Monday, July 21, 2008


Monday's Commercial Appeal runs a story congratulating itself and its editor in chief extolling its writers and photographers for winning industry awards.

But Editor-in-Smarm Chris Peck says this:
"In a year in which newspapers are having some difficulties on the business side, it's a sign of good health in Memphis that The Commercial Appeal's journalism continues to shine," Peck added.
Isn't this a non-sequitur? How does the CA's winning awards relate to the industry's circulation and advertising crashes? The awards are issued by folks within their own industry, independent of any influence by or on the general public. The public is voting with its eyes and dollars on the value of newspapers -- they are reading less and buying significantly less advertising. The CA can win all the awards it can; it doesn't affect their problems.

(Gotta love Peck's whitewash of the severe problems of newspapers with "some difficulties." If he's willing to violently twist and spin that reality to you the reader on something not especially consequential, then what else might he be willing to be less than fully honest and forthcoming on? What do I always say? If someone is willing to fudge the small and inconsequential things, then you can believe they'll fudge the important stuff, too.)

I also like how they single out Marc Perrusquia's series Culture of Corruption for special mention but fail to give you a link to it! The hyperlinked picture of the story's big splash page goes to ... the same image! As the page stands at the time of posting, you have to go and dig out the story for yourself. Or use the handy link I've provided just above.

Nothing else is linked either. Nothing and no one. I can understand the paper version not having much or anything (haven't seen it yet, so I don't know for sure); even on a Monday I'm sure space is still an issue. But online? No excuse. It's effectively trivial to link these works up.

Also, can someone clarify something for me? No to piss on Perrusquia, but the story series he won the award for was a rehashing of old reports. It didn't have any new, ground-breaking work in it that I see. Yes, he called the prosecutors' offices involvedand some folks who provided quotes on corruption in general. And yes, he went into the paper's archives to dig up old stories (written by other people!). So, is he being honored for all the previous work -- the parts he's responsible for -- that went into the series? How many of the stories predated press releases out of the various prosecutors' offices or news broken by other media sources? How many were completely new information developed and broken by him? How much was original (truly original) to Perrusquia? I'm not saying he doesn't work hard or doesn't deserve it; I'm just curious about the scope and meaning of the award.

I would also mention this:
The other first-place awards from TAPME were:

Daniel Connolly for Features Reporting, for his stories on the impact of immigration on Greater Memphis.
The plug might more accurately say, "... the impact of Greater Memphis on immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries." That would be far more accurate.

I started to write about this during my tenure at Mediaverse Memphis. (Related MM story here. Richard's take on another story in the series here.) Richard was taken by Connolly's writing but seems to have not been bothered at all by the viewpoint that went into it. I was.

Connolly's story about the large numbers of illegal aliens excuse me, immigrants in local temp staffing agencies came down hard on the companies and was very sympathetic to the illegal aliens. Sympathy for them and almost no expression of the viewpoint of legal citizens appalled at the large numbers on non-citizens living in this country were hallmarks of the series. (If you want to read the stories in this series, start with this story as it has the most links to the rest of the series. Today's article on the award-winners neglected to link to them as well. You're welcome.)

The whole series was built around the "immigrants from Central and South America," to use Connolly's phrasing. It barely touched at all on the experiences of Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Somali, Indian, etc. in this city. None of those immigrant communities are as large as the illegal Mexican one, but certainly the Southeast Asian and Indian communities -- and the Arab Muslim community, too -- are all influential in "Greater Memphis."

No. He deliberately downplayed aspects of or points of view toward that larger story that might undermine what he wanted to achieve. Connolly wanted to gin up sympathy for the illegal Mexican community rapidly building up in the area. His approach was "How do we change to accept these people? rather than "How do we deal with this growing problem?"

Compare his attitude toward his subjects with Perrusquia's treatment of his. Are they even close to the same? That's a part of my point. Would Perrusquia even consider writing in sympathy for his subjects? Would Connolly write criticism of his for their open-ended crime of entering this country illegally and staying here?

I'm not disparaging their hard work. Just asking questions.

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