“Bizarre” Alder Weirdness Continues

Posted January 4th, 2012 @ 7:28 AM by

My alder proves in writing why the Isthmus gave her the Cheap Shots 2011: Shame “Most Bizarre Rant Award”.

On my long blogger to-do list is something called alder blogging. Alders have been given the blog option on their city pages and some alders have chosen to use it so far (Resnick 20 posts, Clear 13 posts, Maniaci 4 posts, Johnson 3 posts, Cnare 1 post), some appear to intend to do it (Schmidt), others have not shown any interest so far (Subeck, Verveer, Bidar-Sielaff, Rummel, King, Skidmore, Solomon, Rhodes-Conway, Ellingson, Bruer, Palm, Clausius, Weier and Phair).

Unfortunately, yesterday, my alder chose to use the blog in another bizarre manner and show why maybe blogging is a really bad idea for some alders – and not for the reasons she is trying to convey. I’m a little concerned the blog will be taken down because of the swearing and the lack of relevance to being an alder and being a little inappropriate. I’m not sure if the blog is an attempt to torpedo the blogging since she expresses such disdain for it or if its an attempt to change the policies or if there was no intent in it and its just bizarre, unthoughtful and poor decision making. And I can’t believe she waited 2 years to get the chance to spew that garbage.

Note: The goofy cheap shot at me is not at all an issue for me, the cheap shot at my readers and their comments (calling them forons? and likening them to madison.com commenters?) does irk me as it is not at all the same . . . its the lack of decorum and complete inconsistency that is more bothersome.

AnywaYs . . . here’s what was sent out to subscribers . . . I expect some of it to change or for it to disappear entirely – if they can do that, since it is now an open record.

Happy New Years all.

This is take 2 on here today. My eloquence is giving out.. The way this is set up by IT the system logs you out after a while, so I just lost like 1,500 words I was in the process of writing. #@*&.\

I realized that I’ve been a bit derelict in my direct communication/media presence, and as a professional resolution for 2012 I’ve decided to overcome my fear of blogging, twitter and the internet in general. Part of my adversion stems from my predecessor. Brenda Konkel has this blog she goes nuts with. I’ve always steered clear of it, from responding to anything on it and have just totally taken a non-engagement strategy. Perpetuating the feeding frenzy forons on there, on thedailypage and at Madison.com is something that at the end of the day I feel my time is better served elsewhere. But I can’t be completely absent from the dialogue and sadly these days its a DIY media world we find ourselves in.

Part of it is a fear of saying something and making an ass of myself. Part of it is a self-preservation thing. There’s only so many hours in a day. Blogs are hard to be spontaneous and polished at the same time. I’d rather err on the side of polished, and so I tend to forego the off-the cuff take. And part of it has to do with the state of established media in the city.

I do have to say that I’m very upset at the state of media in Madison. Maybe that’s just having watched too many talented friends get out of journalism for lack of paying jobs or move out and up to bigger media markets. I admire wholly what the folks over at Dane101 are trying to accomplish. I’m still mourning the loss of Danny Spirn’s Critical Badger. The reporters over at the Badger Herald have put together the best local news page in the city (which pains me greatly to admit, as a proud Daily Cardinal alumnus). And when 20 year-old college kids get it more right than the (frequently 20-something) reporters at the “professional” outlets, I have to scratch my head.

I was at an event recently when I was speaking with State Rep. Terese Berceau where she relayed a story of calling up a TV news director to challenge a wholly mis-managed story that had run on an issue she was involved with. The news director’s response “Well, you know, they’re not journalist, just reporters.”

Can I blog? Can I twitter? Sure. Should I have to? No. Do I have to? I guess, yeah, today I do.

I made a decision in college to focus more on a career in politics than in journalism. It becomes very difficult to be asked to wear both hats, but this year I’ll try. We legislators and policy makers need the fourth-estate. We need good journalist. We need you to cover committee meetings. We need you to understand the power dynamics and the prisms through which you’re being fed information. Municipal politics is the most basic (and I’d argue important) form of government to instill confidence in our democracy to our citizens. That media here doesn’t go for the gusto, and just runs press-releases verbatim is so disappointing. The phrase around city hall I’ve heard is that the press is baby birds with their mouths open going “feed me, feed me.” I miss my Cardinal colleague Kristin Czubkowski SO much. What she did at Laptop City Hall was so fantastic. Smart, nuanced, and wholly able to negotiate the motivations and biases, she consistently navigated city hall politics to bring the essence and a real truth to the public about what was going on. No one has yet filled her shoes or shown her enthusiasm for detail.

The cut backs in newsrooms can be felt by policy makers when young tv reporters show up as a one-man/lady band, juggling camera equipment, white-checks and lists of questions hastily assembled. Their distraction and lack of command of the issues leaves open a great possibility to be manipulated. It’s rare that they go back to check facts or seek out countering opinions. Additionally, as policy makers you learn quickly the need to master an 8-second sound-bite, because that’s all they’re interested in. It’s hard to feel like you’ve done any issue justice in 8 seconds. And residents are only getting the 8-second version.

I really have struggled to find my public voice through the constraints of standard media outlets. Alder Bryan Eagon and I did a radio show in the summer of 2010 on WSUM where we did a weekly review of city politics. Scott Resnick and I couldn’t match up our schedules this last summer to continue it. Perhaps we’ll try again this summer.

I admired the blog that Mayor Cieslewicz was able to regularly write (Judging from his pieces now in the Isthmus I don’t believe his press staffer was ghost-writing them..). The candor and humor he distilled while being brief (something I struggle with..) was welcome.

So there’s a trust thing to work out here. I’m going to try to blog. If reporters (or bloggers) start overreacting, start calling on innane stories, start trying to draw me out, want me to feed them the story. I’ll probably clam up and go silent. I want my constituents to have a sense of what’s going on in City Hall. I’d like to try to break down the wall that so frequently gets constructed around being PC and on-message. I’m still not convinced that this DIY journalism is what I should be doing as a policy maker, but I’m willing to give it a go. Maybe it’ll make the press work a little harder, do a bit more background research, get geeked out on city politics. One can hope, right.. But if It starts being a distraction, I’m going to shift my focus off of this.

Even if it’s just a photo I’ve taken, or links to articles that have caught my attention, I’d like to put a bit more of a personal face on what I do.

So I’m going to try hard to write weekly, on Monday. It’s my day off of work. if it’s noon, and nothings posted yet, please email me at district2@cityofmadison.com. If I actually know there’s folks out there who care what I have to say, that helps. I work better with deadlines at hand.. which reminds me.. I owe the Tenney-Lapham folks my quarterly newsletter article this afternoon.

Also, IT says I can’t use my city calendar to post my weekly schedule, only “officially scheduled” city issue/neighborhood meetings I schedule, so I’ll just throw it in here at the end.

Meetings this week:
Council Meeting Tuesday @6:30.
Housing Committee on Wednesday @5.
Mansion Hill NA meeting on Wednesday @7.
JMP House Surplus Committee on Thursday.

Currently listening to: “Welcome Home” by Radical Face
Craving: a win by the Badgers in the Rose Bowl, to be done with the TLNA newsletter piece before 4 pm.

Articles I was going to link to in my previous post prior to auto-logout: “Where News Is Power, a Fight to Be Well-Armed” by Ashley Parker of the New York Times.. (Anyone want to be my press intern?)

Scott Klug’s interview with the Cap Times: ” For one thing there is just no time to relax anymore. Here’s what I mean. Think back 20 years ago. You’d get home from work, open your Capital Times and get really mad about something that was happening in Washington. So you fired off a letter to your representative in Congress and three days later some young kid opens it up and sends you back a form letter thanking you for your interest. Two weeks later, when you get the letter, you’ve already forgotten what you were mad about.

Compare that to today, where (President) Obama or (House Speaker John) Boehner gives a speech and 15 seconds later the blogosphere lights up and the Internet lights up. There isn’t breathing room anymore. There is no time to relax and I think that has made the whole system really hard. As a result we have gridlock.”

And there you have it folks. I’m speechless and shaking my head. And embarrassed yet again by my alder and that I lost to that! Wow. At least have staff review for typos – that’s part of what they are there for.

1. We all miss Kristin!
2. Quoting Republican Scott Klug?
3. I think they should leave the post as is and not take it down, but now I’m wondering, does the city keep various versions of posted blogs.
4. Yes, the sad state of the media is disturbing.

Categories: | Madison | Media

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