Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another wagon joins the circle.

Couldn't resist.

This is so much fun to watch. Not the hapless homeowner, but the spin of the TU, Madeo, and his BFFs.

jt: I agree with you 100%.

JES: I resent the generalization that those who disagree are writing under cowardly aliases and that those of us who question the TU's role are stupid. Why was Madeo's kid outed in the TU? Why was this front page news? Who is the "Delmar tipster?" I'll bet it is Madeo. Why did he lawyer up anyway? His kid has not been charged, isn't the district attorney's office enough? Seems to me the TU had a major role in the spin. Shame on Rob Madeo, and shame on you and Kevin Marshall for defending him. Yeah, I get it. He's your friend. Tough. All of you write under the TU masthead and so open yourselves up for scrutiny. You chose to write here. You could have stayed in your own little corner. If you are sure you don’t want to spend your free time writing for this audience then why do it?



I’m not suggesting that there is some sort of concerted effort of TU bloggers to have a conspiracy. However, I think it is silly to just blow off this discussion entirely. There are several things that disturb me about the TU’s, and various “volunteer” bloggers, spin.

-commenters are chastized for things Madeo is proud of in his online persona (anonymous posting, personal attacks)
-sweeping generalizations and lumping together dissenters, anonymous commenters and the truly abusive
-lack of reflection on Times Union role (this is not only true for this story, but often in the TU, and I see nothing but denial and justification whenever the editor addresses it)
-lack of real reflection on motivation for posting (research demontrates that we are more likely to stereotype people unlike us, people we do not know, versus cut slack for those that are like us, and that we know)

1) “Re: The cowardice of anonymous comments: I stand by that. Whatever I say in public, I say under my own name, so I have to take ownership of it…But most of the comments that I read that made my soul hurt were anonymous ones . . . from people who would never speak that way if they were forced to use their real names.”

Actually I agree with you on many of the anonymous comments on TU blogs generally, not just in this viral story. Look at comments on just a couple, the Animal Rights blog or the Tea Party blog, for instance. I imagine there are some that are even worse that do not make it through the moderator’s filter.

However, the reactions of you, Kevin Marshall, and Michael Huber in making generalizations about aliases in an effort to demonize the other side is unfair. Not all dissenters are anonymous, and not all the anonymous vitriol is directed toward Madeo. It also seems disengenuous – if you are so dismayed by the vitriol (who isn’t?), the huge interest in the incident and the dissent from the presented narrative, why was the story on the front page of the print edition for three days, highlighted on the website for days (still is), and the subject of today’s editorial? Why so much posting on it from the bloggers?

2) “Re: Me being protective of Rob Madeo because he’s my friend: I think the total time that we’ve spent speaking to each other in the “real world” runs to about, maybe, 10 minutes…Plus, whatever I felt I need to say to or about Rob, I would say to him directly, in private. Our whole lives don’t have to be lived online, folks…”

Frankly, I don’t care whether you are friends, but I asserted that you were because I could think of no other reason why you would defend him so stridently or be upset by the commentary this has generated. His online persona has not inspired any confidence that he merits loyalty. (You later mentioned that your wife is a lawyer, and that explains it. You are not as repelled as I am by our litigious society. Think it is OK to sue a relative when you hurt yourself at their house, etc.) I guess there must be opportunities to add to that 10 minutes of FTF time between you, since you mention saying something directly to him in private and not living our whole lives online?

3) Re: ggiuliano’s “All of you write under the TU masthead and so open yourselves up for scrutiny.” I do open myself up for scrutiny . . . I live and work in the public domain, both as a paid writer (not for the Times Union), a volunteer blogger, and as an employee at my day job. I work for a nonprofit corporation . . . you can easily go online and find my salary, benefits, all sorts of other stuff. Google my name and you’ll pages and pages and pages of hits about me, because I use my own name online. I don’t really know what additional “scrutiny” you wish me or others to undergo. If I were involved in a controversial community issue, I have no doubt that the TU editorial staff would go after me just as they went after both parties in this case. I hope that never happens…to me OR to you…”

The same is true for me. I am not anonymous online, nor have I ever been. I don’t write things on the internet that I would not say in person. I am not suggesting you should or that I want you to undergo scrutiny. I am saying that you have to be realistic that you will undergo greater scrutiny by writing under the TU’s masthead. That is part of the tradeoff. You must have agreed to blog here for a reason, I assume to get more readers? With readers comes pushback, debate, and opening yourself up to more scrutiny and speculation. This is one reason why some prefer aliases, and even popular bloggers have tried to conceal identity. They want to say things that may have repercussions if they were identified. Rob Madeo tried to do this with Albany Eye. Was he a coward? He wrote a lot of personal attacks about the on air talent of competing networks. Was that unethical? It certainly backfired on him eventually. Why is no commentary offered about that when the viral commenters are ridiculed?

When you were in your own little corner, you could probably write pretty much anything you wanted without worrying about getting a ton of disagreement among commenters. Comments that were rude but would still be acceptable in the TU blog world could be deleted, and the offending commenter would go away and not upset your mom when she read your blog. This is true for me. My identity is not a secret, and I could be scrutinized and called out, but that rarely happens because I am in my own little corner, one step above the paper journal I kept for years before moving to the electronic world.

I am a little uncomfortable with this: If I were involved in a controversial community issue, I have no doubt that the TU editorial staff would go after me just as they went after both parties in this case. I hope that never happens…to me OR to you…”

First, because I am still wondering if the TU unwillingly outed Madeo? Next, because they have not gone after him with nearly the same fervor as the homeowner. And third, certainly I agree that the TU would go after me if I was involved in a controversy. But you wording (all caps OR) makes it sounds like a threat? I assume that wasn’t your intention.

4) Re: ggiuliano’s “If you are sure you don’t want to spend your free time writing for this audience then why do it?” That’s exactly the question that I was asking myself, in public, under my own name, putting it for public scrutiny…”

Well, it is a good question. I can see why this more public forum could be less enjoyable than the little corner. Words have power, and a thick skin is necessary to protect sanity. I’m not sure why you repeat this to me, though. I am not anonymous, nor have I ever been.

I think I touched a nerve (I often do when I jump in, which is why I rarely jump in):

JES: I’m just asking questions and seeing where it takes me. If you don’t like the insinuation, that’s OK. I am not implying it is as orchestrated or top down as you seem to think I do. But I think there are still questions to be asked. I don’t know you (aside from this blog), your wife or your mom. Your mom I mentioned because I would delete insulting comments on my blog that might offend mine. I think that was clear in my next sentence which you didn’t quote. I know the thing about lawyers is touchy, and I apologise for offending you. I added it because you said you hated the phrase “lawyering up” which I used (and I believe it is perfect for this situation). To me it just illustrates a different world view of ethics, morality, law etc. than the one I hold. The example I gave may not capture your feelings at all.

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