodology that went into the poll that eventually lead to this article. I'm not saying it's impossible, or even a bad idea, I just find it hard to believe that political reality has shifted so dramatically in this country that the Canadian public is now seemingly willing to consider let alone welcome a coalition government with open arms. Who knows, rumour has it there's going to be a new copyright bill tabled on Thursday, so that means that an election can only be what... a week or two behind it? Time will tell.

Speaking of getting side tracked.... where was I? Oh right, Jules Witcover and his opinion piece lamenting the shift away from traditional forms of reporting. Not so much for any contrived romantic notions of the glory days of the press room, but rather out of sincere concern about the standards, or lack there of, that now seems to rule the roost in relation to 'accurate' news reporting. Mr. Witcover expresses his high regard for the contemporary social media as follows:
The tweet, which seems too often to be an unedited burp from the mouth of a diner overfed with trivia, strikes me as a poor cousin of the blog, that unlimited and too often also unedited vomiting of opinion, diatribe, rumor or just plain bigotry and hate.
Jules Witcover
from: "Archiving tweets, dumbing down journalism" - The Baltimore Sun
I suspect it won't surprise too many of you to find that I agree with Mr Witcover, for the most part. I get the impression that he feels it's as a result of the interference and encroachment of these new of 'wannabe journalists' that the standards are slipping either directly or indirectly in more traditional media. I see it slightly differently. I think the the standards had slipped long before blogs and social media ever begun to be considered a viable alternative. As a result of the already shoddy standards, the readership wasn't able to discern a significant difference in the due diligence going into pieces being offered up from the variety of sources available to them. Convenience did the rest, and the traditional forms of media are either struggling to survive as a result, or being forced to make room for competition from a sector where none existed before.
No lament from an old print practitioner is going to slay the tweeting and the blogging. But an occasional alert to the reader of the erosive quality of careless, sloppy, distorted or even dishonest writing seems warranted if the expanding fraternity of news-deliverers is to retain its long-earned reputation for truth-in-packaging.
Jules Witcover
from: "Archiving tweets, dumbing down journalism" - The Baltimore Sun
You're probably wondering right about now how will I tie together the my own persistent prejudices against the professions of critic, (and meteorologist), the both maligned and revered professional journalist, and those of amateur blogger. Poorly it would seem. That's only fair after all, I'm the amateur here. No doubt Mr. Ebert or Mr. Witcover would deliver the point with refined prose and in a professional style, but as should be painfully evident by now, I don't have their respective talent or skill. I guess ultimately, it's up to you the reader, to consider the source.

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