LAist writes first person account in third person, gets hit by bus

Well, not in that order…

LAist’s Stephen Box most recent post, “Hollywood Bus Driver Attacks Cyclist, LAPD Handcuff Cyclist (and Wife!)” highlights once again the escalating friction between cyclists and motorists… in this case, a bus driver.

Written entirely in the third person and including a photo of the man being cuffed, the entry is a compelling, detailed story about a bike rider being honked at by an irritated bus, cyclist then being “nudged” by the bus as he attempts to call the police, and finally ending with his being cuffed by said police while the bus driver is allowed to go on.

Unfortunately, it isn’t until the very end of the post where the author off-handedly suggests that the whole post was about him (in parentheses, no less), and thus written by him:

As for this cyclist (yes, that’s me in those pictures!), “See you on the streets!”

Perhaps this is just Stephen’s writing style – and by all indications he’s an upstanding guy (a couple authors at here think very highly of him), but am I the only one who finds this writing in the third person approach to have been a deliberately deceptive way for the author to attempt to gain credibility in they eyes of the reader?

Regardless, for the average reader who reads through the post, it will appear that the author did his homework, complete with a dissection of what transpired, when, in reality, its told only through the point of view of the victim in this instance.

The post is becoming popular on Digg, where its been “dugg” over 1000 times. A couple commenters there also point out the problem, including this from markajanssen:

The author of this story was the participant in the incident. May not be fully factual..not saying it’s fake…just saying that we should heed caution when the story is pretty biased.

More to discussion, albeit on the incident and not the issue of POV/bias, at Midnight Ridazz.

8 thoughts on “LAist writes first person account in third person, gets hit by bus”

  1. MSM reporters do it all the time. It annoys me too, but it’s not that uncommon. Ask the Militant Angeleno about it sometime.

    I’d rather focus on the events rather than the writing style of the author. As for the possibility that it’s not “fully factual”, I’d like to see some evidence of that.

  2. Since LAist isn’t a newspaper, I didn’t read it as a true third person account (though admittedly I knew that the author was the subject before I read it). Is it biased? Of course. It is from his point of view. But I don’t think that’s a problem in blogging.

  3. I think it was a poor choice, but I don’t know that I believe it was a “deliberately deceptive way for the author to attempt to gain credibility.” Instead, I think he was probably trying to write what he thought was an honest, factual account. After all, Box isn’t a full time journalist is he? I doubt he thinks in those terms, and some of the ins and outs of journalistic ethics can seem pretty foreign to amateur writers.

  4. Well, if bloggers are to have the same type of protections and access as journalists (and personally, I think they should), then they probably should adhere to similar standards of ethics.

    Also, even if a reporter is writing about a story s/he participated in, it is generally writen in the third person , albeit with very few “I’s” and “my’s”.

  5. I don’t find the story incredible in the least, so knowing that the author is the subject of the story doesn’t really make me doubt the veracity of his story. Further, I think there is a definite place for bias in journalism, whether it’s a blogger or a more traditional journalist, so long as that bias is not obscure–editorial writing is all about bias, isn’t it?

    I think this was just an amateurish style choice by someone who thought he was ratcheting up the suspense and then going for the glory with a surprise reveal at the end. It’s a cliched style that really only works well for a few supremly gifted writers; I don’t think it works well for Box but I don’t smell any bad intent on his part.

  6. I took it as he was trying to make it about the event and not just bitching online. By framing the story in the third person, it allows the reader to put themselves in the situation.

    On the other hand – what do you care about it? Catty.

  7. I think the problem is that lots of people who came into blogging and are in blogging are journalist or writers by trade, but lots of people (especially on LAist) are not writers. That’s not bad. That simply is what it is. Now if you appreciate the written word there are other blogs which focuses more on that aspect of blogging.

    It’s good for lots of stuff though, they cover sports alot. I didn’t know LA had sports and I’ve lived here my whole life…lol…ok maybe I did know, but they do a good job covering that and letting you know about events.

    I like reading. I like reading clever writing. I like catching a fresh perspective. I go to blogs not to figure out just what to do or what is happening, but to experience the craft of writing. To read a new perspective. I’m not a guy. I don’t have kids, but if you do I can read your blog and maybe get some understanding of my fellow human beings.

    Maybe I want to know about a political issue that’s brewing, but the mainstream media hasn’t gotten a hold of it yet, blogs are good pulses in regards to what’s coming up next or what’s done.

    Now possibly there should be a label on blogs.

    One that says this blog abides by modified print journalism and academic standards and this blog does not.

    That way we won’t be holding blogs that aren’t concerned with that kind of thing at the same standard, but also it helps in regards to actually having a journalistic standard on blogs that do, so if someone does do something that seems a bit unethical by journalism standards we can actually hold them accountable.

    I think if bloggers want the rights of the print media we definitely need to enact some kind of standard.

    I think there needs to be a separation or notation between blogs that are purely PR with no regard for journalism standards and blogs that view themselves as electronic form of the editorial media.


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