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Let’s talk about journalism

Journalists never mess up.
OK, sometimes they mess up. Let’s talk about one obvious mess-up and something that just looks like a mess-up.

Onesome. This was absolutely hilarious. You know the satire paper The Onion, right? Often funny, usually crude, always irreverent? Well, they ran this farce about Congress threatening to leave Washington unless it gets a retractable-roof stadium (the mockup looks all too familiar to St. Louisans), and, well, I guess some Chinese reporter believed it, because a word-for-word translation ran in the Beijing Evening News.

This is why my editors always said we should check our sources… I think they also said plagiarism was bad, but I guess some people have decided that on the Internet there’s no such thing as plagiarism.

I’m sure the folks at The Onion are too busy laughing to do anything about it. It’s so funny, I know I’d let it slide.

Twosome. Who needs focus? Charlie talked about a complaint he got that someone was posting “irrelevant material” on his Weblog. To which I would argue this: I’m not a very apocolyptic kind of guy. I think the end of the world is going to happen when it’s going to happen, and I’m supposed to be ready for it to happen at any instant and not waste any time thinking about when it’s going to happen and trying to predict the mind of God. A few thousand people tried to predict the mind of God about 2,000 years ago and they got it awfully wrong and missed out on a lot of stuff as a result.

Current events in the Middle East concern me for one reason, and for one reason only: If the end isn’t near, then the end is going to be a whole lot worse than this, so we need to be reaching out to our brothers and sisters like there’s no tomorrow now. Not next month. Not next week. Not even tomorrow. Now. To me, current events in the Middle East serve as a good reminder of that. And I need those kinds of reminders because I’m the second-biggest introvert I’ve ever met. Well, maybe the third.

And I want to share an observation from my logs. No, I’m not going to tell you what people are looking at before they come here. You really don’t want to know. I wish I didn’t know. I think lack of focus on a Weblog is a very good thing. People come here because they were looking for weird information. Sometimes people are looking for the maximum safe operating temperature of a Celeron (85 degrees Celsius) or information on the band Joy Division (lead singer Ian Curtis died May 18, 1980 and is buried in Macclesfield, England, near Manchester; the surviving members’ names are Barney Sumner, Stephen Morris and Peter Hook, yes, they took too many drugs and no, they weren’t Nazis) or a good place to get ice cream in St. Louis (Crown Candy Kitchen, on St. Louis Ave. in north St. Louis, a mile or two west of I-70).

This is supposed to be a technical blog, based on the name. Originally it was mostly Windows information, with some Mac info tossed in, due to my job duties at the time. There’s a lot more Linux now than there was in 1999, because my job duties have changed pretty radically.

Two years ago when a friend challenged me to put some Christian content here, that was what I told him. He asked me who I was afraid of alienating, and I think he even went so far as to ask me what my god was if I wasn’t willing to talk about God in a public forum. The truth was, even then I was talking about non-technical things on occasion. I had no qualms about talking about singer/songwriter Aimee Mann, as I recall. So now I mention Jesus on occasion.

I’ve found that people are more likely to find you if you veer off topic every once in a while. And the more radically you veer off topic, perhaps the more likely people are to find you. Maybe they’ll like what they see, check out what else you’ve got, and stay around, and you’ve gained a reader you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Focus is good if you’re running a magazine. But in New Media, the rules are a little bit different. That’s part of what makes it more fun, but that’s just my opinion.

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