Read the headline again…
You know that. Crabby Old Lady knows that. Now, when will the press catch up?
Even this late in the game, blogs are still dismissed as nothing more than teenage angst diaries, but there are thousands – well, probably millions worldwide – written by and for adults who are contributing thoughtful commentary and expertise on any topic you can imagine. And the number of non-bloggers who seek out blogs for information they want or need is growing dramatically.
Perhaps this week’s ignorant reporter, who writes for STLToday (the online home of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), thinks he is being humorous when he accuses St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay of being too old to blog:
“The mayor has a blog?
“That's not smart. It's one thing to want to seem young, hip and connected, but there must be better ways of doing it. Wear a baseball cap backward. Start calling your friends your posse. See if Nelly will let you have a part in his next video. But a blog?”
- stltoday.com, 14 July 2006
That was columnist Bill McClellan’s uninformed, cutesy-poo lede to a story that is of crisis proportion in
his own town and in most big cities in the U.S. – failing public education systems. Crabby Old Lady was alerted to McClellan’s column by Liz Ditz of I Speak of Dreams. Liz frequently blogs about education issues and the story in St. Louis is an old one.
- The school system is in shambles
- The kids are not learning
- The mayor tries something new
- The school board doesn’t like it
- All sides accuse the others of being either imbeciles or criminals
- Some officials are fired
- The school system is still in shambles
- The kids are still not learning
This failure is so common throughout urban America that it’s hard to rouse ourselves to notice. But the story in St. Louis caught Liz’s attention, and then Crabby’s, when columnist McCLellan blamed the mayor’s blog for the city education contretemps.
School board members, according to McClellan, don’t like the mayor’s blog any more than he does but at least it's the content, not the blog itself, they object to. They think the mayor is being petty and unfair. But as McClellan explains, he prefers their old-fashioned method of hiding their slurs behind a reporter (him) than the mayor’s straight-to-the-people approach:
“Why has the mayor overlooked the historical role of the press? In previous administrations, we've served as a filter. If a mayor wants to launch an attack on an enemy, he slips the information to one of us. Our standards are not high. We use anything we can. So if the stuff passes muster with us - it's petty, but not real, real, real petty; unfair, but not real, real, real unfair - we use it, and the target is upset with us, rather than with the mayor.”
In an era during which the press has so shamefully abdicated its “historical role” as watchdog of the powerful, Crabby can’t find anything funny in what is, apparently, meant to be a humorous paragraph. And in many cases, it is adult blogs that are doing the press’s job while McClellan fishes around for a bad joke with which to end his column:
“Exactly why the mayor taunts the new board is beyond me. I guess that's what a guy does when he has a blog. We'd be better off if he'd just wear his cap backward.”
Here’s what Crabby Old Lady thinks: More (blog) power to the mayor of St. Louis. And may other mayors follow his lead. He appears, from his blog, to be – especially for a politician – a forthright sort of fellow with a wry sense of humor [emphases are Crabby’s]:
“The strategy I proposed includes more jobs, social services, education and help for children leading troubled lives. Getting there requires the several important legislative and budgetary changes. Some of it has happened.”
“Given the mixed directions, the results were inevitable: administrative chaos, no budget agreement, dramatically lowered enrollment projections, and – now - questions about whether schools can even open on time in the Fall. This is not better.”
“Another good – and probably inevitable – example is the growth in personal fitness studios and gyms downtown to counterbalance all those restaurants, gelato shops, cooking lessons.”
One important element missing from Mayor Slay’s blog is a comments section. Although Crabby doesn’t personally believe a website is legitimately a blog without comments, she can well understand, given the cutthroat partisanship of politics in BushAmerica, why the mayor of a major city might not want – nor have the time – to counter the inevitable foul responses that would be left by those who disagree with him.
But if Mayor Slay asked, Crabby’s advice would be to turn on comments for awhile. Unless the trolls take over completely, it can’t do anything but good for a politician to take his licks and as Time Goes By proves here day in and day out, the conversation among commenters is always enlightening. They might even provide the mayor with some new ideas that could work.
As to columnist McClellan – by refusing to grasp the importance and impact of blogs on the media, politics and, Crabby suspects, on the future of democracy itself, he proves himself to be as hopelessly out of touch as any reader could instantly glean from that baseball cap reference. Even Crabby Old lady knows that wearing them backwards hasn’t been cool for several years.