Buddy, Can You Spare 500 Words?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Local writers wanted...a nice headline to see in your morning newspaper!

With all of the many items that have been recently occupying my time and mental capacity, there was one thing that instantly caught my attention but took me far too long to post about it here. I was reading the Dayton Daily News on my tablet a couple weeks ago and scrolled onto the "Ideas & Voices" page, the very same one that I recently commented about on this site. In the upper right-hand corner of the displayed page were three words that immediately attracted my eye--local writers wanted! Knowing how financially strapped the newspaper industry is for content these days, I saw this as a potential opportunity to perhaps make my mark--or at least cut my teeth--as an "opinionator".  I continued reading Connie Post's submission.

Are you interested in contributing to our Ideas & Voices page?

Well, let me think about that for a second...of COURSE I would be interested in being a part of the modern legacy of the storied Dayton-area media pioneer and politician, James M. Cox. While I seem to always be picking on that particular publication via this blog, I do believe that they are a very professional organization and one that, one day, I could perhaps see myself in their employ via some journalism-related role.

We are looking for several dedicated local writers to share their opinions on a regular basis, such as twice a month.

OK...not a very demanding schedule. I think that I would be able to produce a pair of poignant yet proficient pieces of politically pointed prose per their prescribed periodicity.

Conservative, liberal or somewhere in the middle - we welcome and want to include all political leanings. 

This is something new--"somewhere in the middle"? Perhaps my earlier critique about the "bipolarity" of ideological opinions on the "Ideas & Voices" page was actually read and now tacitly acknowledged in this identification of a "middle" ground (or at least I can imagine that they saw it).

The key is to have a consistent viewpoint; 

This condition will require a little more clarification from the paper's staff. Are they asking for a strict orthodox response for every single situation that might arise?

For example, if President Obama were somehow found to have ordered a Watergate-style operation against his political foes, would they expect an "apologist" piece or would they allow someone from a liberal/progressive viewpoint to condemn what would be an obvious pox upon our country's democratic system?

In another wildly imaginative case, if Obama were to be seen walking on water, would they want a conservative critic to acknowledge that supernatural occurrence or is the expectation a column decrying his inability to swim?

How "consistent" can someone from "somewhere in the middle" actually be? By simple definition, independents and moderates are non-committal and are expected to be the ones who "swing" from election to election based upon a wide variety of factors.

There is a widely known quote attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher and scholar Aristotle that goes "it is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." I regularly exercise my ability to listen to/view/read a lot of disparate information and to incorporate newly discovered facts into my existing beliefs to determine if they are still valid. I can only hope that I would not be penalized for "evolving" on an issue.

be well read and well versed in current and social issues that are important to our readers; 

Since I already do this for my various "back-and-forths" with friends and acquaintances on social media and message board sites, that condition would not be that difficult to meet.

respond to those events, introduce others that are being overlooked and deserving of community dialogue, and anticipate new topics looming on the horizon; 

"Community" is a very nebulous term. Defined as "a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common," our modern society has moved away from this ideal of commonality toward one of tribally based associations and this "fracturing" is most obvious when viewing our current political environment. Categories/classes based on color--"red" and "blue"--have been widely adopted and we normally tend to associate with whom we share a similar mindset or "world hue". I am not saying that shared attributes cannot be identified (geography is the most apparent) but the multitude of entertainment, dining, and employment options tends to dilute any shared sense of "togetherness" (with only major national or world events--the Challenger explosion, Princess Diana's death, 9/11--being able to equally transcend those constituency boundaries).

Even the "Ideas & Voices" page itself has its own "lines of demarcation" with an equal amount of space allotted for liberal and conservative columnists (although that equality rule does not apply to the rest of their content). I do like their regular Sunday "Closer Look" feature where the paper's moderation staff brings together groups representing two or more varying perspectives about issues on the local, state, national or international stage (this past Sunday featured two local political-science scholars and their educated views on the current ISIS crisis in Iraq).

write clearly and be factually accurate.

This is where I am guessing that many submissions from the conservative side of the spectrum will get tripped up. I honestly can't recall just how many times I've commented on items on social media sites that depict erroneous, skewed, deceptive, or simply untrue information. A 21st century update to a 20th century publishing task--"fact checking"--has emerged in many journalism- and media-related organizations to combat the sheer amount of falsehoods that are passed off as facts by dubious providers and accepted without question by gullible recipients.

While there are some sources from the progressive side of the ideological spectrum that play fast and loose with information, they are dwarfed in comparison by the recent explosion of conservative traditional and social media outlets that churn out these materials on a 24/7 schedule to flood those environments with their misleading, taken-out-of-context, or patently false data in an attempt to drown out any attempts at trying to correct the fiction they try to pass of as facts. It's the modern equivalent of the mentality seen mostly on playgrounds that ascribes to the "loudest or most visible opinion wins" when it comes to debating issues.

I believe that the moderators are going to have a very difficult time with this issue. As CNN's Candy Crowley found out when she interjected herself into the second 2012 presidential debate between President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney to make an "on-the-fly" correction about the Benghazi consulate attack, the side that is identified for introducing incorrect information will then add them to their "target" list. Many of those folks are normally unaware that their First Amendment right of free speech only pertains to the government and is not applicable in a commercial environment but that won't stop the cries of censorship and the echoes of "liberal media" bias claims. While I support their condition, it has me scratching my head because I thought the paper opted for their new "kinder gentler" op/ed format a few years back in order to remain as NON-confrontational as possible.

Be advised there's no monetary compensation involved.

And there it was (I heard the Price Is Right's "fail" music playing in my head when I first read it). I am expected to give them my work for free. I would have to be a "pro bono pundit", one that would donate my thoughts and ideas to the Dayton Daily News to help them retain its relevancy in today's worldwide media environment by first keeping their local readers engaged.

After my initial "you gotta be kidding me" moment, I began to think a little bit more about this potential opportunity. "Opining" is where I truly see the best journalistic use of my life's accumulation of wisdom and skills and even a non-paying gig would be better than my current situation (blog posts to a small number of Twitter followers and label-attracted searchers). However, I don't see myself anywhere near the point where I'd feel comfortable putting out commentary with my own byline (or even that little "blurb" with the name and hometown at the end of the submissions).

Maybe it's simply lingering frustration with last fall's opinion writing class--my last one in the UMass Amherst certificate program--that has put me off about trying to immediately grab my career "brass ring" right off the bat. I was hugely disappointed with that experience and my current primary career "pause" is not helping me in the enthusiasm or confidence departments. 

Please send a 500-word sample essay to Connie.Post@coxinc.com and Ron.Rollins@coxinc.com

After all of my deliberations above, I don't think that I'll be doing that quite yet. What I will do from this posting going forward is to include the two moderators' names in my "labels" and at least one in my "tweets" when I announce a new "Soap Box" opinion post for this blog. I've had some past frustrations with submitting items to this paper and I really don't want to deal with the potential rejection. If they like what they see, then they have a few avenues available to contact me if they want to bring me into their "fold".

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