Sunday, June 12, 2005

A note to the community from Ava (Third Estate Sunday Review)

Ava: I want to say thank you to all the community members who e-mailed about our "tripping point" edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review last Sunday. In e-mails I read and answered, I'd stated we'd have an article up with our reflections/evaluations of the edition. That article was started early last week with the hope of doing a concluding paragraph or two as well as one more draft on the entire thing. Time ran out and that will go up next Sunday.

A number of e-mails I read (and Jess saw this in the e-mails he read and hopefully answered) asked that we trip back to the sixties again. We want to do that and are tossing around some ideas. But I checked the e-mails when I finally woke up to see what the reaction to today's edition was and a number of you think the theme that's referred to (the one we almost did this week) was a return to the sixties. It wasn't. Both themes will probably be done this summer but that was a reference to another theme.

A number of you who e-mailed today ( were surprised to learn of Dona's relative's surgery. You wondered why, for instance, it wasn't mentioned in the "Five Books, Five Minutes" when other events were? It was mentioned. Dona struck the reference (which is her right). Jim writes the note to the readers. We all add our input. He's at the keyboard on that and we're all tossing out things (some of which get included and some of which don't) trying to get the note together and up because that means we're done and can finally go to bed and get some sleep.

Jim included that note on his own. As most of you know, Jim and Dona are an "item." Dona didn't know it was included (none of us read over it before it was posted). Jim thought it was worth noting and as half of a couple, he can mention it and deal with any fall out (if there is any) privately. Dona's aunt is out of the hospital and recovering (all appears to be well). I read some of the e-mails concerned about her aunt to Dona (we're roommates) and she said to thank you for your concern.

We all want to say thank you to everyone who wrote in that they e-mailed the editorial last week or printed it up to get the word out and that they planned to do the same with this editorial.

C.I. and I are going to attempt to catch the WB's Summerland tomorrow night and, if we feel it's reviewable, will make that our TV review for the next edition. We meant to mention in our review this week, at the bottom, that the episode of Medium we reviewed will air Monday on NBC (that's based on a commercial Ty saw). We pulled that review together as quickly as we could when we were both about to fall out and forgot to note that. Of the new shows from last fall, Medium was the only one that we were impressed with. (Living With Fran debuted in the spring.) If you watch TV and you've wondered what impressed us about Medium, you've got a chance to see the episode tomorrow.

We had intended (after our TV review posted) for the information to go in the note to the readers but by the time we all got back from breakfast, no one (including me) remembered. (C.I. has never participated in writing the note to the readers.)

Ten of you e-mailed regarding the exchange at this site between The New York Times reporter and the community. You wondered why that wasn't a blog spotlight? It's certainly worthy of one. When we all discussed it (that would be Jess, Ty, Dona, Jim and myself as well as Rebecca, C.I., Betty and Folding Star), that was one of the first things that came to our minds. But we do one blog spotlight a week, one entry. To truly capture the exchange, we felt it would require including Beth's interview, the reporter's response and the community's response at a bare minimum. So instead we focused on Rebecca's entries which were also a good choice. We thought, C.I. and myself, that when we went off to watch CSI Miami, the decision was being made of which of the two entries by Rebecca to include. When we rejoined the others a little over an hour later, it was still being debated. (This would be where the strong words Jim refers to us uttering in the note to the readers happened.) C.I. and I both felt that the hour discussion on what to run that we took part in should have resulted in an easy decision. When we rejoined everyone a little over an hour later, we were looking at the clock and in no mood to continue to debate the matter. (Hence our "strong words.") That's the reason there was a "Double Dog Blog Spotlight."

When a number of e-mails ask the same question on Sunday, they usually pop up throughout the week. All of our readers are not Common Ills members but enough of you are that I'm hoping this entry will address those questions. I also saw e-mails that asked why no one had replied or answered the question. I do answer what I read. I may only do this ":) Thank you." but I do respond. We each take one day during the week (and I usually peak at some of the e-mails on Sunday to figure out where we connected and where we lost a reader).

I don't respond to e-mails whose sole topic is typos. We make many typos. We're pulling together the thing overnight. We are Do It Yourself media. If something is so badly spelled, that the message is lost, that is a problem. But I've never felt that any entries with typos pointed out in e-mails I've read suffered from that problem. We aren't NPR. We aren't amused (or pretend to be) by someone saying "Sentence fragment" or "actually, the word you use is vulgar English because . . ." I agree with Ruth that NPR wastes way too much time addressing those "errors" on air when they dip into their e-mails and letters.

I'm also aware that we drop words. Or, as we might type and post "I'm also aware that drop words." We're dictating to one another, we know what we're saying when we read over the thing and we don't always catch that. If it bothers someone, they have my apologies. I don't know a web site that doesn't do that. Danny Schechter is someone we admire and it happens at his News Dissector. If it happens at Schechter's blog, then it's just something that happens. If that answer doesn't suffice, then think of us as a carry over from the alternative newspapers of the sixties. (We did a group project on those in the spring semester.)

"Are the people trying to be funny?" came up in the e-mails today. That's regarding the "Dear Third Estate Sunday Review" pieces. Most of the time they are. There are e-mails we use where the person has put in their subject line that it's for "Dear Third EstateSunday Review."
If it's someone e-mailing from the fright wing that I come across on my e-mail days, I delete it because I'd rather focus on our readers. Jim enjoys those e-mails and you will see real e-mails (like "Annie Apples") from the fright wing in "Dear Third Estate Sunday Review." If you ever read a letter and think, "That person has some real problems and s/he got blown off," don't worry. Unless it's something from a fright winger, we've either been told in the e-mail to use it for "Dear Third Estate Sunday Review" or we've e-mailed to ask permission and explained that in that feature we're being more smart ass than ususal.

It's the same policy that C.I. and I used when we used our TV review space to respond to people who had e-mailed about the TV reviews. We e-mailed everyone we were aware of who had complained about our reviews to ask permission to quote them and we stated we will be responding in a smart ass way. The ones who gave us their permission (in time to be included, we threw that entry together at the last minute and not everyone we asked saw the e-mail in time to respond) were included.

I hope that helps answer some of the questions that you may or may not have asked but are wondering about. I'll also add that one thought tossed around as we began working on a Saturday evening was to do "best of." We'd never alerted readers that this might occur so we decided not to do that. But should a week ever be as difficult for everyone involved as last week, we will do a best of. We'll write some introductory paragraphs for the pieces we run explaining why they were chosen.

Jim was present when I was reading the e-mails to Dona and asked that I address an issue regarding the TV reviews. We do get threatening e-mails on the TV reviews and that was our biggest surprise. We expected that on some of our early features. But once C.I. and I were identified as the authors of the TV reviews, a number of e-mails began to come in each week explaining in great detail what the e-mailer would like to do us. I was honestly freaked by them at first but now ignore them. The second thing Jim wanted noted was that there is one e-mailer who continues to write each week asking why a lefty site wastes valuable space with TV reviews.

Here's Jim's response:

The TV reviews are the most popular feature. They draw in a number of readers. Those readers will check out another feature or two and note in their e-mails that they only did because of the TV reviews. We all feel that the critques offered are from a leftist perspective and that alone would justify their inclusion. There is also the fact that TV is a fixture in many people's lives so it would be remiss not to address something that has so much impact on the public. But there is no question in any of our minds that the TV reviews are a drawing card for the site. We couldn't get our message out if no one was visiting. Ava and C.I. introduce principles and concepts in those reviews that are of the left. I have explained this repeatedly to the one e-mailer but he continues to e-mail "sell out" while noting this or that sentence in the TV review, obviously he reads them as well. Considering the fact that Ava and C.I. haven't fluffed in their reviews, we don't see it as a "sell out." You will never please everyone and we don't try to.
That's why we always say something each edition along the lines of we hope there's something here to make you laugh or to enrage you. That doesn't just mean that our editorial should contain information that should outrage you, that means that something we wrote may enrage you. That's fine because we aren't trying to be middle of the road.

Thank you for reading The Third Estate Sunday Review. (Thanks to C.I. for letting us use this space.)

-- Ava