Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Uptown Update's Unjournalism

Chicago - It is staggering to see this kind of frantic speculation, gossip and innuendo pass for "reporting," much less journalism. Let's keep this simple and leave the world "journalism" out. Let's just talk about reporting, something that a popular blog called "Uptown Update" has always had a difficult time with. The anonymous bloggers (I know who they are) are good, I admit, at little posts about laundromat grand openings and free adverts for restaurants and cupcake shops. Yes, by technicality that's "reporting." When it comes to reporting about "newsy" items, however, Uptown Update fails miserably. I know for a fact that the "UU" bloggers rarely visit the scene of a news story in their own neighborhood. Rather, for the vast majority of what they pass as "news reports," UU relies almost soley on frantically written, breathless emails and text messages from readers. Those "reports" are very often written by someone who "just passed by" an event and is - often by admission - guessing at what was going on. A sadly typical example of UU's brand of "reporting" was posted just last Friday, Sept. 24, 2010. It involved a large group of cheerful, happy people marching through the streets of Uptown, cheering each other loudly and holding U.S. flags. A Tea Party rally, perhaps? Most people of average curiosity would have asked these obviously friendly people what they were up to, as I did. I bring this up now because several people in the neighborhood have asked me about "the Tea Party rally in Uptown last Friday." The first time I was asked, I laughed and said there was no such rally in Uptown. Ever. I was told they read about it on Uptown Update. The second and third times I heard about it, however, I was irked by the inaccuracy of UU's "reporting" and by the misinformation that UU habitually disseminates. I happened to witness this mystifying march myself. While walking along N. Sheridan Avenue last Friday morning, I saw the group of about 100 people a block away. As an active Tea Partier myself, I knew that there were no Tea Party rallies scheduled in Uptown. I followed the happy group for half a block as they turned west onto W. Lawrence. I asked one guy in the group, a middle aged man, what they were up to. He explained that they were having a combination birthday and retirement celebration for the founder of their group. I don't remember the name of the group or of the retired birthday boy. I do remember the middle aged guy telling me that the founder was "a great mentor" for everyone in the group. No, not a cult thing, nothing weird, just inspirational financial and lifestyle mentoring. Not a Tea Party, not a political march per se, despite the handful of pro-caplitalism political signs. Remember, these folks were celebrating their mentor, a man who has helped them become financially successful. Given that, they would naturally also celebrate capitalism, the system that made their financial successes possible. Enter Uptown Update. Or, rather, insert speculative gossip via email courtesy of Uptown Update. Their Sept. 24 "report," with no byline, was titled "Rally Reason?" The "report" starts with two quick admissions of ignorance. First, the anonymous person who posted the "report" wrote, "We had several readers write in asking about this rally near the Aragon this morning." That's all they wrote, too. Then, the first reader quoted by UU said this (excerpts): "Does anyone know what the rally at the Lawrence L stop was about today? I was caught in the middle of it and honestly have no clue what it was about." Let's pause for a moment. This dolt was "caught in the middle of it," yet has "no clue" what it was? We must assume that the reader wondered what was happening while "caught in the middle" of the walking celebration, yet his/her confession of not knowing is proof that he/she did not bother to ask any of the participants. In the reader's fourth paragraph, he/she wrote this: The attendees seemed to be enthusiastic, but I couldn't decipher what about. Common calls were "Freedom is free" and "Freedom train." The most common sign I saw claimed "Jobs suck." There were a great deal of video cameras filming the entire debacle. Again the reader admits that he/she could not "decipher" what the march was about. Had he/she taken 30 seconds to ask and hear a quick explanation, he/she would know that "Freedom is free" and the other slogans are about financial independence. Instead, what we were handed was a long admission of timidity and deliberate ignorance of that in which the reader was "caught in the middle." The reader ended with this (emphasis added): I just wanted to get to work and they were in the way for absolutely no reason I can decipher. Since I was in no mood for any of it (remember, not a morning person), I turned up my headphones and managed not to make snide comments to these obviously enthusiastic people. A rally is fine, I suppose, but would it hurt them to make their purpose manifest to passers by?" The reader not only over used the word "decipher," he/she made zero attempt to do so. In a seeming contradiction, he/she was in "no mood for any of it," yet he/she was interested enough to note several slogans and other details while observing them closely for at least several minutes. Not only did he/she not ask any of them for an explanation, he/she then deliberately ensured further ignorance by turning up his/her headphones to shut out information. Then, with astonishing hypocrisy, the reader asked "would it hurt them to make their purpose manifest to passers by?" Well, as I noted above, they were all very happy to explain it to anyone who asked. That's sad, but even sadder is another commenter, a fool named "Stu." Here's what Stu wrote, in part (my emphasis added): When asked what it was about everyone who was carrying signs that said "Stop Socialism" "Freedom" "Be an Entrepeneur" "America" said their "friend" who was a corporate recruiter who worked on in building on Sheridan road between Lawrence and Leland had retired at age 26. He was making 9,000 dollars a month...that's 108,000 at dollars a year! This was a tea party and the people were like zombies, goofy, lots of Wisconsin liscence plates....a right wing rally in Uptown. The crowd was diverse and therefore, no doubt Churchy. I told them this was Uptown and to get their right wing asses out of here...that's how I feel anyway. They lied about what they were doing. that's what I found so strange. The story of the 26 year old makes no sense at all...it was just a cover to prevent people from getting angry at them. Stu, apparently, is one of the many, many overly medicated patients warehoused in Uptown who are allowed to stagger through the streets unattended, drooling on himself and regretting all day long that he forgot his tinfoil hat back at the nursing home. I think Stu got the age of the retiring birthday boy wrong, but we'll let that pass. Stu's comment is so wrought with inaccuracies and paranoia, however, that I cannot resist deconstructing it: "This was a tea party and the people were like zombies, goofy, lots of Wisconsin liscence [sic] plates," wrote Stu. No, it was NOT a Tea Party, as I explained. Believe me, a Tea Party would not have happened in Uptown without my knowing about it. As for being like "zombies, goofy," I saw no evidence of zombiness. Some of the folks were acting a bit goofy, but in that fun way that we all get when we're in a celebratory mood and with a big crowd of likeminded celebrants. I have no idea where Stu saw "lots of Wisconsin liscence [sic] plates," because this was a march on foot. It was not a car parade, nor was it a "right wing rally." Stu wrote that "The crowd was diverse and therefore, no doubt Churchy," which only makes my brain hurt. A diverse crowd is necessarily "Churchy?" Huh? What? Does this mean, then, that a large gathering of atheists, which is ethnically diverse, would undoubtedly be "Churchy?" Ye gods, the liberal mind is amusing. Scary, as we see so often, but amusing. Brave Stu "told them this was Uptown and to get their right wing asses out of here," and seems convinced that "They lied about what they were doing." The were not lying and Stu has no proof that they were. But here's where Stu exposes himself as a hateful liberal: He told them to get their "right wing asses" out of liberal, tolerant, Left-leaning, "progressive," proud-to-be-diverse Uptown. See, that's how it works for liberals. They love everybody, as long as those they love have exactly the same political beliefs and suffer the same symptoms of over-medication. Uptown Update never did answer it's own question, posed in their single sentence introduction to a diatribe of mostly-guesswork comments: ""We had several readers write in asking about this rally near the Aragon this morning." The conflicting opinions, suspicions, and paranoia within the response to UU's pitiful non-attempt to get to the bottom of the mysterious non-Tea Party event only led to more questions and confusion, providing no authoritative information. Uptown Update normally operates this way, and in this way provides a great disservice to all who read it. And this is what passes for "reporting" at Uptown Update. Good job, UU, you manage daily to show us all how not to do it, and why so many people still don't trust the Internet for news. Do us all a favor and stick to your little reports about chocolate mints and free cake. Oh, and stop using graphics from all over the web without attribution or links to their sources. I mean, you have a professional graphic artist on your staff, don't you?

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