Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio is apparently either the victim of a theft or has had surgery to remove the thick skin reporters build up during their studies in journalism school. Missoula police have not been alerted to a thick skin disappearance, and detectives say they have not been asked to search for an epidermis.  Missoulian readers are concluding Florio has shed hers voluntarily.

 

This t-shirt is sold online and contains a good question for journalists.

Are the headline and lede paragraph fair?

Maybe, maybe not.

But unlike the Missoulian’s recent report on “vulgarity” on eGriz, I’m just going to come out and admit that I wrote it to get attention, not because it has any news value.

Kinda like that story.

The fact is, I have no proof that the reporter in question has a thin skin. I cannot prove that she wrote the story that has these pages buzzing because she’s been upset about how she’s been treated on this site for her reporting.

But that’s OK with me, you see, because the point, apparently, is to get eyeballs on the page, not enlighten or serve the readership.  That much I’m quite sure of, and my introduction here is nothing more than a hasty attempt to use the same approach to writing to see how things look when the tables are turned.

Hmm.. It doesn’t look like good journalism.

And I’m pretty sure any honest account of that particular story would reach the same conclusion.

Not that there aren’t some valid points made in the story. There are. There most definitely are.  More on that in a bit.

But the fact is, there’s no news peg for that article.  If a casual reader who knew nothing about Missoula, UM, eGriz or Griz athletics happened across the story, s/he would be baffled about what, exactly, the purpose of writing the story was.

“Internet Trolls Have Potty Mouths” would’ve been a somewhat worthwhile story to do 15 years ago, when the ‘Web was new to a lot of people who were surprised by what they found after their modems squawked and crackled their way online.

But not anymore.

By now, I would hope, most folks are aware that they probably shouldn’t believe everything they read online.

Sadly, this type of reporting contributes to the poor public perception of newspapers. And given the way that business is going, they don’t need help in that area.

But this story wasn’t even about the fact that there are anonymous people posting unsavory things online. It started out that way, but then moved in all sorts of directions that didn’t even make sense.

The story doesn’t even have a decent lede. It takes six paragraphs before we even find out that the story is actually going to be about this site, not how victims of sexual assault are treated by the general public.

I don’t know where Florio got her journalism degree, but if it was in the hallowed halls of the J-school at UM, where I went, I’m pretty sure she skipped class the day they covered lede graphs.  It’s been awhile, but I recall something about getting who, what, when, where, why, how and to whom all into one sentence. I dunno, maybe it’s fuzzy, but that’s how I did it for almost twenty  years and that’s how I still see it done elsewhere.

Did you know Florio once reported for the Philadelphia Bulletin? That evening newspaper is now defunct.

What’s that got to do with the reporter or the story in question?

Beats me.

That those two items are facts don’t make them relevant to each other.  But then again, dragging eGriz owner Chris Lynn’s day job into the story in question sure seemed like an irrelevant turn in her story, too.

I’ll stop there because there are so many flaws with the reporting (and editing)  that I could go on and on.

Is there a story in how the media portray victims of sexual assault?

Damn right there is.

I think it would be a great story to speak with some victims of sexual assault and ask them how they’ve been treated. I’m pretty sure there are victim’s advocates who work with these people who have some amazing stories to tell about victims of sexual assault and what they go through in seeking justice.

That would be powerful stuff. It might even change some perceptions that are held by ignorant people who think sex assault victims “had it coming.” Or were “asking for it.”

Is it valid to do a story asking about the sort of moonlighting that UM employees are permitted to do?

Yes.

I think it would be interesting and valuable for a reporter to look into the universities’ policies regarding employees holding multiple jobs and if there are limits on the types of things that are permissible. I know some professors back in the late 1980’s who washed dishes at a restaurant because they appreciated the value of doing a little manual labor. I wonder if any ladies in the registrar’s office are also pole dancers? I wonder if any professors in the sciences are also on the payroll of major aerospace companies or engineering firms?

That’d be a good read.

But those disparate items were slapped together in Florio’s story in a way that was clearly intended to do nothing but call out eGriz.com as a haven for crass posts denigrating victims of sexual assault.

I take some solace, as a regular reader, in knowing that anybody who visits the site will quickly discover that it’s much, much more than that.

Are there people on eGriz who post a lot of crap? You bet.  And they should be, and they are, called out for it.

Do I wish we eGrizzers would take a few writing classes?  Do I wish some of us would learn to actually write well? Do I wish some would quit their feeble attempts at being satirical? Do I wish the conversation would come up out of the gutter? Do I wish some posters, who do nothing but run around putting cat turds in the sandbox, would just go spend time on their own sites? Hell yes.

What should we do about it?

Well, I know what will happen.  A lot of angry people will write things, anonymously, that they’d never say if their face or name appeared with the words.

But what I hope happens is that more eGrizzers will respond by continuing to call out the bad apples, that the conversations will be focused more on sports, and that at the very least people spend just a little more time editing what they write before putting it online.

I don’t think the answer is putting mods on overtime to delete potentially objectionable material (although I’m not going to deny there are a couple of people, or one person posing as multiple people, who I wouldn’t mind seeing booted from the site entirely).

I think the only way to eliminate the problem is to continue to add good content to overshadow the dopes who drag the site down.

But eGriz is way more than a “testosterone-soaked universe.”

Florio either didn’t bother to actually peruse those links she searched on the site, or, if she did, she ignored their context and the reaction to them entirely.  It’s hard to conclude anything other than her intention was to  make it appear as though such comments represent the site as a whole.

And that makes readers wonder about the motivation for writing the story at all.

It’s awful hard to conclude anything other than Florio has a beef with the site and she decided to create an opportunity to generalize about its content, in the process making Chris appear not to care.

Quick, somebody call the Missoula Police and ask them to go hunt for a thick skin. I’m sure there’s one lying around somewhere in Missoula county.  The view from afar: it looks as though there’s a reporter who could use it.

GrizGuy is Frank Field, who has posted on eGriz since 2003.

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