Friday, April 22, 2005

Agenda-based journalism

I’ve decided to inject some of my thoughts concerning a recent interview done in our local business paper, Mainebiz.

There is a writer, of whom I’m not particularly enamored with, who writes a regular column highlighting Maine businesses, particularly those of the micro-variety. Her overly cute prose reminds me of the type of writing done by high school yearbook staffs and college newspapers. With her far more prestigious pedigree of publications behind her name than mine, one could accuse me of revealing my sour grapes. While I won’t deny some frustration at the seemingly random selection of freelancers for publication by many editors, the issue is much bigger than simply my own issues with editors, however.

When a writer flaunts her skills and calls herself the “Marketing Angel”, then she invites critique when she betrays journalistic integrity by “grinding axes” and portraying an honest and hardworking entrepreneur unfairly. To come out of left field with her leading question painting Susan Price of ChezSuz in an unfavorable light seems rather snarky and smacks of agenda-based journalism. While I’m not opposed to it and practice my own version of the craft here and occasionally elsewhere, the difference is that people know what they’re in for when they come to my blogs. In her column in Mainebiz, the writer, Kimberly McCall leaves her readers with a portrait of ChezSuz that has no balance. A minimum amount of research by McCall would have revealed that Price uses American Apparel as her supplier because she wanted an American-made product, not one produced by sweatshop labor. She also donates part her proceeds to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Since McCall was keen on drawing attention to the supposed “trashy” quality of Price’s slogans, then she could have at least balanced her journalism with Price’s commitments to the cause of social justice and ethical business practices.

I’ve blogged about it over at JBIWFY, as this is an issue that pertains to Maine and the business scene in our state. Feel free to read the interview and come to your own conclusions.

In closing, I want to say I’m not a fan of Mainebiz for a variety of reasons, not the least of these being the current editor’s lack of commitment to hard-hitting, investigative articles on a number of subjects. Maine lacks a statewide publication addressing many issues that affect our state, particularly the business community and their role in many of the changes that are negatively impacting Maine and its quality of life. It would be nice if Mainebiz would step forward and tackle a few of these issues head on, rather than continuing to play into the PR machines of many of Maine’s larger employers and industries.

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