Tuesday, September 14, 2010

hopefully this bridge is made of something nonflammable

According to the dictionary, a critic is "one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty or technique." The dictionary also says a critic is "one given to harsh or captious judgment." While I usually adhere only to the latter definition (because it's way more fun), today I'm going to try to channel some of the former, as well. Why? Because the outlet on which I'm about to express my reasoned, albeit harsh opinion has been very kind to me since it launched earlier this summer. Yes, I'm talking about TBD.com, and more specifically, some of its coverage of the mayoral election. I just don't like it. I think some of it's been largely irrelevant and, most excruciatingly for me, some of it's just been a little too precious.

Oh man...I really hope they're not mad at me. See, I'm a member of TBD's community network of blogs, and really, this blog has benefited a great deal from that. Not only have the people at TBD been lovely enough to spotlight several Anti DC posts, thus boosting its overall traffic, but I suspect I have TBD to thank for allowing this blog to expose itself (full frontal) to some of the subjects about which it writes. Both the Washington Post's Gene Weingarten and notorious Tea Party Safe Zone mapper Bruce Majors have left comments here. And then, of course, there were all those race-baiting Glenn Beck cult members who came over thanks to TBD's links, providing me with endless laughs and hilariously misworded death threats. (Grammatically incorrect hate comments are like Pulitzer prizes for bloggers.) In short, TBD has been a boon for this blog.

Yet, still I choose now to bite (although I think it's more of a nibble) the e-hand that RSS feeds. And sure, while this is probably not the smartest move I could make, I have to do what's right -- I must critique. I'm sorry, TBD, but really, what do you expect to happen when you post 1,300 words on Fenty's future employment opportunities or, apparemtly, lack thereof? A captious critique is really the only reasonable judgment here. TBD wonders:

"It’s been a while since Fenty, who has never lost an elected office he has sought, was a private citizen in need of a job. So, who will hire Adrian Fenty -- the man who became the youngest mayor of D.C. ever at 35 and would leave office at 40?"

Uh...really? Is TBD really concerned that Fenty, a man who's provided millions of dollars to several influential friends and people who own private sector companies, a man who has a law degree, a man who (nevermind if he wins or loses today) managed to become mayor at age 35 of what may be the weirdest, most challenging city in all of America, won't be able to make a living? I really hope I'm misinterpreting the purpose of this article and that there's some larger diabolically genius plan behind it's posting, like, it's filled with subliminal messages or something that make me want to vote for a certain candidate. In fact, I'll rescind my entire critique if TBD can just tell me right now that the whole thing was the work of Kang.

And while I wish that were true (Kang 2010!), judging from some of TBD's other mayoral coverage, I'm guessing they posted that article not for Kang, but because they thought it would generate a lot of traffic to their site. If that, indeed, was their goal, then I guess they deserve more kudos than slams because I'm sure it worked. Hell, not only did I click on it, but I'm now linking to it and devoting almost an entire blog post to it. Congratulations?

But notice how I said "almost an entire blog post." See, there's one more article I must mention in my hesitant, albeit necessary critique of TBD's election coverage: todays article, "Fenty, Kwame Brown win big in blogger straw poll." Oh boy... TBD writes:

"It all started with an informal discussion on Twitter: what if a bunch of bloggers got together for an informal straw poll for the upcoming primary election in D.C.?

We decided to do it. With Community Network bloggers in all eight wards and other likely participants spread across the city, it was unlikely that we'd be able to get everyone to the same place to facilitate a live vote. So the solution to all distance issues, the Internet, stepped in to lend a hand."

All right, I'm going to try to be nice here since I'm hoping not to burn a bridge today, as much as I hope simply to warm it up a little. Honestly, I just don't see the point of this poll. First of all, anything really worth discussing would not go down on Twitter. Really, let's take a step back from this circle jerk some area bloggers have apparently informally created on Twitter and compare it to the real world: Unless you're a blogger like Andrew Sullivan (i.e., someone people have actually heard of) no one really cares what you think. Trust me, I know this from personal experience and, until I snag that elusive book deal for my hilarious David Sedaris-esque bundle of personal memoirs (I have a really good story about that time I inspected enema tips, while working in the plastics factory when I was 18), I'll probably remain in the fringe. Hell, sometimes I still have to convince myself to care about what I think. (For example, to this day, I still don't care about what I think about the girth and length of enema tips.)

And then there's the issue of relevance. Even if people cared about what local bloggers thought about politics, conducting the poll with only about 20 respondents (full disclosure: I was not one of them) is decidedly just ridiculous.

Listen, I've had ideas that didn't work out as I had imagined, too. In fact, not so long ago, I put together a video that had me traipsing around town "in character" trying to "act." I put those words in quotation marks because when it came time to edit the project, I realized I had failed to do either legitimately under the constraints I was within. While I knew I had the ability to make something great, the time and equipment I had to work with just didn't allow it. The finished product was not anything like the original idea I had conceived and I'm glad I decided to shelve it.

And that's probably what should've happened with this straw poll. It just didn't work out. It comes off as underdeveloped, a little laughable and just a little too goddamn precious. The only people really interested in it are probably the 20 participants.

Look, I don't mean to be a hater. I mean to be a helper. I think TBD has a lot to offer and I wouldn't have voluntarily decided to associate this blog with the site if I didn't believe it served a purpose. Sure, one of the purposes for me personally is because it boosts this blog's traffic, but I also see a greater purpose. TBD.com has the opportunity to fill a really big gap in local reporting in a truly innovative way. For instance, their election problem map is pretty damn awesome. So is this video timeline of the election so far. I want to see more features like that.

Which means TBD's in-house staff should probably stick within the framework of information rather than quirky, cutesy polls and irrelevant non-stories (seriously, I don't think Fenty will be lining up for unemployment anytime soon). Leave the fluffy, entertainment-only blog stuff to your Community Network. Hell, I post dumb sh*t all the time! You can link to me! In fact, here's some now. Look at these attractive people hand-dancing (via Whatevs.net)!


Lisa Rowan said...

Valid criticism, and no danger for the bridge! Yeah, the poll was completely inconclusive, and not really an effective method of conveying any information for voters. (I will admit, it was fun to look at the results last night.) It will take us some time to fully realize how to best utilize the wealth of info we get from our bloggers. Until then, it'll be a little trial and error until we get it juuuust right.

Thanks for your thoughts, Marissa. We like having you around.

K.C. said...

I don't personally agree with your blog much of the time (but I still think you are brilliant!), but I will agree with this latest post. I really wanted TBD to be something great; instead its been disappointing. From terribly insulting headlines to "retweets" being posted as "news" (last time I checked, that was called "rumor"), TBD has been disappointing. I don't care what you feel, I care about what is FACT. And that has been lacking in TBD.

Still, it's a new concept, and still learning (both on the publishing and readership side. I recognize that blogging is not so much reporting as it is editorializing but still...). I hope that it grows into something better. And the only way to do that is to criticize and hope something good is learned from it.

Patty Duke said...

Oh! They're literally hand-dancing, instead of hand dancing
(DC swing). So you haven't gone totally DC.

Marissa said...


Thanks for commenting. I'm glad you understand criticism isn't just a bunch of insults, like so many people misinterpret (is that spelled right?) it as. That's exactly the reason why I like TBD -- it has an intelligent staff.


Fair enough. I think the world would be a sh*tty, horrendous place if everyone agreed all the time. Intelligent discussion is one of the things I value most, which is why I even have a comments section on this blog in the first place. Thanks for participating, despite our differences of opinion.


Oh no. Only literal hand-dancing is weird enough for this blog... :)