extras, season two (spoilers)

no editor ok’d this column

Like many ex-pat people from the Bay Area, I read the San Francisco Chronicle online. Unlike those people, I am not an ex-pat … I still live here … and in fact I get the Chronicle hard copy delivered to my door each morning. But I'm so used to reading online that getting my morning paper via my monitor seems normal to me, while Robin likes to take the paper to work during the week, and likes to read the paper in bed on the weekend, so our arrangement works out great … we never fight over who gets what section first.

So it is that I go to SF Gate this morning to read my paper, and on the Gate front page is a link to today's Jon Carroll column about a racist screed which appeared in a San Francisco freebie called AsianWeek. The screed in question was called "Why I Hate Blacks," and was apparently not meant to be ironic … the author actually hates black people, and wants the world to know it.

Carroll's column on the screed is, as is the norm for him, a fine read … while I never think of him as an all-time favorite, the truth is this very blog is probably patterned as much as anything on Jon Carroll's columns, and if I manage to hit a Carrollian height even once a week, I figure I'm doing well. I recommend his column, always and especially today. (OK, I skip the cat columns, but YMMV.)

What got my attention initially, though, was the headline on the Gate portal. It reads "Carroll: An editor OK'd this column?" While it is true that Carroll begins with a few words about the editor of AsianWeek, the bulk of his column is devoted to dismantling the "argument" of the screed. So the headline is a bit of a come-on (and, it should be noted, no headline or title appears on the page containing the actual column itself).

Why did the headline lead me to write this blog post? Because the headline is correct: an editor OK'd the column "Why I Hate Blacks." It is unclear precisely how accurate the headline is … Carroll refers to editor in chief Samson Wong, while elsewhere the Gate features an article that focuses on "editor at large" Ted Fang. So the "buck stops here" part of the situation isn't obvious. What IS obvious, and what IS accurate about the headline, is that an editor OK'd "Why I Hate Blacks" for publication. And that leads to my very small but, I think, very important point, which won't take me long to state and which has taken a bit of time to get to (see, I do channel Jon Carroll … he often writes columns that are fun to read and seem to meander a bit, only to get to a small but important point at the end).

You hear it said that blogging, at least when it is unaffiliated with any more official organization (a distinction that must be made, since blogging is no longer just the refuge of individuals with web access … even SF Gate includes blogs from many Chronicle writers, blogs that ironically are often better than the stuff that appears in the actual newspaper), unaffiliated blogging is untrustworthy, because it is unedited. Any nutcase with a keyboard can have a blog, and most of them do (have a blog … I assume they also have a keyboard). Steven Rubio's Online Life is a perfect example … it's been an ambition of mine for at least 30 years to have a daily column, and now, even though I am lazy and unambitious enough that I never actually tried to get a "real" column, blogging means I've had the equivalent of a daily column for more than five years now. But I have no editor, I write what I want, I am unaffiliated, and thus you are not supposed to trust me. Like teachers tell their students, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet. (I don't tell my students that … well, I tell them they need to be skeptical about what they read, but I don't single out the Internet. That would be silly, considering my classes are held on the Internet.)

So … yes, I'm almost done … we aren't supposed to trust bloggers, because bloggers are independent, unaffiliated, unedited. And in the meantime, AsianWeek runs a piece called "Why I Hate Blacks" that required a decision to run the screed … a decision made by an editor or editors … editors who are supposed to represent what separates professional journalism from the wacky world of blogging.

I, it should be clear, am not a professional.

Little things you say and do, make me want to