4-5-2009 The pesky mosquitoes of journalism

With history serving as my guide, this Web site is most likely set to go tits up.


I have three hit counters embedded into all of this madness, two of which are invisible to the visitors. The interesting thing is that they all report differing stats, and they always have. Not different like, a little different. Different like, a lot different. And for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll be going by the numbers reported by the visible counter.

A long time ago, my buddy Larry pointed out that every time the hit counter approaches a quarter million hits, something goes horribly wrong for Wilkes-Barre Online.

Some years ago, as we were closing in on that magic number, poof went the site due to a reader’s complaint to the host company. And a couple years later, as I threw my hands up in utter frustration with the new host’s building tools and abruptly switched hosts, you got it…we were a few hits short of a quarter million.

And now, as we zero in on that fateful number all over again, don’t be surprised if the entire thing goes tits up all over again. And before the plug gets ripped out again, remember, the comments and opinions on this site do not reflect those of the staff and management of Wilkes-Barre Online.

Er, scratch that.

Thanks to the e-mail inbox, I was made aware of a local blogger taking issue with something I recently wrote. Nothing wrong with that, mind you. He’s entitled to his turn.

As for the rest of you, see that tree way down there by the food mart? The one next to that boulder? Yeah, well, that’s where the end of the line begins. Talk to you later.

From the e-mail inbox Mark

Looks like you pissed off your buddy G-42. He wrote on a weekend__something he never does__and he used a quote from the llong lost Lou interview to take issue with your comments on how politurds don’t like bloggers.


Okay, let’s do this.

I said…

Now, back to Walter’s treatment at the hands of the anonymous cowards.

Unless I’m missing something, Walter Griffith is the only candidate that has engaged the local blogosphere as we march on towards May 19, when next we vote. Call it self-promotion and what have you. Call it whatever you like.

In my opinion, he’s been very forthright, honest, maybe even transparent. The very qualities we supposedly demand of the elected folk. And the net result of that is what? Let’s see here, he gets his name out there on the blogs, as he probably should. Oh, and then the anonymous sissies slithering around among us beat him up for it? And the authors of said blogs, eager to display their vast readership, go and allow all of that?

And still, you wonder aloud as to why blogs are anathema to the great majority of the elected, as well as almost all of the hopefuls?

And here’s the published response:

I sat down with Mayor Lou a few months ago…

His answer to Mark's question was interesting.

Why would you agree to be interviewed by a blogger who did everything he could to keep you from winning a congressional seat?

His Answer: Why not? You won't know what I'm about unless you get to know me.

So much for the contention that blogs are anathema to the great majority of the elected, as well as almost all of the hopefuls?


Well, I don’t know that’s he’s as much pissed off as he is fooling himself. Let us try this another way.

Are blogs not anathema to the great majority of the elected, as well as almost all of the hopefuls?

That is to say, are the great majority of the politicians and the people who hope to succeed them thrilled to have bloggers following their every move and hanging on their every word?

Not on your effing life! Get effing serious!

Oh, sure, in public they say glowing things about private citizens playing political journalists. Gee, it’s good for democracy, it adds another perspective to the ongoing debate, it’s another take on the issues, blah, blah, effing blah.

But get a couple of cocktails in them when they think no one is listening, and they’ll tell you what they really think. And if you can’t get an audience with them at the local saloon, then write something particular scathing about them on the paid-attention-to parts of the internet, and the truth about how they feel about citizens publishing their unvarnished opinions shall flow laced with profanities and not-so-veiled threats.

Then again, the retribution and suchlike only comes for those attaching a name to their words, something the great majority of polibloggers steadfastly refuse to do.

Look at it this way. The Democrats at the national level are talking about the reinstitution of the fairness doctrine as a way of silencing their abundant number of critics on talk radio. They politic against Rush Limbaugh as if he were an office holder himself. They constantly belittle the right-wing pundits with the highest profiles and the biggest audiences. And they spend almost every waken moment vilifying Fox News…a private enterprise. But, let me get this straight without busting a gut…they just love and encourage bloggers, no matter what their political stripe?

Wow! I hope you people drinking that purplish drink have one of them govmint jobs where the employees are not subjected to random drug testing like the people in the real world are. And, no, drinking a gallon of vinegar before a piss test will not save any of you. Well, not unless you’re looking to purge your stomach of it’s contents.

Politicians like and appreciate bloggers?

Yeah, and Rosie O’Donnell is practically see-through! Barry Bonds did not consume shakes filled with horse tranquilizers! And Barack Oblama is not a self-important egotist!

Politicians like bloggers like prostitutes like the vice squad!

There are obvious exceptions to every rule, and we need to clarify a couple of things about when these most unholy of unholy relationships do develop, albeit briefly.

First of all, the political hopefuls do readily appreciate the free publicity a blogger can provide during the run-up to an election. Yeah, they can and do use bloggers to help get their message out. Although, if the hopeful then knocks off the incumbent, then that blogger will be kept at arms length, if not forgotten altogether.

And then we’ve got the partisan thing at work.

For the most part, political bloggers are divided into two massive, spidering networks of interconnected sites. You have the democrat blog network, all linked together and appreciative of each others shots at the opposite camp. And then you have the republican blog network, all linked together and appreciative of each others shots at the opposite camp.

So, if, say, Congressman Kanjorski’s office were to send an e-mail in response to request for a response from a blogger, guess which network that would be allowed to be sent to. And guess which side it would never be sent to.

Why? Because the politicians will only engage those bloggers they know to be friendly. They only go where they know their words will be accepted as gospel. They go to where it’s safe. They go there, they swat those softballs into the woods, and then they baste in the boundless adulation that follows.

Open mouth, insert…

And how do you spot a friendly, sympathetic partisan blogger? That’s easy.

On a democrat-leaning sight, the author of said site will get the ball rolling by ripping one of those dastardly bastards from the opposite camp. And then, (pay close attention now) the author will sit back and allow a bunch of anonymous fools, fair or not, to tear that same member of the opposite camp a new asshole. Isn’t this fun? Isn’t this reaffirming?

Oh, but if a reader, anonymous or otherwise, dares to start this whole other thread wherein a favorite politician from the author’s camp were to be brutalized, then the dreaded blog “administrator” comes out of retirement and does one of two hopelessly partisan things: He either goes after that reader with a textual sledgehammer in the reader’s comments section. Or he deletes the offending comments from the opposite camp. Gone. Not permitted.

And, of course, the same game is played by those who owe their allegiance to that other dastardly camp.

It’s undeniable that career politicians do not like nor want too much scrutiny being paid to their backroom deals, campaign contributors, bribes, kickbacks, countless funds being diverted to their families and friends, or the unintended consequences of their mostly shortsighted legislative blunders.

And with newspapers suddenly going belly up from sea to sea, those career politicians will be on the receiving end of a lot less investigative journalism, i.e., scrutiny. Oh, and I’m sure they’re just saddened to death with all of that. More like, tickled to death.

So let’s recap this, shall we?

They, the politicians in the majority, seek to control talk radio. They vilify television news outfits they see as less than accepting of their agendas. They always offer a terse “no comment” when the investigative print journalists are hot on their trail, but…they like bloggers?

That’s patently absurd.

Put correctly, they tolerate bloggers. That is, for now. For now, they do. For now, while they’ve got bigger free speech issues to fry. But once those bigger fish are good and fried, after the constitution is easily mistaken for a long-faded block of Swiss cheese, they’ll surely get around to squelching free speech on the internet as well.

Bloggers? In the eyes of your average, self-important career politician, bloggers are like reporters, only far worse and far less predictable. That’s what they won’t be honest about. That’s what they won’t tell you.

So, until they come for us, and they will…let’s not get too, too impressed with ourselves.

Basically, we’re mosquitoes in waiting for some legislative DEET. Make no mistake about it, political bloggers are the pesky mosquitoes of journalism. Allowable for now, but stay tuned.

Sez me.

As for Gort, hey, if I annoyed him, I annoyed him. There’s no taking anything back now. And in my opinion, there’s no need to take anything back. Besides, I never do.

He’s a good guy. A little too partisan for my tastes, but that’s not a crime just yet. Well, not for those on the far left. And near as I can tell, he ain’t killed his parole officer yet.

For what it’s worth.

According to the Friday edition of the Citizens’ Voice, Ruth’s Place, the homeless women’s homeless shelter, “…will have a permanent, around-the-clock residence within the next month, pending rezoning approval from the Wilkes-Barre Zoning Hearing Board.”

Yes, they seek approval “to rent an ‘”affordable”’ 5,400-square-foot property at rear 425 N. Pennsylvania Ave. that includes a kitchen area, bathrooms and showers, and is handicap accessible.”

Here’s a good one:

“If approved, Zack said Ruth’s Place will move to Pennsylvania Avenue within the month and will change from an evening-only operation to a 24-hour shelter.”

We’re very excited about this place and it seems ideal for us, Zack said.”

In case the address didn’t click, that would be situated directly behind this modest adobe of mine. Right behind the house. And while she and hers may be excited, I’m anything but.

Over my dead body.

I was out and about early today and I brought this to the attention of my Nord End councilman, Mike Merritt. And just as soon as I post all of this gibberish, I will be off in search of an audience with a member of the zoning board. As for the zoning hearing on April 15, while it’s a workday, I will do everything humanly possible to make it to that meeting and make it known that I do not want an idiot magnet in my neighborhood, let alone, right next door.

As far as I’m concerned, take your tired, your homeless, your hungry, your alcoholics, your drug addicts and your parolees elsewhere. The one quiet neighborhood in Wilkes-Barre is not the proper place for this sort of venture, and I means to make that known.

And if that variance were to be approved, if that place actually opens less than 1,000 feet from this street, I will be on that place like flies on manure.

Count on it.

You know that tiny bridge on N. Washington Street that spans the unused railroad tracks beneath it? The one you can see through, the one that has the barriers blocking the unsafe sidewalks?

Well, Mike Merritt tells me it finally made it’s way onto PENNDOT’s 5-year list of bridges in need of being replaced. And the way I see it, since it’s so teeny tiny, perhaps it’s replacement cost would be low enough to have it bumped up that list a few notches.

‘Bout time.

Scott, Peace, Gage and Taylor will be here in Wilkes-Barre within a few days. They’re coming to visit the entire clan, as well as a new addition to Scott’s side of the family. Big get-together here at the adobe on Friday night.

For those of you that knew him back when he was pedaling his way all over Wilkes-Barre, get this, Gage Andrew attended his very first Little League practice last week. Yep, he’s getting big. Pretty soon, he’ll probably be able to see what’s on top of the refrigerator, too. Something I think that is beyond the capabilities of both of his parents.

So perhaps we’ll find our way to a ball yard later this week. As my kids learned while growing up, you can’t practice enough. And practice and practice and practice.

The rules were few. Be a good sport. Play harder than you are capable of. Leave it all on the field. Get that damn bat through the zone and hard. And most importantly, no matter what happens between the chalk lines, no god damned crying.

That’s not too much to ask of a 7-year-old, is it?

As evidenced by my kids, it’s not too much to ask.

With newspapers folding all over the country, I got to wondering about our tiny market, and how we still have two daily newspapers. An extreme rarity in these days.

All of which made me wonder about whether that situation will continue as is. Is it possible that either the Times Leader or the Citizens’ Voice go the way of the dodo at some point?

The Times Leader is operating under relatively new management and ownership, but I have absolutely no idea how heavily leveraged that company might or might not be?

My bet would be on the Citizens’ Voice running into difficulties, being that the parent company, Times-Shamrock, has been on a spending spree of late. First they bought the Voice, and then they purchased the Hazleton Standard Speaker. Meanwhile, the print industry has seen continually sagging readership numbers and sagging advertising revenues.

I dunno. Just wondering out loud, I suppose. Or not out loud. Something like that.