January 5, 2009

Can we all tell 'hey Mabels?'

Hearing 'that's a 'Hey, Mabel' story was high praise from one of my first editors. It meant you had found and written a tale that would be discussed at the dinner table and near the water cooler.

Of course, that praise came when newspapers were delivered in time for dinner, a meal families ate together in early evening. The line was delivered before vending machines with bottled water and break rooms replaced water coolers as standard office equipment. And when was the last time anyone said 'Mabel?'

Good stories still get discussed today. My questions are: Are there too many stories? Does who tells them make a difference?

I once was an avid storyreader, who gravitated to those first person pieces in newspapers and especially in magazines. But recently I realized that even an offer to get the old standby Women's Day for less than a quarter an issue had little appeal.

I fill that need niche with blogs and rss feeds. Now, I can find quilters, crafters and do-it-yourselfers 24/7. Also available are others who share how they cope with ms, elderly parents and twenty-somethings who move back home. I can read one blog or adopt a variety through a service like BlogHer. When I find a story or cause that pulls my heartstrings, I can talk back as well as PayPal some $$.

I can get even more as the Non-profits and businesses I already support seek my stories and then share what they gather from customers, contributors and clients in their appeals, newsletters and magazines I get for my loyalty.

What I think we lose/lost is the collective knowledge that helps form community around geography

We also take on the need to filter, to think for ourselves. We have to be editors as well as readers. Certainly, mass media sometimes was scammed by storytellers who twisted their lines to elicit donations.

Plus I worry about overload - when you can choose to "know" so many stories does it become easier to tune them all out?

If the Boys & Girls Club, the United Way, the YWCA, the Girl Svouts and others use stories to illustrate impact of programming and funding do the tales all blend into one? (I have been a long time critic of how mass media chooses the medical victim of the week to feature. Now, i wonder how a church, VFW and other groups chooses who to support with an suction or fundraising dinner when so many are in need of help. Some Sundays, I am sure my entire congregation is on the sick list and in need of prayers.)

Does the technique of revealing who we are lose power when it becomes the basis for marketing and changing rather them understanding who we are?

No answers. Just questions once more.

(also, please, be patient, as this post was penned on an iPhone as I try to fulfll a resolution of posting at least 5 times a week)


  1. Fabulous post. As simply a reader of articles, but a skeptic of marketing/PR ploys, I appreciate this blog post.

    I have come to your blog by way of your having 'followed' one of my friends' MS blog.

    One of your posts from a few days ago referenced out-of-work journalists online. I just received a verbal heads-up that a website for which I write 'work for hire' is changing the structure of their pay/contracts. The outcome is that for the same output, I might earn 1/2 to 1/3 of what I had been. Very much not a happy situation, especially for someone who is simply an MS patient struggling with an expensive disease.

    Let me ask - do you also have MS? If so, I would be glad to add you to my massive list of MS bloggers.

  2. Thanks for commenting.It's always nice to know an opinion is noticed.

    Unfortunately, I know too many journalists, writers and others losing their jobs or finding their pay structure changing. Good luck in finding another place that will pay.

    I also know first hand how expensive MS can be - I have had it for years, officially diagnosed in 1994. I've never seen the advantage of hiding the diagnosis. It helps explain the wavering, right?