Friday, December 23, 2011

Whose Voice Is That?

Using clogged traffic time on the way home Wednesday afternoon, I punched up WBUR for All Things Considered. I briefly heard myself bantering with Elizabeth Warren in a Tovia Smith segment, Mass. Senate Race a Battle Over Who's More Populist.

At the bottom here is an audio snippet (requires flash) of Smith taking an audio snippet from an October Left Ahead show with Elizabeth Warren. The now infamous elite-hick/hicks-for-Elizabeth banter occurred at the start of where she came into the 40 minute program. She made other remarks about populism, not only from her own upbringing, but in historic, economic and political American context.

An audio of Tovia Smith using an audio of Left Ahead using an audio of Elizabeth Warren on an audio of the show on BlogTalkRadio. How recursive can we get? Perhaps Left Ahead needs to introduce an edited audio of Smith using our edited audio. I'll settle on the snippet below to give context.

Indeed, that was what came to me as I listened to myself. When I worked newspapers and magazines and the few times I've been on TV or radio, I fell into my J-school training attribution. I'd say whom I was quoting or citing. If there were a book or other checkable reference, it went there too. Of course in modern times, I insert links as I do here. This takes negligible time and space, and mean a lot to the audience.

Some readers and listeners want to know more. Others are cynical or distrusting. Both types want to see for themselves. Even if a majority of your consumers are passive, be respectful to the group with curiosity, time and emotional or intellectual needs.

In my NPR experiences, they don't, at least with such bottom feeders as bloggers and podcasters. I am not sure whether they consider us some level of competition or merely unworthy of professionalism and respect.

Similarly, a few year ago, a BBC reporter did a brief phone interview with me on companies blocking blogging during work hours. She cited me by location and name, but not by my blog's URL. This time, Smith's coverage reduced me to "a fellow Oklahoman, who was interviewing her."

Setting aside vanity, I think as an NPR listener and as well as online and print newshound, I would have found it useful to know:
  • That the interviewer was local to Massachusetts, where the race is
  • The context and vehicle of the interview, in this case that it was an internet show, a podcast
  • The name of the show and URL, at least
  • The name of the interviewer
Amusingly enough, her disdain would not prevent the curious from ID'ing the site and interviewer. This two-month old story was widely covered in local and national news, online, cable and print. Most reports identified both Left Ahead and me, and many linked to the podcast.

Breeding is free

Including the omphaloskepsis, we at LA deserve the same courtesy we provide sources. I'm sure Tovia Smith, WBUR and NPR expect and likely demand citations for their work. As well as considerate of their readers, doing so would be professional as well-mannered. Breeding is free, but not spontaneous.

Come to pay closer attention though, the most recent WBUR quotes from me before this were only a little better cited. When Bianca Vázquez Toness used me to stir the pot under Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, she named me, but neither this blog nor LA. Of course she was highly selective in what she used; she had called me to extract one criticism I had already written. Having been a reporter, I understood that and won't even consider an out-of-context claim. She was hunting for a specific beast and brought it down with a clean shot.

Unlike Toness, Smith is not ahead of the news. She appears from a scan of her stories with their timing, to follow the elephants on the parade route, gathering up after them. While I prefer fresher reportage, I can see the drive to vary existing work. In that piece comparing Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren's plain-folk campaigning, She walked a very deep path. An internet search would show how rutted it is.

Oddly though, there seems to be bias against Warren. For example, she repeated the misinformation about "In his green pickup truck and worn-out barn coat, Brown stresses his hard-knocks upbringing raised by a single mom on and off welfare." She must have read or heard that elsewhere. At this stage in coverage of such an old story, here piece would have served readers better noting that Brown did not wear that expensive jacket until he wanted it as a campaign prop and that his truck was for carrying hay, tack and the sort for his daughter's horse. Neither is exactly behavior of plain folk.

Likewise, he slams the woman who worked her way from nothing to become a Harvard Law professor by saying he didn't go to Harvard. Smith could well note how much better off his family was come college time and that he went to Tufts, in the same price range and with a similar cachet to Harvard.

Instead, it was an old story, told with no new information or analysis. Yet, for those who hadn't paid attention, or read or heard it yet, it was OK.

When I realized that she had dissed us at LA, I did try newsjacking by thanking her on the NPR and BUR post. Of course, I included what she did not, a link to the whole 40-minute show, for listeners who might want to think for themselves. I logged in with a real name, likewise for those who like to vet.

BUR's post left the comment. NPR moderated it out, leaving instead a message saying it violated discussion rules. My comment was simply informative and not in the obscene, insulting or other classes. The only thing they could mean was the rule:
Feel free to share your ideas and experiences about religion, politics and relevant products or services you've discovered.But this is not a place for advertising, promotion, recruiting, campaigning, lobbying, soliciting or proselytizing. We understand that there can be a fine line between discussing and campaigning; please use your best judgment -- and we will use ours. 
So my whine is that it's one-way. They would expect, but not give, attribution. I didn't have a choice on this one, where Smith simply snatched my audio without asking, much less citing. Next time one of their reporters calls to use me though, I'll demand professional citation. It appears they need to be reminded.


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