Monday, January 18, 2010

Jon Elliston Patiently Tries to Engage MX Readers in Conversation about Journalism

Several readers of the Mountain Xpress cover story "Tale of a Takedown" commented that it was a "non-story," a "straw-man" and "pseudo-journalism."  A few of them used a little name-calling, as frequently happens in the MountainX comment section: "hipsters who love to talk about themselves," "grandstanding take on censorship."

With his admirable patience and long-suffering willingness to try to engage readers in useful conversation, editor Jon Elliston asks his critics, "can you elaborate? it felt like real journalism when we were working on the story, and it still seems that way to me, for multiple reasons that i  can mention if you like."

How does Elliston find time to do his job, when he takes so much time and care (and good humor) with his replies?  And I'll take his use of a lower case "i" for the personal pronoun as a sign of his humble spirit.

I agreed with the essence of the complaints and perhaps was remiss in only quoting one of the complainers, instead of explaining why I thought the story was "slow news."

Without re-reading the piece in detail, I recall that it was about a dispute between MountainX and a political activist.  Some video got posted on YoutTube and then taken down.  The ultimate outcome?  It was a misunderstanding, there was an apology, the video was restored.  No harm, no foul.  No news.

Here's why I think it was an odd piece for MountainX to devote two reporters and its cover to.  I didn't see a real news hook. It happened back in November.  It only affected MountainX.  Did the general public need all that detail?  Maybe one of those "The Buzz" briefs.  Or a little note from the publisher about MX's vigilance.

Do newspapers often make themselves the subject of extended reporting?  Well, maybe if it's the Pentagon Papers or Jayson Blair or Judith Miller.

If MountainX's tug-of-war with YouTube was the hook to investigate what it called "Flexing Your Digital Rights," make that the story and not relegate it to a sidebar.  (Does anyone have a "right" to have something posted on YouTube?)  Has there been a rash of YouTube takedowns among MountainX readers?  Is YouTube the only offender?  Have other political activists in WNC made efforts to delete Web posts they object to?

Elliston said he can mention some of the reasons it felt like real journalism, if we'd like.  Would we?

1 comment:

  1. I don't think the article was a cover story but interesting given that the Action Club/Tea Party has called for the media to report all views. See my post at