Brian Moritz on the death of newspapers

At Scholars & Rogues, Brian Moritz shares his story of “Why I left newspapers.”

Moritz used to be a beat reporter. I used to be a print and online copyeditor. At this point that’s about like saying he used to be a blacksmith and I used to be an elevator operator.

At one point we both loved those jobs, and then, gradually, they became a lot harder to love. “It stopped being fun,” Moritz says. And that was, in large part, because they stopped being something it was still possible to do well. (I wrote about that near the end of my run in the newspaper racket, in a post called “Playoffs and Rocking Chairs.”)

Click over and read the whole thing, but my favorite part of Moritz’ post is probably this:

The layoffs started, followed by the furloughs. Wondering every six months if you were still going to have a job was bad enough. Wondering every six months if you were still going to have a job while trying to figure out how to make ends meet when you lose a week of pay each quarter. Then the job cuts kept coming. The industry still hasn’t figured itself out.

More striking — it stopped being fun.

The newsrooms I worked in used to be fantastic, vital places. There was an energy to the room, especially when news was breaking. Being a reporter could be, above all else, fun.

That was long gone by 2009. The layoffs, the furloughs, the space cuts, all of it, sucked the life out of the room, out of the industry.

For this, I blame newspaper owners. By their actions, by their slavish devotion to print profit margins at any cost, by their desire to maximize profit while minimizing the quality of the product, by their inability or unwillingness to embrace digital news, they have sucked so much of the soul out of a business I love.

It’s telling that when anyone leaves the business, my first reaction (and that of almost everyone else I know) is “Good move. Smart decision.”

Every word of that. Amen to every single word.

 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I was a victim of newspaper budget cuts myself. 

    I worked at The Seattle Times, testing things like mobile phone apps and website updates for their New Media division.  It was nice to see the company embracing it, but I still noticed that it was not the company it used to be.  The building was old, and so was the company, and there were large swaths of rooms in the building that were understaffed.  The newsroom itself had lots of stations, lots of monitors and feeds, but was a surprisingly sedate place.  The few people there talked quietly, and it had almost a library-like atmosphere, rather than an energetic one. 

    After about six months of working there, at the turn of the budget, I attended a company meeting saying that they were laying off another 10% of the staff.  I was reassured that my department was not subject to any of those layoffs.  A day or so later, the boss called me into his office, to inform me privately before announcing generally at the team meeting that they no longer had the budget for contracted employees, of which I was one.  He lamented that, saying he hoped to put me in a full time position, but thanks to the budget cuts those open full time positions would be going unfilled.  I can understand that, better to cut unfilled positions than let people go.  At the general meeting I learned that another team member was being let go, and like me he was a contractor, but unlike me he had gotten a full time position.  Unfortunately, his payroll was still coming out of contractor headcount, and since that was what was cut, so was he. 

    Apparently, not cutting positions only means not cutting people with pensionable employment.  As contractors, we are always the first to go. 

  • AnonymousSam

    You can apply the same argument to quite a lot of American production in general. This article introduced me to the term “McDonaldization” — a process of standardization emphasizing efficiency, calculability and predictability.

    One of the biggest things the article emphasized is that the need for predictability and efficiency is interpreted as the human element being a problem. Humans can’t be predicted or relied upon to behave the same way, so the best kind of job conditions now are ones where humans are interchangeable or altogether optional.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

     I always thought of McDonaldization as compromising quality for the sake of efficiency.  The theory behind capitalism being that whomever makes the best product ultimately gets the best reward.  Unfortunately, the practice of it does not necessarily reflect that, quality is secondary to other concerns when it comes to making money. 

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s another one of the consequences that arise. In short, the whole concept can be summarized as the imperative that production needs to be as quick as possible, as cheap as possible, and with as little variation as possible — all by any means possible, which includes substituting cheap materials in place of better alternatives, substituting automation for human workers, and substituting rapid production for individual value.

  • VMink

    This happened near my home last night.  At least, I think it did; it’s hard to tell from the atrocious, horrible writing: http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_21639820/san-jose-police-surrounded-where-distraught-and-potentially  Try not to let your eyes bleed when trying to read it.  Also, that story was NOT up when the Mercury said it was posted.  I call shenanigans.

    Basically, the San Jose Mercury is shyte and has just gone further to shyte.  I strongly suspect that it’s been bought lock, stock, and (ink) barrel by another media conglomerate like the one that ate Fred’s newspaper.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Well, Fred, I never knew that your work there was as a copyeditor.  But, now that I do, I really want to go rather OT (off-topic, not Old Testament) and point out that there seems to be a distinct uptick of it’s-for-its mix-ups in the posts of late.  So watch it, or I might have to send you an Oatmeal or Bob the Angry Flower poster. ;)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     The theory is closer to “The person who maximizes the area under the quality-affordability curve gets the best reward”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    You can apply the same argument to quite a lot of American production in general.

    I’ve mentioned this in a lot of forms over the past few years. Just in my lifetime, there seems to have been a dramatic shift in how businesses do business. There’s been a detatchment between what a business does and what a business is *for*. When I was young, it seemed like you’d say “The purpose of our business is to make this product. Making this product is how we make money,” but today it’s more like “The purpose of our business is to make money. The process of making money sometimes results in a product being made”,

    I think this might be how the banking industry came to be seen as “real” business; manufacturing is collapsing? WHo cares. “The Economy” is what *banks* do! There’s a sense that banks are more noble or pure in their service of The Almighty Economy because they operate on pure money without sullying themselves making *products*.

    And because money is the “real” goal, no one sees any difference in how the money is made: if you can produce X more money either by improving your product or by firing some employees, there is absolutely no difference between these actions in terms of goodness as a business move.  If your product isn’t selling any more, that’s not a problem until you run out of staff to fire.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I do not have a particular objection to bland and/or cheap and ubiquitous products, but I dislike the way they have a habit of forcing other, more unique or niche products out of the market.  There may still be a market for those things, but the cheap crap just out-competes it and leaves the customers in that market less fulfilled. 

    I use the analogy of growing a vegetable garden, which then gets taken over by a bunch of invasive blackberry vines.  Sure, you could eat the blackberries, and they are tasty, but you will grow sick of eating only blackberries all the time, not to mention the health concerns of only eating one thing.  Unfortunately, since that land got taken over, you cannot eat any of the several different kinds of vegetables that had been growing there before.  Sure, they were more effort to raise, but they were better for you and provide the kind of variety you desired. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

     What frustrated me about banks is that they seem like they are ideally placed to be a kind of paragon of capitalism working for collective good.  In a sense, banks only make money when everyone else in the market is making money.  The more successful other companies and individuals who do business with a bank are, the more money the bank gets to make.  Rather than being parasitic, this is a symbiotic relationship.  The banks benefit from others successes, but at the same time their ability to loan and leverage money on behalf of others helps enable those others’ success. 

    The problem is that it kind of metastasized, like a cancer, grew out of proportion to the economy it was involved in, became a danger to that economy.  It sucked up too much money without giving enough back, and starved itself in the process, which by extension starved all the other companies and individuals doing business with it. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In this vein I cannot recommend Paper Boom in enough forms, ways, or manners.

    While it is specific to the Canadian situation I highly recommend American readers try to get a copy. It is a very illuminating survey of how the chasing-of-paper-and-computer-bits on the stock market (the “paper economy”) has effectively parasitized the underlying productive sector (the “real economy”).

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    re: editorial content I’ve noticed that rather than going toe to toe with their online competitors mainstream newspapers have gotten lamer. We get the Boston Globe and there is nothing like Glenn Greenwald, Justin Raimondo, or Jeremy Scahill (I’m trying to hit the major political sort of branches here) it’s the same lame-os and they sound like dinosaurs.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Using the word ‘lame’ to mean ‘pathetic’ or ‘deficient’ or whatever the fuck you meant (since I sincerely doubt you meant ‘having a physical disability’) is insulting to and dismissive of people with physical disabilities. I do not care whether you meant to be insulting and dismissive. I do not care whether you have ever before encountered someone saying it is insulting and dismissive. It is insulting and
    dismissive. Knock it the fuck off.

  • DiscreteComponent

     Here is one of the problems in modern American business, the misunderstanding of what capitalism is.  It is not about the product, it’s about maximizing the rate of return on investment.  There is no connection between the quality of product in this age of instant re-branding.  Make a shoddy product and get a bad name, change your name and the look of your product and keep on selling.  Or better yet, load up your company with loads of dept, give yourself loads of bonus’s, and then sell it to someone else to take the fall.

  • Joshua

    Blackberry! Aargh! That is evil stuff. I have spent so much time trying to clear it out of my property.

    The wild vines hardly fruit at all, too. Yet somehow, they manage to spread seeds all over the place.

    I’ve tried pulling it out, cutting it up, digging it out. In the end, I mostly had to poison it, which is quite distressing because it was growing through a bog that drains to a mountain stream, and I don’t want to leach stuff into it. Erk.

    Keeps coming back though. That’s what it does. That’s all it does. And it will not stop until I am dead.

  • DiscreteComponent

    Years ago when I was studying the Antebellum South I got sidetracked into all the things the people believed about Black African.  One that struck me the most was that Africans were lazy.  Their poof was that to get the Africans to work full out from dawn to dark in the fields you had to have overseers, with whips & things, ‘motivating’ the workers.  Otherwise they might stop for food and/or water or worse not work just as fast as they can.  That the workers were not really into working themselves to death (field hands had life expectancy of less than 10 years) seems never to have crossed anyone’s mind.

    What really struck me was how similar these ideas about lazy Africans matched up with the lazy Indians, Irish, Italians, etc.  in the factories of the North.  It has always seemed to me that the people who own the business think that the workers are lazy and can only be motivated to work “properly” is from fear.  The idea that you can motivate someone by anything other than fear never seems to cross the minds of the Bosses. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    The idea that you can motivate someone by anything other than fear never seems to cross the minds of the Bosses.

    Motivating from fear costs them nothing (unless they want to employ physical torture or fear thereof and don’t consider fists sufficient equipment) and is for many of them enjoyable. Everything else that might motivate someone has a price tag. Sometimes literal, which cuts into profits. Sometimes metaphorical, requiring the bosses to pay attention to how well they’re doing rather than to how poorly, how much profit they are getting rather than how much they could be getting if, which feels like a cut in profits because it shifts the focus from the invariably large could-be number to the rather smaller actual number or the yet-smaller there-but-for-the-grace-of-whatever-go-I number. And motivating from fear doesn’t imply respect for the underlings. Motivating from anything else requires it.

  • MaryKaye

    Joshua, local park restoration people deal with blackberries as follows:  Cut down to the ground, and grub out as many roots as possible.  Then, cover the area with a layer of broken-down cardboard and a layer of wood chips.  Poke holes, and put in something that grows fast and produces deep shade–we used red-twig dogwood.  The cardboard suppresses the blackberry long enough for the dogwood to establish, and then the blackberry can’t handle the deep shade.  There is a large grove of dogwoods in Ravenna Park in Seattle that I had a hand in, and the blackberries have not come back 10 years later.

    It looks like crap for a while, but it can work.

  • SisterCoyote

     This is a really excellent metaphor. I’m from way East, so I’ve never had to deal with blackberries-as-plague, but my boyfriend assures me they are monstrous things, and I can kinda see why.

  • SisterCoyote

    It’s sort of terrifying. As someone who kinda sorta likes to know what’s happening in the world, first off, but also as someone who’s currently majoring in Journalism.

    I don’t want to grow up in a world without a free press. I don’t want to live in a world without a free press. The idea of such a world is utterly horrifying; I don’t think anything could produce such a terrible dystopia as a world without press.

  • Hexep

    I wouldn’t worry.  Inasmuch as news content is diversifying itself so much – as small local papers gave way to national papers and then onwards to the internet – the ability to truly restrict the press, by way of force and all, has gone down.  Now that there are so many more content producers, it’s become harder and harder for governments to send people with guns to their offices, telling them what to write.

    As long as it costs money to publish journals and periodicals, journalists will always be, on some level, beholden to whoever funds them, be it sponsors, governments, or readers.  But with the advent of the Internet, the cost is perpetually going down, allowing journalism outlets to grow in number and diversity.

    It’s like I always say; technology makes it harder, rather than easier, to tyrannize people.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I suspect that your blackberry vines are reproducing asexually.  It looks like they will develop roots wherever they touch the ground and that they also reproduce by spreading underground.

  • flat

    Looks to me that the technology is the one tyranizing nowadays.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

     Mein eyes! That article wouldn’t even look good in a junior high newspaper.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

     How so?

  • Lori

    I don’t know what flat is thinking of, but technology certainly makes surveillance of every aspect of your life a lot easier. Especially when it’s wrapped in a pretty enough package that you’ll do 95% of the work yourself.

  • Jenora Feuer

     On a related note, there was a discussion a couple of days ago on the CBC regarding journalism, plagiarism, and how newspapers should respond to problems:

    http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2012/09/26/margaret-wente-plagiarism-allegations/

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Given the level of warrantless snooping, I’d say the technology tyrannizes is pretty true.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Ah yes, one of the more “reasonable” right-wing bloggers/columnists falls into hot water. Too bad it wasn’t Ted Corcoran or Andrew Coyne.

  • Hexep

    Well, with measure comes countermeasure, and it ultimately creates more stuff to supervise, and more resources required to do it.  In the days before telephones, snooping on people just required little machines to steam open envelopes, and a few people sitting at desks reading the mail.  The advent of telephones led inexorably to the advent of telephone snooping, but this required a larger investment in terms of splicing phone lines and people to listen to those splices.  It got proportionally more expensive and difficult.

    With the internet came the advent of China-style internet snooping, but the fact remains that more and more stuff slips through the cracks over there – as the volume of communication goes up, it requires geometrically more resources for the government to supervise it.  Speaking of China, they’ve resorted to extremely clumsy (and easy to fool) word-substitution algorithms – prohibiting any post that includes the word ‘Tibet,’ for instance – but all you have to do is substitute it for another character that sounds the same, or any other commonly agreed-upon code-word.

    The only thing a tyranny really needs is broad acquiescence among its subjects.  If the government and only the government has access to fancy technology – as is the case with Burma, where the Tatmadaw has enough money to buy whatever it wants on the international market but most people are small rice farmers living on dirt floors – then it can create a problem, but that’s manifestly not our situation.

    All I’m saying is, the situation in America is better than it looks.

  • Hexep

    Yes, but before there was Google+, they warrantlessly snooped on your telephone calls.  This is not a wholly new type of thing.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There was such a time as pre-PATRIOT Act, you know.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    Ellie- I will continue to lose “lame” , thanks

  • EllieMurasaki

    The juxtaposition of ‘continue’ and ‘lose’ produces a sentence that, though it resembles sensible English, has no apparent meaning. I hope you mean that you intend hereafter to refrain from use of ‘lame’ in any of its pejorative senses, but I suspect you actually mean that you intend to carry on hurting and offending people.
    Whatever you do, at least now you know what you’re doing.

  • Hexep

    Ehh, they just did all that stuff without telling anybody.  In the old days, intelligence agencies just asked for forgiveness; it took a big opportunity for them to work up the courage to ask permission.

  • Hexep

    EllieMurasaki, nobody has ever changed their ways because of a hard scolding.  Telling people ‘would you please,’ even if it’s to stop blowtorching puppies or telling racist jokes, occassionally gets results; telling people to knock it the fuck off never, ever does, because it compels the listener to double-down out of spite, now that they feel they’re under attack.  This is my best advice.

  • EllieMurasaki

    How about you take the tone argument and shove it up your ass, I am not in the mood. And indicate what exactly in Chris Hadrick’s history shows that politeness is more effective than bluntness at getting him to do what the speaker wants.

    Oh, and in my experience, “would you please stop” carries the implication that the behavior in question is acceptable in general even if undesirable in the present circumstances, while “knock it the fuck off” carries the implication that the behavior is unacceptable regardless, and these implications persist even when the context indicates the reverse.

    (Somewhere there’s an article on types of Internet arguers. Nuker, Appeaser, Logic Bomber, and what’s the fourth. They all suck in different ways, but they also all rock in different ways.)

  • Hexep

    No, EllieMurasaki, I do not think I will shove any such thing up my ass.

    Notice you’re now 0/2 in getting people to do what you want?  Shall we try for best out of 5?  If you’re not in the mood to respond correctly to something – correctly meaning ‘getting what I want out of it’ – then take a nap, or something.  The Internet will still be here in two hours.  It’s better to wait and think of what you should say, than to charge in half-cocked and say something wrong.

    Funny thing is, I’m actually on your side.  It’s no more correct to say that something bad or unwanted is ‘lame’ then it is to say that it’s ‘gay.’  (That’s why I like my made-up word Polmeck, which is short for Person Of Low Moral and Ethical Character, though it does sound unfortunately like some kind of mash-up of Polish and Mexican.)  But nobody mends their ways as a result of verbal abuse.

    And the thing you’re looking for is the Flame Warriors.  Voila: http://redwing.hutman.net/~mreed/

  • EllieMurasaki

    You seem to misunderstand the concept of ‘tone argument’. It is what happens when some fuckwit such as you says that I am being too blunt, too abrasive, too bitchy, and you will not listen to me until I speak in a calm polite ladylike manner. Then one of two things happens. I take a deep breath and pretend I am not furious, and I speak in a calm polite ladylike manner, and you still do not listen to me. Or I behave in a manner consonant with fury, and you double down on the tone argument. Neither is productive, and the latter is easier, particularly when I am coming off two days as stressful as these past two days have been.

    There may be people who recognize tone arguments and are not infuriated by them. I am not one of those people. Taking two hours to do something else will not calm me down. It will give me opportunity to think of better zingers and more creative violent imagery (which some folk in the commentariat won’t appreciate, so I’ll spare you), but it will not calm me down.

    So fuck off. Or explain to Chris Hadrick, in the calm polite ladylike manner you advocate, exactly why ‘lame’ is an unacceptable pejorative (since you say you agree that it is an unacceptable pejorative and you say my manner of expressing that was unsatisfactory), observe how your method does not actually achieve better results than my method, and then fuck off.
    (No, the Flame Warriors link isn’t it. Too many flavors.)

  • caryjamesbond

    Ahh, language policing.  The most effective form of social activism, and isn’t it just so convenient how easy it is!  For extra points, remember to get angry when people don’t instantly agree with you!  

    Thats how Gandhi did it, y’know.  He was all shirty with the British until they stopped saying “wog” and Presto!  Freedom for all. 

    (Interesting sidenote:  when I first ran across the whole “lame is SO OFFENSIVE OMG ITS THE NEW N-WORD” thing, I asked a disabled friend of mine if he was offended by my use of words like lame or gimpy.  His response was to snort, laugh, and suggest that getting all lathered up over lame was, in itself, pretty lame. He also suggested a charitable donation to any one of numerous organizations would be far more useful. Then he kicked me with his false leg and laughed. )

    Anywhoo.

    “The Red Queens Race”  posits that a great deal of biological evolution, including the development of sex, was heavily based on an arms race with parasites.  I suspect a similar metaphor holds true for snooping- new stuff shows up, they tap it, new stuff comes up…

    Fortunately, effective oppression usually requires a GREAT deal of cooperation from the people.  The USSR had 11 million people working as informers, and the Third Reich was essentially a massive experiment in mass psychosis.   One of the benefits of being part of a nation as fractious as the US is that starting big torchlight parades for der Furher doesn’t really get off the ground. I sometimes  think that the the near 50/50 split in political alignment is one of our best defenses against tyranny.  Whoever the one side suggests, the other starts watching with intense paranoia.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. Which means words can never hurt anyone, because there’s no way in which anyone’s experience differs from mine. And my [lacking relevant privilege] friend is fine with me [exhibiting behavior common among those having relevant privilege and commonly hurtful/insulting/offensive to those lacking relevant privilege]. Therefore it must be all right! And of course words and actions that are polite and respectful and above all not forceful are always more effective than words and actions that are none of the above, and there cannot possibly be room in an activist movement for both kinds.

    tl;dr go fuck yourself.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino
  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The problem is, one person does not an entire group make. So while your particular friend may be unaffected by the use of the word “lame” (which I know from as far back as the 1980s to have been used in computer-geek circles to refer to someone who is not considered very cool or bright – “you lamer” being a common phrase back then), there are others who would be upset by it.

    It costs you nothing to avoid the use of word if requested to not use it.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    Ellie- I was a little drunk, sorry. I meant I will gleefully continue to use the word lame to describe something that is lame lame lame

  • caryjamesbond

    It costs you nothing to avoid the use of word if requested to not use it.

    Well, sure, and if an actually disabled person says to me “hey, wouldja stop saying that, I don’t like it.” I’ll be happy to stop saying that in front of them.  Like I said though- I’ve asked. People with disabilities A. generally have bigger fish to fry and B. are generally prone to using the word “lame” just as much as anyone else.  It’s not exactly a commonly used term for disability anymore.

    Even assuming that “lame” is offensive, its a level of offensiveness and rudeness below calling someone a jerk, and WAY below telling someone to fuck off over what is at worst, a minorly rude thing to say.  See how that works?

    And there’s the simple fact that language policing is the laziest, most ineffective way to try and change the world that exists.  It’s used mainly by college students who’ve taken one course on the politics of language, and are to lazy to go protest, or write a letter, or volunteer. So you’ll excuse me for not flagellating myself over calling the last season of The West Wing “kinda lame.”

    You want to say “Don’t say these words”- peachy.  But unless you’re talking about the N-word or a few other racial slurs that have a LONG history of blood behind them, you’re essentially talking about, at worst, mildly insulting things.  And when people flip the fuck out over mildly insulting things, they don’t change minds.  They just look silly.  And kinda lame.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    (Interesting sidenote:  when I first ran across the whole “lame is SO
    OFFENSIVE OMG ITS THE NEW N-WORD” thing, I asked a disabled friend of
    mine if he was offended by my use of words like lame or gimpy.  His
    response was to snort, laugh, and suggest that getting all lathered up
    over lame was, in itself, pretty lame. He also suggested a charitable
    donation to any one of numerous organizations would be far more useful.
    Then he kicked me with his false leg and laughed. )

    Ah yes, the old “My friend of undererpriviliged group X isn’t offended by the word [slur against X]“. 

    Your friend is the arbiter for what is offensive to him.  He is not the avatar of all disabled people, empowered to grant you a letter of marque licensing declaring you officially unoffensive to all disabled people.

    Your friend isn’t offended. SOme people here are. You’re not talking to your friend right now, you’re talking to people here.

    There’s nothing wrong with the fact that you extrapolated from your experience with your friend and concluded that it was an okay word to use here. But you’ve been given new information now. When given new information, a person who is not running for president on the GOP ticket is supposed to process that information and revise their conclusions based on it.

    When someone tells you they are offended, and you respond by citing some other person’s lack of offense to justify ignoring them, you are calling that person a liar.

    Have the decency to say it to her face. Say “EllieMurasaki, I do not believe you are really offended. I believe you are a liar, feigning offence in order to control my use of language.”

    Because that’s the only thing this little digression means. It means you don’t believe she was really hurt, even though she said she was. That’s the only thing it can mean.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You know, I’m sure I would do more to help people with mobility disabilities if I donated a hundred dollars or a hundred hours to one of those organizations that trains dogs to fetch keys for wheelchair users or whatever.

    I do not have a hundred dollars or a hundred hours. I have zero dollars and ten minutes. And reducing the incidence of people accidentally causing hurt or offense is a worthwhile way to spend it. If I simultaneously increase the incidence of people deliberately causing hurt or offense, that’s not my fault, is it?

    Meanwhile:
    http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/blogs/edgecentric/metaphors_for_bad/000792.html–When disability words get used badly, disabled people mostly just grin
    and bear it. Doesn’t mean it’s the correct thing to do, though.

    http://www.modbee.com/2012/07/31/2306965/limp-lame-and-lazy-list-cited.html
    http://accessibility.net.nz/blog/why-i-do-not-like-the-word-lame/Some of my readers will say I am splitting hair. Or that I am too sensitive. Or that I should harden up. Be that as it may, the fact is, every time I hear the word “lame” used as a qualifier of negative value judgement, it hits me deep. It is not even an intelectual reaction, it’s visceral.

    How about you consider that a personal request from the accessibility.net.nzauthor to stop being a fuckwit and stop using the word ‘lame’.

  • EllieMurasaki

    To be fair, I’ve no disabilities and ‘lame’ is not personally offensive to me, and I never said it was. But I’ve got two friends in wheelchairs who’ve expressed pain at encountering use of the word, and I’ve got ten minutes and a couple spoons here and there that I can quite easily use to work on ensuring that neither of them is accidentally hurt by that word.

    Which doesn’t improve matters all that much. Either Cary thinks I’m lying about my friends, or Cary thinks they’re lying to me. But last time I complained in K’s hearing about fuckwits using ‘lame’ in K’s hearing, they offered to come be my (K’s word’s) “token crip friend”, and K’s online (or left their IRC up, but probably online) and I bet the offer’s still open, and if we want to see whether Cary thinks a person with a mobility disability who says they’re hurt by ‘lame’ is lying to his face, I’m sure we can…

  • P J Evans

    It looks like they will develop roots wherever they touch the ground
    It’s something of a habit with the plants in that family. All the fruiting ‘vines’  (they’re not really) can do that, including rambling and climbing roses.
    I had a boysenberry with a cane where the tip landed in a large pot, and promptly sent out roots.

  • caryjamesbond

    Have the decency to say it to her face. Say “EllieMurasaki, I do not believe you are really offended. I believe you are a liar, feigning offence in order to control my use of language.”

    Ok. Although I don’t think shes LYING, persay.  I would guess she actually IS offended.  More properly, I’m saying shes getting offended on behalf of someone else. In general, there is a certain type of activist that takes offense on behalf of other groups who are then revealed to not actually care. (See the whole “native american” thing, despite the fact that 63% of actual natives either A) prefer Amerindian, or B) don’t really care at all.)

    I also have no doubt you can dig up blogs by people who are personally wounded by the word lame.  And when talking to them, or commenting on their blog, I’d avoid that word.  However, this is the internet. You can find people who are deeply offended by the word “goddamn,” the phrase “African-American,” the use of any “-American” term at all, the use of the word “American” to refer to people in the US, Columbus Day, abortion, Jesus, Not respecting Jesus, not respecting the Prophet Muhammad, not using the phrase “peace be unto him” after referring to aforementioned prophet, eating Nestle Chocolate, and referring to 400 lb people as “fat.”

    If interacting with such people, I’d respect their wishes in their spaces and in their conversations.  However, other than that- I’m not policing myself constantly in case one of the subset of disabled people that finds “lame” offensive happens to read my words. Its a tough old life sometimes. If anyone wants, I can suggest several high quality purveyor of big kid pants for those in need of them.

     I do not consider Ellie’s offense the arbiter of what I should and should not say. People get offended at lots of things.  If I say I’m offended by Ellie calling me a fuckwit, Ellie has made it perfectly clear that she is not taking my offense into consideration when she chooses her words.  So why exactly would I take her offense into consideration when I choose my words?  I don’t do favors for people who call me a fuckwit. And I don’t consider preserving the precious fee-fee’s of everyone on the planet to be a priority. Or as Steven Fry put it:
    “‘It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that”, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. “I’m offended by that.” Well, so fucking what?”


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