(For the record, this was the only non-karaoke version of the song I could find; I don’t know anything about anime).

Recently, a couple of my close friends, whose opinions I highly respect, have pulled me aside and asked, “What’s the point of engaging someone you’re never going to convince? Why bother?” Their line of logic, which is sound, goes something like this: By discussing someone else’s bone-headed opinions, you’re calling attention to them. By calling attention to them, you’re giving them credibility. And by giving them credibility, you’re providing them with an equal platform. Why do that?

I understand their point, and I suppose if I lived in a larger community with a broader public square, it would be a lot easier and much more convenient to completely ignore those who cobble together a series of disjointed statements and reports in order to create an air of suspicion and mistrust. But for better or worse, Alexandria is a small city with a limited media: one daily newspaper that, as of today, employs only one person who, among other things, reports on Alexandria political news, two television news channels that attempt to cover all of the day’s news, weather, and sports in less than 25 minutes, and two or three weekly and monthly journals, which are often primarily concerned with social news.

When I created this blog more than four years ago, it was never my intent to serve as a source of local “hard” news. I don’t approach this blog as if it is a news outlet; this is primarily about commentary.

I think that some, not all, of our local blog operators like to fashion themselves as citizen journalists, which is a fine and noble enterprise and should be taken more seriously by more people. Still, it is important to remember that journalism is a profession. You need sources and access; above all, you need to be engaged.

I worry that, because of media consolidation and cut-backs in the news divisions throughout the country, the information vacuum that has been created, particularly on the local level, is being too hastily filled by people who don’t have any regard or understanding of the tenets of journalism– not just how to write proper English (I don’t believe in the rule books), but how to ensure you’re receiving credible information, how to vet sources, how to understand tone and intent. Maybe that is asking too much, I realize, but if you’re going to act as if you are a citizen journalist who reports the news, you should aspire to the notion that with power comes responsibility. Journalism is only great if it is backed by integrity.

So, faced with the absence of information, we substitute credible journalism with conjecture and opinion. Suddenly, the news becomes someone else’s half-informed opinion of their impression of someone else’s newspaper story.

And this conjecture and opinion can be compelling. It’s often spot-on. But it’s not news. It’s commentary.

There is an inverse relationship between the decrease of thorough and credible reporting and the increase of mistrust and conspiracy.

There is no easy fix to this problem. The Town Talk has laid off scores of employees in the last few years; they’ve shuttered their printing operations in Alexandria and outsourced to Lafayette. KALB covers a huge geographical market, and their presentation of the news is heavily constrained by time.

To be sure, this isn’t just a local problem; I suspect that mid-sized markets like ours are all affected by the phenomena of a nascent online community, however ungoverned and reckless, filling in an information gap in a significant way. I think there’s a good reason why Gannett elected to deploy an anonymous and relatively unedited free-for-all forum application for all of their online content. They want to corner and control this market. User-generated content.

But we still need the straight news. Our democracy requires it.

And if I believe that those who present themselves as citizen journalists are not being truthful or accurate or if they lack credibility, I won’t shy away from saying it.

Either way, it’s just my opinion.

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