Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ET's Steaming Cup of Joe on 13

Long post...get coffee and more than a few minutes to sit down and digest.

Following my post on the 13 production at NAMS, along with some follow-up, the Express-Times published a front page article (read it here).

I didn't think they accurately represented my post, so I wrote about it here (includes links to the follow-up).

Yesterday, ET Editor Joe Owens posted on the issue in his Steaming Cup of Joe blog. I appreciate his addressing the issue, but I'm going to respectfully agree to disagree with him on the portion related to my post and complaint/issue, as he deems it.

Joe's post has a P.S., "(P.S. Ross says in his comment that earlier attempts to reply on our Web post were unsuccessful. My Web expert tells me a numbered list, which his comment contains, is sometimes blocked by the spam filter.)" After reading this last night, I checked and there were nearly twice the number of comments on the post, including two by me, and this remark by, "Kourtney Geers, Website staff November 14, 2011 at 3:50PM, Thank you for your comments. We have published some additional comments that were snagged in our system."

This raises an interesting aside, my basic understanding regarding comments is that if I approve comments, then I'm responsible for them, but if I allow them to post, I'm not, though I can always delete them if I find them inappropriate. If the site is screening comments and blocking some, I wonder if for those posted it means they have been approved and are therefore responsible for content in all public ones? I'll let the lawyers weigh-in;-)

Here is my twice published comment (the first was a copy and paste of my blog post):

First attempt at commenting said it went to administrative review, second said it went live, but never appeared, let's hope 3rd goes live.
The content in this article includes a great deal about me, and it does not represent what I posted on my community blog.
1. By way of introduction, I have made over 3200 posts on newsovercoffee dot com since it launched in 2005. I cover the community of Nazareth, which I define as the municipalities comprising the school district. I did not right this as a parent, I was doing what I do every day.
2. I was not outraged.
3. I did not write that I was stunned, I expected it based on the letter sent by the principal.
4. I never said I was dismayed about the song Kendra or any other song or aspect of the play. I included lyrics to Kendra to provide context to readers regarding the content.
5. The words are to another song in the show. At 13...
6. I did not return multiple phone calls or emails, this statement by ET demonstrates that you can compare directly to my blog post and see how incorrect this article is.
7."Other parents said the district handled the situation appropriately" insinuates that previous people in the article felt it was not, I never commented on that and simply posted the letters from the school to allow readers to make their decision.
I wrote a post like I do almost every day. I noted a letter was sent to parents relating to the show. I included information about the show performed and about the original production. I included another quote from the Principal's letter followed by three questions and explanations of them. I closed asking readers for their comments.
I was not outraged.
It is very frustrating to be misrepresented to this extent in a print publication that ran the article on the front page of the paper. My daughter goes to this school and has friends in the show, whose interests I take into account.
I certainly hope my third attempt at commenting on this article is approved/accepted.

This sets the stage for the content in Joe's Steaming Cup post.

Joe first selects a quote from the end of my post, after I've outlined the info from the Principal, the content from the NAMS production, background about the Broadway production, then I ask some questions, and at that point I expand on them including this line of questioning. It wasn't the start or focus, and I don't see it as outrage, which is basically defined as, "an extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation."

Would you put this part of my post in that category (again, at the end of the post) considering the tone of my blog?

1. Why was a MS theatre troupe conducting a PG production for grown-ups about growing up?
2. Why was administration unaware of the content prior to it being presented to students?
3. What consequence is this going to have to the kids in the show?
Not only was there incredibly poor judgement by the teacher who selected this production, I'm stunned that there was no administrative oversight regarding the content being presented to students, and most amazing is that after the first presentation it continued until all the students in the building saw it (there were multiple productions today).
Regarding consequences, I feel bad for the kids in the production, because they worked hard for months on a production that younger siblings shouldn't be watching and parents and grandparents would probably be embarrassed to see them perform in (oh was that your daughter they called a slut, she really played the role).

It would seem obvious to me that someone feeling bad for the kids and asking questions about why the situation occurred from a site that Joe acknowledges is one that let's readers decide and is straightforward, is not a person being shocked, but one trying to help find the right answers and correct flaws to reduce the risk of this happening again.

Next quote, "He does not like the characterization of him being “outraged” and says we misplaced his use of the word “stunned.”"

I spoke to outraged. Regarding 'stunned', I got the letter from the principal, which prompted me to find out about the play 13, so I wasn't so surprised, wait, stunned, when my daughter told me about the production. In my post I used the word 'stunned' in the quote above used by Joe, it was regarding the administration not reviewing content presented to the student body, not my daughter telling me about the play. 

So how can you defend the use of stunned or outraged in this instance? Next quote, "Some might wonder who wouldn’t be outraged given some of the language and innuendo he described in the play."

Let's return to common definition of 'outrage', "an extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation."

I think most people simply found this illogical, how could a school for 12 and 13 year olds have this show produced and presented given the content without any administrative review. 

If I thought my child was corrupted by this, maybe I'd have gone to an 'outrage' definition, but that is not the case with us, she understood the content and thought it was hysterical, while knowing it was inappropriate.

Quote I disagree with outright, "I would also suggest that it is never a good idea to not call a reporter back. A simple conversation may have avoided any confusion."

Double negative, c'mon;-) So I ask, where is the source of confusion? What couldn't be grasped from my post? And why was my emotion pertinent?

If the Express-Times picks up a story broken by Reuters, do they question the emotion and motive of the reporter? No, they run the story and pay whatever fee is agreed upon.

Joe acknowledged that I broke the story, they were trying to follow-up and run one of their own. To do this the reporter tried to imply emotion and motive on me for doing what I do everyday report on the community in a way that leaves the reader's to decide and encourages productive conversation. You can't do that without raising some questions, and you can't have a clean site without managing the environment appropriately, hence no shock, awe, and outrage (for that most people visit Bernie's site;-).

Close to last quote, "That’s why newspaper people try to speak directly with as many sources of information as possible."

So in this article, it appears that Kern, Lesky, Salevsky, and myself (Nunamaker) were quoted or represented from interpretations of their letters and posts not spoken to, while Chris Miller and Becky Bartlett were 'paraphrased' (haven't heard from them regarding the accuracy). My understanding is that over 40 parents did complain to the school (no I was not one) and there were people who commented on my blog, all of these could have been candidates for the "outraged" parent that was needed to make this article A1. I wonder how many people were contacted.

Final quote, "At the end of the day, a wrong was righted. And that’s a good thing."

Well, I will hand it to Joe, this is an awesome misdirect. I didn't see the play, but he reports that the post rehearsal corrections were done well, and while a huge burden on the kids having to change lines at the last minute after rehearsing for months, that is a good thing. The issue of their misrepresentation about me related to this issue is a serious concern of journalistic standards, let's hope it too was a one time occurrence that will become a wrong righted.

Posted via email from Ross Nunamaker

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