The Powers That Be have asked me to write another article, introducing myself to the public — again.
“WTF? Like people really want to hear more about me,” was my silent response. But I was offered this advice from someone whose professional career has spanned more years than I’ve been on the planet, so here it is, Introduction Part Two.
I’m sure you’ll see me bopping around town with my notebook in hand, asking the questions and taking the photographs. I may run into you or dance into you on Dickson Street, especially if blues music is involved. If you are a patron of Common Grounds you may recognize me from my brief stint as a server there. Sorry if I forgot your side of ranch dressing or that third refill on your sweet tea. My bad.
If you want to know my agenda, it’s really quite simple. I want to tell the stories that make you think, that make you feel, that make you laugh. When I’m chasing that beat, yeah, I’m doing it because I love it, but I’m also doing it for you. If I write a story it’s because I think we both need to know about it or because I think we will both laugh about it. I might even write something that pisses you off every now and then, but hey, it goes without saying that you’re going to piss me off, too. That’s the way conversation goes.
Conversation — that’s where the story gets a little bigger because my story doesn’t just involve me anymore. It involves you too.
Enter social media. Sure, it’s a great way to send a really bitchy passive-aggressive message to a roommate or to stalk your ex-girlfriend (or the girl you met last weekend who made the mistake of giving you her last name) or even to find out what the word around town is. But given the chance to evolve past the petty melodrama, social media is a vehicle for the individual voice to reach public domain.
In my first WTF column, I mentioned the 2004 presidential election. Yes, I was upset that G.W. won again, (Granted, that was back when I thought Michael Moore was legit.) but it was the media coverage surrounding the election that appalled me to the point of an extreme “WTF?” moment. As a young, idyllic journalism student, armed with a pen and the belief in truth and dignity, I realized political coverage could never quite reach the truth because politicians themselves are, for the most part, power-hungry agenda pushers. My belief system was dismantled. To become a traditional journalist, I realized, was to become nothing more than a parrot for those I interviewed. Rehashing opinions, statistics and statements, all the while smothering my opinion to eliminate bias — not my cup of tea.
Think back to the beginning days of Facebook — when MySpace was still hot and before the invention of YouTube, Pandora and Twitter. How did you form an opinion about a political candidate or social issue? Where did you hear new music? The Internet was certainly a vast resource, but social media had yet to sweep the world, and the general public was left at the mercy of the mass media and those who funded its initiatives.
Now, I can conduct extensive research on any presidential candidate simply by typing a name into a YouTube search bar. I can listen to every documented exchange offered via the Internet, and I can research the opinion of other professionals, some of whom use social media as their only platform.
I’m a grassroots kind of gal, and social media revitalized my belief in the possibility of uncovering some semblance of truth in this world. There is a lot of talk about “liberal media bias” in conservative circles and a lot of grumbling about media moguls like Fox News on the liberal side. One of the great things about social media is that it includes the observer as part of the story, making the agenda transparent, perhaps even the topic of discussion, and for the first time, the opinions and biases of the media are part of the story, which makes its members more vulnerable to criticism but also more accessible when their viewpoints are presented as part of the human experience. The result is more of a conversation than a lecture.
So what biases and opinions can I lay on the table for you to examine? You can always swing by my Facebook page, but I’ll satisfy your curiosity with a few tidbits of information.
I don’t have a favorite color, though I particularly enjoy wearing black. (My fingertips are always covered in newspaper ink, and black hides the smudges.) In my free time I surf YouTube for political interviews and music videos. Epic stories are most appealing to me, which is why I watch the “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” trilogies at least once a year. I have a low tolerance for discrimination, and once upon a time that attitude defined me as a liberal. Recently, however, I’ve decided that believing in equal rights for everyone is not to the left or right of anything, (considering it’s dead center in the core of constitutional rights) so at the moment I do not affiliate myself with any political label.
OK, now you know a little bit about me, the great wizard behind the curtain. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or letter to the editor for the WTF portion of The Free Weekly, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag a WTF tweet @freekly. Oh yeah, that reminds me. In my first WTF column, I mentioned that the entering freshman class was 23,000. Negative, Ghost Rider, that was the entire enrollment for 2011.
Quick Note: The online version of this column is the original version. The print version was edited for length.