10th May 2005

Posted in

Blog :: Media Criticism

I recently read an article in my local newspaper that illustrated for me why many people do not trust even their local versions of the MSM. (Yes I realise that wasn't a link to the story, more on that in a minute.)

Briefly, the article was about the phenomenon of "freak dancing" in local Jr High and High Schools. The article covered the facts well and with a certain air of objectivity: a principal who threatened to shut down school dances was interviewed, parents who were concerned about the level of sexually explicit behavior their children were exposed to added their concerns and a student on each side of the issue was quoted. Even a DJ got in his five cents.

Balanced, right? Well sorta. The article's opening lines nod a head at the history of parents not appreciating their kids' dancing and music.

Just as Elvis Presley's pelvic gyrations horrified adults a halfcentury ago, freaking has become the adult-gasping rage today.

Note the subtext. Teens will be teens and parents will be fuddy-dudies, right? Nothing to see here, so move along... That Elvis sure could shake his hips, couldn't he.

Not so fast. Are we really talking suggestive dance moves? Or are we talking strip routines? DJ Robert Pacheco (owner of TNT Productions) says he can't play a particular Nelly song because the kids follow the song's advice and start taking off articles of clothing. Mom Prentice Holtsman (who virtuously says she doesn't allow kids to smoke or drink at her 15 year old's parties) says she allows most freaking but banned a move called the "cry baby" wherein dancers "dancers get on their hands and knees and simulate sex". Delhi Middle School Principal Dave Woods says he stopped a dance at which seventh graders were freaking. This doesn't sound like a case of parental overreaction to teenage behaviour.

But that wasn't what I was going to write about.

When I looked for the text to this article I couldn't find it. The Bee's site (modbee.com) only lets you search for articles published in the last 7 days. After that you have to pay $3.95 to download a single story from the archives. Now throught the magic of google i was able to find both the google cache of this story and the actual link to the story (folks the site: modifier on google search is your friend!)

I can't verify that either of those links will still work by the time you read this post. The Bee could request that Google's cache be cleaned of any modbee content (IIRC) and obviously modbee.com has no interest in allowing the internet to easily find old content on their site.

This then is finally my point. If MSM (and that includes you, Modesto Bee) wants to be perceived as accountable and honest by the public and John Q. Blogger, it is not enough that they are able to recognise the shading of stories by inserting subtextual similes, it is also important that their product be available to be checked, criticized and ultimately improved. Open up your archives modbee!

Posted on May 10th 2005, 11:50 AM