I’ve never met the blogger who refers to himself as WeSawThat (yes, news alert, it’s actually HeSawThat), but I do know his name. And during the past couple of years, we’ve shared various observations with one another via e-mail. He sends me blog traffic every single day, and I send him traffic every day as well.
Sometimes, his blog is highly entertaining, and sometimes, it is incredibly (almost hyperbolically) offensive. I understand he thinks that he has developed a persona.
I don’t like to get involved with blog wars, but his latest rant about the Tulane Legislative Scholarship is beyond the pale for a few reasons. But before I get into that, let’s discuss the larger story:
I work for a guy who understands the importance of the new media and the Internet. When he was first elected, he wanted to at least introduce himself to members of this new media. Government transparency should always extend itself to the blogosphere, but in order for that to occur, bloggers have to be willing to take the initiative to do their homework, conduct their interviews, and sometimes, even file for public information requests, particularly in a small City with only one newspaper.
On numerous occasions, WeSawThat has been invited for personal sit-down meetings with the Mayor. He has been encouraged to file for public records requests. And he has consistently refused or simply ignored those invitations.
He operates in the conspiratorial underbelly of American politics– the Jeff Renses and Larry Sinclairs of the world. It’s sensational entertainment, information disconnected from the vast body of knowledge and constructed on cherry-picked ignorance– and sometimes, flat-out lies and patently ridiculous distortions.
He doesn’t trust the government. He seems to loathe nearly every elected politician in the State, regardless of party affiliation or ideology. And while this may drive traffic toward his doorstep, it’s not exactly a constructive conversation; actually, the vast majority of his posts contain zero comments from outside readers.
Here’s the problem: It’s perfectly appropriate and acceptable to be skeptical of government and politicians, as long as that skepticism is grounded in objective facts. The irony about WeSawThat is that he constantly reminds people not to trust the corporate media (something he and I can usually agree on), yet, whenever the so-called local “corporate media” reports on local political stories, he tends to bite hook, line, and sinker.
Government can only become open and transparent if government watchdogs actually take the initiative- whether through phone calls, e-mails, or sit-down meetings– to ensure for accountability. You’re not a watchdog if your entire opinion is predicated on what you read in the newspaper that morning.
Which brings me back to the Tulane Legislative Scholarship:
WeSawThat apparently located a document from a former Tulane professor that lists the names of all of the teenage high school students who were selected for the Tulane Legislative Scholarships. Perhaps it is appropriate to discuss whether or not our legislators should be determining which students receive this stipend, though, in my opinion, this is just silliness. Regardless, WeSawThat felt it appropriate to impugn the validity of a scholarship awarded to Lanie Sansing by Chris Roy, Jr. On its face, given the media fixation on the attorney/client relationship between Jacques Roy and Sam Sansing, Lanie’s father, I can understand his initial skepticism. But hold on, we’re talking about impugning a teenager’s academic record– implying that her scholarship was somehow nepotism is to suggest that she was undeserving. Moreover, WeSawThat does not live in Alexandria, has never met or spoken with Chris or Jacques Roy, has never met or spoken with Sam Sansing, has never met, spoken with, or reviewed the academic resume of Lanie Sansing, and, correct me if I am wrong, has never filed a single public records request in his entire blogging career.
He may be entertaining. He may sometimes be scandalous. On local news, however, he is often purposely and recklessly hyperbolic. He simply doesn’t ever take the time to know what he’s talking about, nor does he care to find out. Because, I suppose, he enjoys his anonymity.
Lanie Sansing graduated as valedictorian of her class. I know this because I attended Menard’s graduation ceremonies last night. Lanie and I don’t know each other, but I happen to know at least four teachers at Menard. No one disputes her merits.
That’s why I was compelled to address this specific story. You shouldn’t drag a teenager’s name and reputation into your own public political rants without- at least- giving him or her the opportunity to provide context. Now, any time someone searches for this young girl’s name, they’ll stumble upon a page that essentially calls her into question. It’s simply unfair for her. She’s not a politician or a public official. She’s a bright, young woman preparing to enter college.
And had he taken the time to consult with Chris Roy, Jr. about his decision-making process, he’d find that Ms. Sansing was one of only a handful of applicants within his district and that, in his opinion, she was clearly the most deserving, given her status as valedictorian and all of her other accomplishments. He would also discover that Chris Roy, Jr.’s decision was not based on patronage; it was based on her merits. Chris Roy, Jr. has never been “close family friends” with the Sansings. They only met within the past three or four years– and only because Mr. Sansing was one of his brother’s clients.
Instead of actually doing his homework, WeSawThat went for the cheap and quick political hit.
I would hope that one day he will find the courage and tenacity to reveal his true identity and attempt to actually participate in the process and join the community– truly holding government accountable by requesting interviews, writing e-mail inquiries (even easier), and filing public records requests.
Until then, I hope he will at least attempt to open the lines of communication before publicly impugning local people based on tortured interpretations of media snippets and a refusal to actually engage, even when he’s invited.