Thursday, June 15, 2006

Live From Little Rock: Day One: A Bit of a Bummer

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2006 at 8:53 PM

So, day one of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention has wrapped up, and even though it was a great day in many respects, I am a bit bummed.

We enjoyed a reception at the beautiful William J. Clinton Presidential Library. The library gives short shrift to our former president's problems, but it effectively depicts how much good he brought to this country. How anybody can objectively look at all the positive things that happened on his watch and not believe he was an excellent president is beyond me. And the thought of who currently holds the presidency—and the job he's doing—led to the aforementioned bummer.

This came on the heels of a fantastic—yet also depressing, in some ways—conference session. The main speaker at the session was Ted Conover, an fantastic literary nonfiction writer. Much of the discussion focused on the recent journalism/memoir scandals (i.e., James Frey, J.T. LeRoy, etc.) that have befallen the nonfiction biz as of late. We, as a bunch of editors, were trying to figure out how to make sure everything that goes into our newspapers is as fact-checked and accurate as possible. At one point, someone said something to the effect of: "You know, at some point, we've all probably published something in our newspapers that was made up, and never even realized it." And he's right. You can only fact-check so much.

But someone said something else later that cheered me up a bit. It was a statement that's echoed similar things I've mentioned before: The fact that these scandals are being exposed shows that, in many ways, journalism is better than it ever has been before. Due to the knowledge at all our fingertips on the Internet, and due to the sheer number of unfettered media sources out there, these kinds of frauds are being shown for what they are. I don't know if these deceits would have been exposed 10 years ago. I doubt they would have.

And that revelation/reminder made the day just a bit brighter.


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