My landlord subscribes to the LA Daily News and no matter how many times he’s told them that he only needs one paper a day, they frequently deliver two. Rather than just toss the second copy he often leaves it for me to check out. I usually read the first few lines of the whatever is on the cover (without taking it out of the plastic even), realize that I already read whatever their main story is online the day before and toss it.
Last week he pointed out a story I’d missed by Josh Kleinbaum called ‘bloggers byte back at LAPD’s online foray‘. After getting past that oh-so-clever-yet-circa-1992 headline pun I found an article about “bloggers” reactions to the LAPD Blog. Since this is something I know a thing or two about I quickly read the article hoping to get a viewpoint that I had missed from some other Los Angeles Bloggers who were notable enough to get their names in the ol’ paper. Except I wasn’t so lucky. Not a word from a single LA blogger you might have heard of, but instead plenty of snark quoted from the likes of “Sassy Sue” on MySpace.com (they didn’t provide a link), or anonymous posters on suicidegirls.com. It’s like they went out of their way to only get quotes from people you’ve never heard of, and with no direct links quotes you couldn’t even check out yourself. I was going to write something about it at the time but decide to just ignore it assuming it would just go away.
Unfortunately for everyone who decides to sit down and read this thing, as if on some kind of bashing crusade, the are at it again this week. Only it gets SO much worse. Today the LAFD blog points out a piece by Mariel Garza called ‘LAPD blog just bogs down the net‘ which is so full of inaccuracies it’s not even funny. Do these people have a fact checker over there? I’m guessing no. As I read the piece I was wondering if I should fisk it, pointing out line by line every mistake they made or just pick a few of the bigger ones to highlight. (UPDATE: The LAPD has posted their own reply to this column here)
Since I don’t have all day to spend doing someone else’s job I decided just to highlight the gems. This is yet another piece that is skewed to hard to try and make the authors point that all fact and reality it out the window. Let’s see, let’s go right to the beginning, the second sentence Mariel Garza wrote reads:
Los Angeles’ finest rolled out their blog earlier this month as part of a $238,000 redesign of the department Web site. (Apparently the LAPD brass doesn’t know about the free Blogspot. Oh, well. It’s only taxpayer money.)
I guess they don’t have calendars over at the Daily News either, since the $238,000 redesign of the LAPD website launched back in the beginning of March, included serious technical revisions including interactive crime maps and had nothing to do with the blog. In fact when I first heard back from the LAPD about helping them get a blog going I was told they were dealing with the redesign and couldn’t even worry about adding something else until that was finished. Additionally since the LAPD blog is running on Typepad and Flickr there are next to no costs involved in running it. But most importantly, tax payer money isn’t going into this, the LAPD Blog, as well as the entire LAPD website is funded by the Los Angeles Police Foundation. Of course all of this info would require a few minutes on google to find out, and would run contrary to Mariel’s rant so why bother to include it, right?
The next chunk basically says that blogs are cool, and cops aren’t cool, so cops can’t have blogs. Which would be an interesting perspective if this was 2001 when only a few cool people had blogs, instead of 2006 when there are more than 40 million blogs being written by almost everyone in every corner of the planet. In fact, the more I read this the more I think that Mariel has confused MySpace and blogs.
The one valid complaint in the entire piece is that the blog currently contains a lot of press releases. This is true and I told Lt. De La Torre that myself last week. Basically they are still trying to figure out how to handle this and how to write it, and under what voice it should be. So while that is being discussed, they are using press releases to actually have some content on the site, and they feel that having those with comments is at least a baby step in the right direction. Hopefully they will keep taking those steps.
Then comes this bit:
The site does allow for comments, which I guess does afford some community dialogue. But it’s hard to tell if many of the comments are from real live non-cop people or whether the LAPD followed the lead of a certain Los Angeles Times business columnist and made up personalities to praise itself.
Oh, ok, so using this logic if the comments aren’t negative they must be fake? How about the fact that they are trying to do something right here, and you’d have to be some kind of idiot Los Angeles Times business columnist to think you could get away with posting fake comments on your own blog? Or how about getting some facts before speculating. While they might be lacking in the content, they get comments. This was something I was very clear with them about in all of my discussions with them – if they are going to have comments they need to be legit, unedited, and honest. While they are understandably moderating for porn/language that wouldn’t be fitting on a governmental website, they are approving any comment that relates positive or negative. Mariel – just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not real.
The worst thing about this piece is that it’s implying that we’re all somehow worse off because this blog exists. That no information is better than some information. That a newspaper would publish something saying that there should be less info available to the public is pretty disgusting.