Thursday, July 19, 2007

Clarification, apology and a side of crow

This will be my third post related to the NPR story that ran, July 3rd, on the depressed mill town of Skowhegan, Maine. The feature, produced by reporter Adam Davidson, portrayed Skowhegan in a light that I characterized as overly negative.

In my analysis and then, the posting of a letter I wrote, I took some "pot shots" at Davidson that were unfair and unprofessional. He's a journalist and he came to Skowhegan in search of a story. He left with what he fairly, or unfairly felt were the issues he discovered on the ground.

Mr. Davidson earned my respect by emailing me and offering me additional perspective. He didn't have to do this and I commend him for taking the time to do so; in my own email back to him, I explained my own thoughts/feelings, as well as apologizing for my personal attack upon him as a journalist. Without sharing all the details, let me say that here are a few points that need to be made, before putting this to bed (which, seeing it's nearing 2 am, might be something I ought to consider doing with my own sorry self).

1) Mr. Davidson didn't do a "drive by" story, as I insinuated, but was on the ground in the Skowhegan area for four days. Apparently that's more than the usual time spent by NPR reporters, which begs the question, "how can you fully understand cultural issues germane to a story like his, without spending even more time than that, talking with locals and actually beginning to crack the cultural code of rural places?"

2) He felt some of his subjects, particularly Mary Jane Clifford, the town's General Assistance director, were articulate spokespeople for the town. I still disagree and think she came across as one-dimensional, but that's my opinion.

3) Mr. Davidson's job is not to write puff pieces, but to tell the truth. I agree with that, I just think a bit more balance on the more "positive" side, like including something about a business that's chosen to locate to Skowhegan, like Backyard Farms, would have helped to at least leave a listener with something positive to "hang their hat on."

Blogging tends to be imperfect in the sense that it allows someone who processes by writing, to spew and issue pronouncements and occasionally treat people with less respect than is fair, which is what I did in the case of Mr. Davidson.

I've responded to Davidson with my own email and promise to try to use Words Matter less as my own personal launch pad and more as a place to disseminate information, albeit uniquely informed with my own thoughts, opinions and yes, biases.

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