February 10, 2010

Eye on media: Citizen journalism team questions Grand Rapids Press reporter

A guy who likes asking questions is on the other side of the interview table this time around.

James Sanford, once of the Kalamazoo Gazette, shared this: "Insightful interview with my good friend and former Gazette co-worker Chris Knape, who is now the business big-wheel at the Grand Rapids Press.

In The Rapidan, a citizen journalism project I've mentioned before asks the questions in:On the Record: Chris Knape | The Rapidian

Label lust:: Two dears, a hon and a Mary

I try to believe it doesn't matter what you call me as long as you call me on time for dinner. But when I hear some of the things you call me, oh my.

I have an unusual name. OK, a lot of names. Even I admit Mary Ann Chick Whiteside is long and often shorten it to mcwflint online..  But it is still my name and I have a right to be called what I want, what I expect.

In fact, a telephone call that begins with Mary quickly clues me in that the likelihood that this is an unwanted call is high. I prefer that folks call me Mary Ann and I usually try to correct those I want hanging around in my life.If they don't remember that after awhile, I get that they don't really want me around.

I am getting much better at gliding past the Mrs. Lawrence Whiteside from those of a certain era. (Yes, it starts "you can't enlighten the dead" rolling through my head.) And, I rarely donate money for the thrill of seeing my name in a program book that heads to the recycling factory.

I'm getting used to hon and sweetie by those I'm not married to, but ma'am still feels like a sucker punch. That ma'am - that's for people who command respect merely because of their age. It quickly turns me from the young woman in that famous illusion into that old woman in the famous illusion. (Take a break - look at the possible lineage of that classic illustration.)

Still I was surprised how hurtful a recent dearie was.Even more surprising was to get two dearies in one day and realizing that I'd always heard a blessing in the label from this person.

But hearing the label recently from a new acquaintance brought up another image for me: An old woman's face, all crinkly and smiley and wrinklely, the type that generates offers of help across the street from the nearest, kindest stranger.

That dear, that dearie, magically switched my hands with the hands of my grandmother in her latest years, her last years.

Still, at the end of the day? I'll take dear over ma'am any day ... and please don't forgot to call me for dinner.

February 8, 2010

Part 2: I blame Louis Gray

Blame the soon-to-be canceled Ugly Betty show for its recent episode on blogging  and its reminder that audience size does not matter if your goal is to influence just one person.

Or blame Jim Hopkins whose painful exit from blogging about one media company led to a sharper, broader return to blogging about three media companies.

But mostly, you'll have to blame Louis Gray who once told his followers I give pretty good FriendFeed. for this public outpouring of the thoughts, guilt, insights, etc.

Yes, blame the guy who routinely has sucked me into the future with his teasing introductions of new tools and services. I don't know I need.

Louis Gray knows that I blame him and he did apologize for making my exit from blogging and most Internet things tough. (I'm sure the smiley face was a mistake, right?)

Let's be fair, though. LG, as he's branded himself, did not call or send an electronic message begging my return.. I'd bet big money (oh, wait, I don't have that anymore) that he did not even notice I stopped blogging, Tweeting, FriendFeeding, and leaving reactions to his blog posts and shared links.

Validation by IM

I got that apology only because I had the audacity to see that he was online one night and IM'd  a question that's been bothering me for about a year: Does it bother him when I keep quoting him?

But what I was really asking is "have I become an online stalker, a nuisance, an annoyance?" He's good at saying the right thing, at leveling the playing field, at valuing people as people.

"We're all groupies, he said, in that post-midnight talk. That's shorthand for the reminder that public adoration by linking is what people who write on the Internet do.

Forgiveness please

Then, because I'm trying to acknowledge the good in my life I lied to Louis Gray. At the time, I believed that I would never share this next part of the conversation, the part that led to the apology..

I don't have the original conversation saved but the gist is I blamed him for sucking me back into blogging, or at least wanting to shares what I know about technology and communication to benefit others.

Perhaps, I should blame Facebook.

Since I planned to finish the booked  Facebook 101 for Girl Scout classes and move out of all-things techie. I stopped opening Google Reader and Feedly and using most of the Internet tools like Twitter, StumbleUpon and Digg.

But I kept using Facebook where Louis Gray is my friend (no, really, through his regular account even as others dropped me when the businesses did). But, for at least six weeks I ignored all of the postings and links from the guy who never sleeps.

Then, Facebook rolled out its new home page and Louis Gray's postings popped up because, of course, my settings were tossed by the developers who must know me better then I know myself.

Facebook fuels blame

The latest redesign makes me blame Louis Gray for unfinished quilts, sad FarmVille neighbors and fewer updates on the latest communication vehicle I've created for Girl Scouts.

I blame Louis Gray because he writes intriguing headlines.

I blame Louis Gray because he culls the best posts on subjects I don't want to be interested in anymore because I don't want to see the possibilities.

 I blame Louis Gray because he is ethical, transparent, and a good writer.

I blame Louis Gray because he is the father of twins, romantic and funny. (Somehow, that makes him more real and not just virtual. It  encourages me to share the inside openly.)

I blame Louis Gray for knowing how to become a bag of popcorn that I can't stop eating.

On Friday, one headline on Facebook caught my eye and I clicked. More links winked.Then, I binged on Louis Gray. I stuffed myself , chasing his links and posts. I raced through his endless bucket, catching up on a teen blogger who accepted gifts, the Twitter world, the Friendfeed frenzy, on and on and on.

My head hurt. My heart raced. My fingers ached.

Slicing via stealing

Plus, I blame Louis Gray because he steals thoughts from my brain before I have formulated them into a coherent structure. I hate how he slices through the clutter of excuses.Take The Burning Drive to Never Settle: Refuse to Compromise. I keep reading it, sharing it:
"I hate losing. I hate not seeing a result be as good as it possibly could be. I hate turning in a project or a product that is not to the best it could be. I believe in executing quickly, but not if it means sacrificing personal responsibility or standards.
 He yanked that out of my brain and then he echoed another thought:
 "And I know I am just as competitive out of the office or off the Web, making sure I win at cards or board games, or beat my friends at bowling. If I don't, then I'll know where I screwed up, and remember it the next time I get a chance to redeem myself."
 Look, bowling holds too many bad memories for me, but have you seen what I'm doing on FarmVille.  (Though I think it is a little scary that I quoted Louis Gray last night in the game.)

Louis Gray drags more out:
"It is a lifelong race that has no finish line ...  but I do not want to be second-best. I want to win on virtue of being consistent, driving quality, thinking in a way that is differentiated, and being active in a beneficial way in as many places as I can to distribute value.
"If you can achieve, never accept the opportunity to not do your best, and expect the same from everyone."
I blame Louis Gray.for starting the binge that made me realize " Never Settle: Refuse to Compromise"

You can blame Louis Gray for me doing more before cremation.

Note: I started explaining my return in  Part 1: Ending the Great Escape

Before I published this, I told Louis Gray I had decided to write about our conversation and offered him a first look. He declined (that sounds much colder then it was). Those actions won't surprise anyone who knows us.

Related posts: 

I've written about Louis Gray before, including this post on "Stalking or Starving" that let me learn what it's like when someone follows your Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and LinkIn profile on the same day. 

There was The past creates shadows on on today and  No secrets: Sharing insights, goals helps all, which was about mapping your social interactions. 

Gray snuck into Something special: Looking back at newspaper careers and  sparked Jealousy over blog post leads to reflection. He's inspired other posts, but I try hard not to be his echo chamber.

Note: This post was updated  2/9/10 to correct some grammar and typos. I added why it matters that he's a romantic father and confessed that he is in more then five posts. More confession? My bucket list is shorter because I got something better then a face-to-face space with him.

By the way, feel free to click on that email link when you find those errors in anything I write if you don't want to embarrass me in public comments. I love copy editors.

February 7, 2010

Part I: Ending the great escape.

I'm listening to my husband and letting you know I'm coming back from the "gone fishing" break I didn't plan to take.

At first, I believed I was merely taking a blog break. Lots of company there and each announcement of "no more blogging" bolstered the idea of just stopping this sharing of thoughts.

Yet it was not trendiness that drew me into this dumping of words in one place on the Internet.

And this lull of nothingness was not just a blog break. Instead, it became a vacation from major parts of the Internet - from this blog, Google Reader, Twitter, Friendfeed, even email. Worse yet, not just some email but all mail accounts. Me, the woman who used to eagerly rush to remove all bold from the log in PINE or  erase a number next to the Facebook Inbox.

Why? Depression? Busyiness? Nothing left to say (stop laughing now. I was just getting used to the idea that I can speak up on ANYTHING anytime now that I've left a newspaper career behind.)

Then I wrote "I don't know why I escaped from all that" in the first draft and knew my answer.

Tough, tough, tough

This transparency stuff is tough. This interactive stuff is tough. This writing stuff is (still) tough.

I make it harder on myself. For example, knowing some come here only for more on Advance Publications - Newhouse newspapers - Booth - etc. - I strive to keep up with it all, to share it all fairly. I make myself email or call the head honchos for their sides. I try to ensure I don't accidentally reveal what I should not know because someone posted an opinion in Facebook or Twitter or ... I try to protect those who share information - ensuring I've looked at multiple buyout/layout letters before quoting one, that I have permission to use names.

I make that same effort on other subjects. Instead of writing about the absurdity of titles on one Girl Scout council's staff list, I go looking for a council doing it right. Miss Pollyanna Positive still.. Plus, I cannot believe that my opinion about Twitter or Facebook or social gaming can stand on its own and go looking for items to quote for backup.

It's a blog, you know

I know it is just a blog and that I could just write.This attribution thing, this protection thing - not expected by anyone in just a blog..

But I know that's a lie even as I write it - the blog is just the printing press; the material published through it still needs to meet the standards of accuracy, of fairness, of believability. Why? Because that is who I am, or at least who I strive to be - a person proud of the image staring back from the mirror. Even on the days I don't like the outward wrappings of me, I need to like what is me.

Yeah, I can't get rid of the idea of journalism ideals that must have been ingrained in me at birth even as my heart shatters over the dismantling of the news industry. I cannot say goodbye to one more friend whose dismissal from the business wears a costume of buyout or, worse yet, layoff. (Yeah, like those people will ever be hired back.)

No more journalism

This year, yes, 2010, is the year I have to wipe out the lifelong commitment to journalism. There is no chance of returning to the news business. There is no room for me in the established newspaper, online business, or journalism classroom for me.

I cannot continue to become excited when I see opportunities written with my name on them, when mail from a news organization comes here. The high is too soon followed by a drop.

Yet, really what else do I know but gathering stories and communicating. I crush  new-found friends with questions, not content to trade casual comments without knowing more. (Yes, Google and Bing are this addict's enablers.)

Belly fire quenched

I lost the fire in the belly to create a new organization, a new way of sharing news even as I envy the partnering of Jay Rosen and Dave Winer. Perhaps it is watching others start off so enthusiastically and then their flames slowly disappear, crushed by paperwork, regulations, and profit and loss statements. Perhaps it is the overwhelming number of blogs about journalism, grant-funded projects, and research that seem to produce nothing beyond words.

My dream slipped into a nightmare  ... Someone else can  pull to together the diversity of information and chunk it for busy news professionals, to convert the academic-ese into day-to-day newsroom English, to translate the hottest finds from the geeks, the early adopters into usable, understandable tools for journalists who duck math with pride.

Or perhaps it is more personal, a fatigue I should expect because of the effort spent on my daughter's battle against cancer, health insurance and life. There's more. And there's that multiple sclerosis thing that seems determined to make walking and seeing a challenge now that I have time for both.

So I escaped. From the blog. From the blogs. From the Tweets. From you. All of you.

Updated with links, correct names and better spelling and grammar 2/8/10  11 a.m.