Dog me, flog me, but please don’t blog me!

| 21/05/2010

It’s great that Cayman’s news media is evolving into something resembling modern journalism—thanks mostly to Cayman News Service. But it’s all happening so fast that many people are not yet up to speed on the terminology. Is there anything sadder than someone screaming about a topic they don’t understand? Read on and learn how to make sure you never sound like an idiot.

I humbly offer this review of terms in order to help prevent more embarrassing vocabulary stumbles like the one Premier McKeeva Bush suffered through last week when he launched his now infamous attack on free speech, freedom of the press, and Freedom of Information. While the focus rightly has been on his backward ideas about free speech and journalism, it is also important to point out that he does not seem to understand the differences between basic forms of published writing. And he is not alone.

This viewpoint is not a reaction to the substance of Premier Bush’s outrageous temper tantrum. I’ll leave that to others because it’s also important to pay attention to the widespread misuse and misunderstanding of terms when talking about journalism. It’s crucial that everybody speaks the same language before theybegin arguing. If we are debating the proper writing styles of journalists, but you are referring to editorials and I am referring to hard news stories, we will never get anywhere. This is a common problem in Cayman. Hardly a day goes by without one or more callers—and often the hosts—of local radio talk shows incorrectly applying the terms “blog”, “editorial”, “commentary”, “news article”, etc.

This matters because it confuses things and it’s also laughable to informed people when someone rants on and on about a newspaper’s editorial being biased in favor of one view. Uh… that’s the point of the editorial. It’s supposed to be a reasoned persuasive argument in favor of a specific position.

Another mistake repeated constantly in Cayman is mistaking comments posted on a news web site for “blogs”. A blog is a Web page or pages set up by an individual for the purpose of writing about whatever it is he or she want to write about. Cayman News Service is not a blog. It is a news Web site. The user comments posted at the end of news articles and viewpoints are not blogs. They are simply “comments”. When Premier Bush’s head was on the verge of exploding as he railed against the “the bloggers” and threatened economic terror against them, Ms Nicky Watson and Cayman News Service should have said, “Okay, whatever, we’re not a blog. He ain’t talking to us.”

People in Cayman are forever confusing “commentaries”, “editorials” and “viewpoints” with news articles. Unlike news articles, “commentaries”, “editorials” and “viewpoints” are never meant to be objective and unbiased. They are by definition slanted and biased. The authors of those forms of writing are taking a stand on one side of an issue. They are not supposed to be objective. (Unless, of course, the writer is a spineless worm and spends a few hundred words never making a point or arguing for anything. These space-wasters have traditionally been common here, sadly.)

News articles are supposed to be objective and unbiased. Few are, however. It is difficult to keep bias out of news because biased people are the ones who write them. But any good reporter will at least try very hard to produce work that comes close to being objective. Simply showing up or not showing up at a press conference is a form of bias, for example (you are important enough to listen to—or not). Attacking obvious slants in a hard news story is reasonable and an important duty for all of us. Getting all worked up over the presence of opinion in a CNS viewpoint is not just wrong, it’s embarrassing. Don’t do it.

It may surprise some readers, but I believe Premier Bush ought to be forgiven for not knowing what a blog is. He has more important things to worry about, such as running our country and figuring out which in-flight movie he is going to watch next. Besides, it’s common for politicians to be utterly clueless when it comes to the Internet. For example, US Senator John McCain reportedly has never sent an email in his life. And former president George W. Bush famously said while in office that he likes to “use the Google on the Internets”. Oy vey…

But the rest of us have no excuse. We live in the real world and can’t afford to sound like idiots if we hope to be taken seriously. If you want to defend—or attack—free speech, freedom of the press, and the wonderful wilderness that is the Internet, go for it, but at least know some of the basic terms before you open your mouth.

 

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Category: Viewpoint

Comments (6)

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  1. Hmmmm says:

    Cayman Conscience, you made an important clarification, thanks.

     

  2. Anonymous says:

     I think, in the words of George W Bush, our Premier Bush has "seriously misunderestimated" the media and the comments that the news articles generate.  Keep up the good work CNS.  

  3. Shock and Awe says:

    You’re a cunning linguist, but you forgot to mention discourse.  What about good ‘ol fashioned discourse?  I look at all of these comments more along the lines of an open-ended conversation which we allow all comers to take part in.  But what we’re REALLY doing much of the time is speaking to our government.  Or hoping to.  And, I think the government sneakily listens but at the same time likes to pretend it doesn’t.  The attitude seems to be we’re not official enough because this is the internet and all kinds of weird things happen on the internet.  Or because they listened once, or pretended to, and people voted and they won. So that’s it game over they don’t have to pretend to listen anymore. But CC this could be such a wonderful tool for democracy don’t you tink? And, as Nicky pointed out, why doesn’t the Premier have a website?  I mean if he wants to be our representative wouldn’t it be a good idea? You see, the days of PRONOUNCEMENTS….capital letters are over.  Finito.  Politicians haven’t gotten wise to that yet.  They still harbor this strange attitude that we should speak only when spoken to and in the meantime we should just shuddup and allow them to continue guessing.  Our next opportunity to speak or pretend to be listened to as far as they’re concerned is three years off.  Oh, but they’re wrong, because things in this world change fast.  Now we have instant access to news and events and others’ opinions and if they want to be leaders, they should at least keep up with the people they’re leading.  They could do that here on CNS…..and use it to gather opinions and… as another tool towards decisions and open government.  But they’d rather pretend not to be listening until we’re allowed to speak.  But we’re not asking!

  4. Anonymous says:

    the apt comparisons of our beloved Premier to Bushy and Cheney are sadly just that…apt.

    • Hallowe'en Jack says:

      How can you say that? Cheney was a demented power-maniac who sought to push forward personal corporate agendas on the sly without any regard for the proper functioning of transparent democracy.  Mac on the other hand is  . . . . .