Monday, July 11, 2011 puts the clamps on its columnists

The new breed of Booth/Advance editors can't stand controversy. They buckle under the pressure of "offended" readers. Now they have decided to formalize that "buckle."

There are days when I miss being a newspaper reporter/columnist. And then I read this stuff and I'm glad I'm out. For good.


Inky said...

Jim, the column that inspired the "buckle" was an ill-conceived and biased load of crap. A business "director" tried to argue that Jennifer Granholm was insenitive because she sent out a couple of tweets about driving a Volt and being on MSNBC while there was breaking news about the Grand Rapids shootings.

That's a manufactured controversy right out of the Fox News playbook. Granholm isn't the governor anymore; she is not the state's griever-in-chief. She is a private citizen. I don't care what she or anyone else tweets about.

The real news here is that because of an outcry by readers who know lousy journalism when they see it, the Kontent King issued an oily, defensive apology and announced a new policy. From now on, he decreed, columnists will be edited by real human adults. Wow, this guy's ability to revolutionize journalism seems to have no boundaries. How did the Flint Journal wither on his watch? Editing ... it's not just for newspapers anymore.

Jim of L-Town said...

For the record, I had not read the two offending columns, but just the lame apology issued by the Kontent King. It was vintage KK.

I agree with you that criticizing the former governor was probably in poor taste, but columnists are often known for poor taste.

The editing should have been done before, not after the column was written.

A good editor would have spiked the column before it ever appeared. Having let it be published then a good editor would have taken the hit publicly and not passed the buck to a "poor system."

I prefer my editors to be a little tougher than the ones we see today.

Inky said...

The other "offending" column was by a staffer who railed about self-absorbed jerks in Ann Arbor who won't put their dogs on a leash. She basically vowed to kill any dog that threatened her or her family. Can't say I blame her, but the dogs-are-humans-too crowd went rabid, so the Kontent King took the threat out of her column. Not sure why, because it was repeated numerous times in the comments. Again, no signs of adult supervision before it was published.

Anonymous said...

If these two column examples are what's passing for good journalism in Ann Arbor, be it on line or off line, then is in big trouble. I think the AA community deserves -- and should demand -- a lot better than what they're getting and what we're seeing. If this is the best the KK can muster, I again have to ask how he continues to fool people above him the same way Casey Anthony has a lot of people close to her believing she is, er, was a good mother.

pendragon said...

Anonymous, I think you're confusing the "people above him" with people who actually care about good journalism. At least in the MLivosphere where I toil it's solely about numbers now, with the J word not even a distant second. One doubts that the digital Advancistas view through any different lens.

Anonymous said...

I love this sentence:

More recently, though, we have published staff-written columns that didn’t meet the standards we hold ourselves to here.

former newsie said...

Careful editing has largely been sacrificed in the world of online journalism. I'm guessing that neither of these columns was edited for content before they were posted online. It was inevitable that something like this would happen.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 09:55, the problem I have with that picture is KK, who holds himself out to be a journalistic Lord on High, who has supposedly grinded it out in the mosh pits of small to medium Michigan dailies for years and who has ink in his veins. But you're reminding us that the enterprise is not about journalism at all. Then Special KK is either there as window dressing, and is fooling himself, or he is there for something he is not and never has been -- that is some sort of MBA newspaper turn-around guru -- and, yes, has everyone fooled. Either way, I wish KK would wipe from his face that trademark grin that implies "I'm a superior journalist and editor," when his resume doesn't necessarily back it up.

Anonymous said...

And speaking of grinding it out, I read in the FJ that Kongressman Kildee, another KK, is finally hanging it up. I think Kildee is a genuinely nice man but I'm amazed at how he's been able to detach himself personally, mentally and politically from the total disaster that Flint has become on his watch. Of course, Kildee is not singularly to blame for Flint's demise, but he has been too much of a cheerleader and not enough of a true leader and constructive critic. Maybe that is one reason, oddly, for his long stint in office. But his denials and press release puffery can't erase the dystopia that is now Flint. As a veteran Congressman, it has been his job to help avert such a tragedy. Period. This is how he must be judged. But realists know that judgment of Kildee will be the last thing that happens and that this delusional dynamic is a big reason Flint remains in its death spiral. Yes, the FJ was full of Kildee tributes Sunday. Balanced journalism, eh? OK, it's considered rude to say bad things about someone who is retiring or who passed away. That's understandable to a point. But I hope Flinstones remember the real legacy that Kildee -- and other veteran Michigan Congressmen in both major parties -- has left us. Why is it so important? Because after his laughable, aborted run for governor, now Kildee's ever-opportunistic nephew, another career politician who has done little for the area other than feather his own nest and trump up his credentials as some sort of a land-bank guru and community turn-around artist (yeah, right), will no doubt seek his uncle's seat. Folks, Flint's troubles are too serious for another stroll down memory lane with the cardigan-sweatered Kildees. Let's show the out-of-step Kildees that it's time they learned how to get a job in the private sector, just like so many of their unemployed constituents.

A2Politico said...

When I dubbed Dearing the Kontent King, I had no idea it would catch on. Nathan Bomey's piece was supposed to be about social media, not the murders, per se. The problem was that he missed his mark and there was no one to supervise or edit him before he posted. Oops.

The readers objected to what amounted to a poorly written piece that while hoping to look at the use of social media ended up trivializing the murders. It was painful to read, and the comments were vociferous.

As for's KK, this is yet another example of leadership in retrospect. Tom Gantert (Ann Arbor News reporter) wrote that Dearing has no idea what he's doing. The issuance of apologies and policies don't cover up what is clearly lack of editorial oversight.

What editor would allow a business writer to pop up a fluffy piece about the use of social media while people are being murdered? What's worse, before Bomey was stopped, he had enough time (and hubris) to post comments in response to readers defending his horrid judgement and equally horrid piece.

The company has a summer intern identified as an journalist, and there are more sales people than content producers now. Advance hasn't renewed's domain name; it expires in about 30 days.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more, Anon 08:12. If the "nephewious" Kildee is such a guru, why is own hometown community one of the worst in the whole country by so many measures? If he doesn't have more to show for his accomplishments than some homes renovated and subsidized by taxpayers -- instead of Flint's usual slumlords -- then it's time to consider retiring ala Unka Dale. Behind all the hype, it's nothing more than your dime-a-dozen local housing rehab program. And where did his borrowed proposal to bulldoze parts of Flint get us besides ridicule by talk show hosts? Just like his Unka Dale, no one can blame Dan Kildee for all of Flint's woes. But he certainly must share a lot of the blame, considering how many offices he's held over his lo many decades on the public dole. But again just like Kildee senior, the shameful decline of Flint shamefully slides off Junior like so many hands on a greased pig. Local voters have oft rewarded the Kildees but their return on investment has been nill. It's high time Junior gets a dose of healthy reality. The gravy train days are long gone. Try getting a job in the private sector for once, Dan. What's that, Dan? Someone explain what the private sector is to Dan!

Jim of L-Town said...

OK, the Kildee bashing has gone far enough. In the interest of the First Amendment I have put the comments through, but I just want to state for the record that both Dale and Dan are friends and I disagree with much of what has been said about them here.

They don't need me to defend them, but I do find their civility refreshing in a political battlefield where it is far too rare.

So if we could get back to the topic at hand - - I would appreciate it.