(voice of) God is Dead

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Hello. We interrupt our coverage of East Falls & environs to bring you this special message:

We write like this on purpose.

Recently it’s come to our attention that some find our first-person voice… confusing. “You write ‘we’ when you’re reporting that East Falls Forward stuff, and so it makes the whole paper seem like it’s by them, a neighbor recently offered.

Fair enough.

But we also write “we” when discussing traffic, dog parks, bike rides, farmers markets, home rebuilds, Christmas caroling, vintage baseball games, boat landings…

In fact, you’ll find East Falls Local uses “we” and “I” almost exclusively as narrative pronouns, rather than the traditional objective third person “Voice of God” taught to journalism students since contemporary journalism began, pretty much.

Eastfallslocal collage journalism headlines

But now Harvard, Columbia — all the big schools (little ones, too) — are embracing a new voice of journalism, a subjective one, totally up-front about political and personal beliefs & affiliations. With 61% of millennials getting their news from social media these days (and other generations not far behind), modern audiences seek connection and engagement, not the authoritative dissemination of facts from an unknown source.

Truth is, no one’s buying that phony impartiality, anyway:

“Journalists who select sources to express what is really their own point of view, and then use the neutral voice to make it seem objective, are engaged in deception.”  — The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

and

“The third person is like the Great and Powerful Oz of journalism — a schlumpy little guy hiding behind a curtain, exaggerating his omniscience.” Ron Rosenbaum, reporter in his column 2002

and

“The Voice of God style doesn’t ring true now (if it ever did) for one simple reason: the press is no longer society’s monolithic information gatekeeper.”   — Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune

The jig is up, folks.

EastFallsLocal myth of journalistic objectivityjpg

People today are hip to the bias in EVERY news outlet, from neighborhood blogs to the NY Times. We’re not stupid — we know how branding works. We’ve seen Fox News.

In fact, we’ve seen SO MUCH NEWS — all day, every day if we want it — that audiences need help curating all the information thrown at us by the media. We can’t read everything!

So we choose different news sources based on our interests and viewpoints, and also — this is important:  because we know who wrote the article.

Since no one source is 100% trustworthy, modern readers need to use their *own* judgment concerning everything they read. When writers are up-front about their own opinions & self interests, audiences have an easier time figuring out whose perspectives they prefer hearing (and how big a grain of salt to go with ’em).

A recent Guardian article went so far as to challenge journalists covering elections to declare who they’re voting for: “We are all subjective, and shouldn’t be afraid to admit it.”

The “Voice of God” still has a purpose today (CNN, for instance), particularly when serious news breaks and people are eager for a quick, clear, distillation of the facts.  But for neighborhood news items like planning & development, meeting recaps, parking or traffic calming measures, etc. it’s important to know where the facts are coming from.

At East Falls Local, whenever we post an opinion — such as speed bumps do more harm than good  — we provide links to more authoritative sources so readers can see where we’re coming from, and make up their own minds. Don’t agree? Every article includes a “Comments” section where anyone can post their own links and rebuttals for further discussion. We also post video, so folks can see for themselves what we’re reacting to.

In addition, we take submissions, and welcome any neighborhood voice with information and commentary to share. Citizen journalists, get in here! The more transparent your agenda, the easier you’ll find your audience, and organize the movement you seek.

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So getting back to East Falls Forward:  yes, we’re involved in the organization but to suggest East Falls Local is our version of Pravda would be quite a jump, there.  Read thru our blog, the only agendas we have so far are quite clear:

  1. common courtesy at community meetings
  2. transparency in community dealings
  3. a “real” coffeeshop that’s open after 3 pm

For the record, we’d also like to save all the stray animals, fix every dilapidated house, bring Mifflin’s scores up, create a self-sustaining retail district here, and build a free public monorail over Henry Avenue (OK not that last part, just wanted to share a favorite Simpson’s clip).

EastFallsLocal collage covers from 2015

Thank you for reading East Falls Local, where we post our sources and, in many cases, video we record of community leaders in action.  We hope our blog encourages neighbors to get involved, and nurture the power, joy, & novelty of their own voices.  Let us know how we can help.

Eastfallslocal collage popcorn next meeting FREE MIX AND MEET

And come meet us for an EAST FALLS SOCIAL  (and EFF Open House) on Thursday, February 18th at the BuLogics building on Midvale. Adult beverages and lively conversation in a kid-friendly & architecturally fascinating old movie-theater-turned-Tech-office. No agenda, no sales pitches — Happy Hour begins at 6:30 pm, hope to see you there.  *WIN A TABLET! DETAILS HERE* 

We now return you to our usual coverage, already in progress…

 

 

 

7 Comments

  • Moesha

    19th century journalists made no pretense of objectivity. It seems to be a 20th century thing. If anything, we’re witnessing a return to the old norm.

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      Thanks, yes, I’m glad you brought this up. Although for the record, we’re not trying to start the Spanish-American War here, ha. Hey — this is funny. Reading a book on ancient professions, just got to the part on authors in Roman times. The state created a building called an “auditorium” (!) where people gathered to read plays/poems/etc that the upper-crust had the leisure to write: their exploits, their opinions, their advice… By the 2nd century, audiences had tuned out, and turned to new authors like Horace & Juvenal who delighted citizens with funny stories known as “sarcasm” — which literally means “flesh cutting.” And so the cycle repeats! 🙂

    • Clare

      Thank you Moesha. I was just going to write such a comment. The tradition of writers and editors using “we” is centuries old, reflecting the obvious: a paper (or magazine, or flyer) reflects the point of view of the author or the editors. BTW, if you want to see this lovely old method in action – hit up the Free Library, or The Library Company, or if you can get access the Penn or Temple library. I recommend the Edinburgh Review — unabashedly liberal :)!

  • Brian

    I still think we should have used that money to fix Main Street. Well you should have written a song like that guy. (Fourteen + 13)? What’s next? Train A leaves the station at noon going 60 MPH….

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