Sunday, August 07, 2005

Beth's Interview

C.I. and I had been planning another interview. It was delayed when my lower back went out. Due to being busy on both ends, we've been unable to come together recently for an interview.
In the meantime, I've exchanged e-mails with community member West and he's suggested that I refer to myself as The Common Ills' ombudsman. (C.I. finds that humorous so I will refer to myself as that.)

Beth: Like most people, you have a lot on your plate and I guess the first issue is, "Are you shutting down the site?"

C.I.: Jess has really been helping with the e-mails, the ones at the public e-mail address. And the idea, I believe it was Jim's, to create two e-mail accounts, one for members, the other the public e-mail address, was a smart one. There are days when I'm not in the mood to read "I hope you die!" and other nonsense. Or the e-mail I showed you from the concerned blogger. I also get to avoid hearing of alleged crimes that people I know have committed. We spoke of that last time, right?

Beth: We did. But I'm not remembering if it went up or if that's the one we started when my back was killing me.

C.I.: Your back's fine now, right?

Beth: The pain throughout was awful. I almost stopped going to my chiropractor because it hurt so badly. Now it's fine. And thanks for fowarding the get well e-mails to me.

C.I.: No problem. To do this in the briefest manner possible, when we spoke before, we were talking about a visitor who e-mailed making an allegation of a crime against someone that it was felt I had pushed. I didn't push the person involved. I know the person involved. When I know them, I generally only highlight them if members e-mail to note them. I'd never said a word about the person involved. Members had. The visitor wanted to slam me for praising the person because the person was a criminal. But the visitor hasn't pressed charges over alleged actions that are over four years old. Whether the person was serious or not, it was the first one to come in charging someone with a crime. Now those types of e-mails come in all the time so it's better on some days just to avoid the public account.

Beth: Well one thing I've noticed is that we're more member focused. I think that's obvious in entries like "Impunity Leads to Further Silence" which was really about getting back to the community's roots. And it's so funny because "concerned blogger" names that as one of the "big mistakes" you're making. As well as Mama Cass.

C.I.: If I want to be taken seriously, according to concerned blogger, I need to not make statements against the war of the sort I have. I also need to not note Cass Elliot or music. Now concerned blogger can, and has, noted sports at their own site. But music, not sports, means you aren't going to be taken seriously. The mistakes "concerned blogger" makes is in assuming that his goals are my goals and in assuming that his idea of "serious" is my idea of serious. Silence in the face of the invasion/occupation isn't "serious." It may be cowardly, if someone belives it's wrong, but it's not "serious."

Beth: And this isn't a site with a site counter or attempting to be a site for all.

C.I.: Right. We're not "mainstream." We're not trying to be corporate media. We don't get behind someone who's a lobbyist for the telecommunications industry. We don't trade silence for access. I will try to maintain a middle ground with respect to members. But that's with respect to members. I'm really not concerned what visitors think. And I'm not trying to set up a side career. I have a career already. This isn't my life or a way to make money. So I can speak my mind and will. And all the visitors who threaten to never come back should do so instead of continuing to make those threats. If the site doesn't speak to you, it's not for you. Find something that is for you.

Beth: I especially enjoyed concerned blogger's statement that if you don't "get your act together, no one's going to trust you during the elections when you endorse someone." Concerned blogger really has no knowledge of this site.

C.I.: Correct. And you know what? Let's not explain that. Members will laugh at concerned blogger's "concern" and know why the statement you just referred to is so laughable. Let's keep it a laugh for members and not spoonfeed the people who visit in passing and attempt to pass themselves off as knowledgable.

Beth: I like that. Yeah, that's a good idea. Another thing I like is the most recent Ruth's Morning Edition Report. I like that she's going beyond NPR and will be doing some coverage of Pacifia.

C.I.: Agreed. She can do whatever she wants in her space and she does a great job regardless, but when I was reading that as I copied and pasted it, I was really proud of Ruth.

Beth: I'm guessing concerned blogger was so offended by Mama Cass that he missed Ruth's report or I'm sure he would have slammed Pacifica. I won't name the program because I'll "high road" it but I stopped listening to another radio program when the host was discussing a topic and made a comment to the effect of, "Folks, this is real! It's not like you're listening to Pacifica Radio!"

C.I.: I know which program you mean. A number of e-mails came in on that expressing their disappointment over that statement. The person involved embarrassed themselves and hopefully woulnd't make a similar statement today. But if the person, for instance, thinks that their own work in anyway compares with Democracy Now! or Free Speech Radio News, the person is sadly mistaken. There are news shows and there are shows that aren't news. The person isn't doing a news show. It was a slam and it was uninformed.

Beth: And you're biting your tongue.

C.I.: Yes, I am.

Beth: So we'll move to another topic. Cedric. He's started his own site and you were surprised by that.

C.I.: I was surprised because we have a lot of members who express themselves in e-mails and have something worth hearing. I've tried to encourage them to do their own sites because they really have something to offer. Cedric is someone I've been suggesting should start a site since December. What surprised me was that he just started it. There was no heads up. And that's certainly something worth noting here.

Beth: And Mike started up his own site.

C.I.: Right. Cedric's Big Mix and Mikey Likes It! are two sites that members have started and I'm really thrilled about that. I think we need more voices and I really am glad that two important voices like Cedric and Mike are weighing in.

Beth: It really surprises me when I think about how many blogs have come out of this site. The Third Estate Sunday Review, A Winding Road, Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, Mikey Likes It! and Cedric's Big Mix.

C.I.: And there are the newsletters. The UK Computer Gurus do their biweekly newsletter and Gina and Krista do their gina & krista round-robin each Friday. And by the way, Kat has Kat's Korner.

Beth: I can't believe I forgot Kat! But that just demonstrates how many blogs have come about.

C.I.: The only thing that bothers me is that I'm not promoting them.

Beth: You are.

C.I.: I note them. I don't note the entries most of the time. That's not an attempt to ignore them. It's due to having so little time. I've asked Mike and Cedric, because they're the newest to start their own sites, to please e-mail me about their posts. With Elaine, for instance, or Betty, I've usually got some idea of what they're doing because I'm speaking with them. But even there, I'm not noting in the way I should. Most evenings when I come home, it's so late and I'm so tired that the last thing I want to do is turn on the computer. I'm thinking about setting a day of the week where there's an entry that exists just to highlight what the community members running sites are doing.

Beth: You mention Elaine and from some of the e-mails you forwarded, there are people wondering if Rebecca's decided to stop blogging at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude.

C.I.: I can understand the wondering because Folding Star did stop blogging and that was a brave decision. It was hard to make it and sometimes the smartest thing is to look at something and ask yourself if it's worth it to you. Too often we just go along and never stop to examine. So with FS closing shop, I can understand people wondering about Rebecca. But she hasn't stopped, she's on a vacation. She may be on it for a week more or for the full month of August.
Due to the fact that Elaine's subbing for her and that Elaine's doing such a wonderful job, Rebecca doesn't have to worry. It's not as though she's got someone running her site who is writing things that are counter to what she believes in. She's got a strong voice filling in and that allows her to take some time off. I, honestly, envy her.

Beth: You took A Winding Road off the permalinks.

C.I.: I hadn't intended to do that. When Folding Star stopped blogging, I wanted to keep it up because FS had worked hard and I wanted it to be noted. But then Mike was playing around and hitting the links only to discover that both the mirror site and the site proper had a blogger giving the impression that he or she was Folding Star. When FS deleted the sites, someone claimed them. I'm hoping that was claimed by someone who was a fan of FS's work. But I don't know who claimed it and FS knew nothing about it either. So since the links would take you to a site run by someone (or someones) that we know nothing about, I delinked. FS was fine with that, by the way. As soon as Mike told me about it, I e-mailed FS and asked first if FS was blogging again. To read it, it appears the person wants you to think that they are Folding Star.
And when FS wrote back clarifying that it was someone else, FS said to delink and we did.

Beth: You could take time off. Ava could fill in and I'm sure Kat would help out and Ruth would probably do a daily Morning Edition Report.

C.I.: And Jess would probably be willing to help as well. But having noted that my plate is full, or overflowing, and that I have considered shutting down the site, to take an extended break would just have people wondering about the site, about my health, you name it.

Beth: You're still reading all e-mails from members.

C.I.: Yes. I'm glad you brought that up. Jess, Dona, Jim and Ty go through the e-mail that goes to the public address. I get a summary of it and anything that they feel is important. But with members e-mails, either I'm reading it or Ava is.

Beth: I was talking to Jim because I wanted to get a sense of what goes on during a Third Estate Sunday Review session. I know there are members who feel that this site gets shortchanged on Saturdays as a result of your work with The Third Estate Sunday Review. I wasn't aware how much of it was being completed in that session. Jim was telling me that often the entire thing is being done. That often, ideas that work's begun on prior get tossed aside.

C.I.: There are editions, or it feels this way, that sometimes are created wholy from scratch. I tend to get more worried about those because I'm thinking, "They're not going to pull it off, there's not enough time." Each week, they always pull it off. And then there's the other point which is if it's an all night session, after they've got their edition to bed, I still have to do entries at The Common Ills. So it's not, "We're done! We're done!" victory dance for me because I've still got a minimum of two hours work to do. And that may not seem like a great deal, two hours, but if we've worked all night and it's four or five in the morning, or later, it does wear on me.

Beth: So why participate?

C.I.: I think everyone who's participated has made this comment, but I think it's true. With working together, we all learn something each weekend. It's a great way to touch base, to be sure. But we also learn something. I'm learning all the time. And it's a way to support the community. There are Sundays when whatever goes up at The Common Ills is so cobbled together and slight that the only way I can justify it is, "Well, members can head over to The Third Estate Sunday Review." I really think they do great work.

Beth: So are you a member of The Third Estate Sunday Review or not?

C.I.: It's gone from them claiming me as an honorary member to them claiming me as a member. I really see that as their site and their work but I know that even if I don't work on a piece they put up, I still get slammed for it if someone doesn't like it so I guess I may as well just say, "I'm a member!" Because I'm getting all the negatives and few of the positives.

Beth: People love the reviews you and Ava do.

C.I.: When it's working well, whether we're tired or rested, Ava and I have a great deal of fun with those. What makes it into the review is based on us tossing ideas out at one another and if something makes the other laugh, we work on figuring out how to get that in the review. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When it works, sometimes it works better than other times.

Beth: What's your favorite review?

C.I.: I don't know. You should ask Ava.

Beth: I did and she said to ask you.

C.I.: Well if she's not going to answer then I'll follow her lead. What's your favorite review?

Beth: I like the one on Jake in Progress, the one on Smallville, The OC, One Tree Hill and Nick and Jessica's special but I think my favorite one has to be the one on Law & Order: Trial By Jury.

C.I.: Well there you go.

Beth: Which one is your least favorite?

C.I.: The review of Mad TV. We were tired and freaking over the deadline. I don't care for that one and I don't think I ever will.

Beth: Ava picked that one as the one she hated as well. She said doing the review on Veronica Mars was a relief because you both were wondering if you had it in you to do reviews anymore.

C.I.: Right. We hated that review, the Mad TV one. We hated it when we were writing it. We hated it when it went up. We still hate it.

Beth: Jim said that there has to be a lot of pressure on Ava and you because it is the article that gets the most attention week after week. There are readers who visit just for the TV review. Jim called it the calling card. And if there's nothing up, e-mails pour in complaining. He said that in an ideal world, you and Ava would be given more time to work on those but that it's usually the case that both of you are participating on all but one feature and that when it's time to write the review, you guys are doing it near the end of the all night shift.

C.I.: I'm sure that shows. Yes, he's correct. Usually, the others work on a feature article of some kind and Ava and I rush off to work on the TV review. Then we all come back together for the editorial. So it's always the second to last thing. Well, third. The "A Note to Our Readers" is the last thing done. But I don't participate on that. But on a really bad night/morning, Ava's got a headache or I have one or we both have one, and we're looking at maybe twenty minutes to write one of those reviews. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. Veronica Mars was a relief to us both because we weren't sure we had it in us to write one that was worth reading after the Mad TV one.

Beth: You have a headache now.

C.I.: Had. It's fading. Which is why I've started yawning. When I have a really bad tension headache, when it finally starts to fade, I'm exhausted.

Beth: Should we wrap up?

C.I.: Did you have some additional questions?

Beth: Yeah.

C.I.: Well let's do those. I'm not going to sleep. After we finish this, I'll be doing at least two entries.

Beth: Okay. Well Isaiah is very popular, his cartoons are very popular. Some members wonder about the fact that he only does one comic a week lately.

C.I.: Well, he has to draw it, he has to color it. And those are the easiest things probably. First, he has to think of an idea. His intent is for us to always have one on Sunday to enjoy. But if that didn't happen, he's not getting paid for it. It's his contribution to the community so whatever he does, whenever he does it, it's a gift. It should also be noted that he took a two week vacation from his job, his paying job, and when you return from a vacation, you're dealing with the fact that everything didn't stop while you were away. So he's probably dealing with catch up there as well.

Beth: What about you?

C.I.: In terms of?

Beth: Vacation.

C.I.: From my job? I took the week off of the election. That's the last vacation I've had. And it wasn't a vacation in terms of kick back and relax. Oh, the inauguration. I took time off to protest it. That wasn't a full week. What was it, two or three days? And I've taken sick days, obviously.
Are we going to discuss the New York Times?

Beth: Next on the list. You passed on an e-mail and your response, and I'll keep the identity of the reporter confidential.

C.I.: Yeah. A Times' reporter e-mailed to point out a factual error. It was corrected. I e-mailed a reply outlining the policy. This was in the midst of a number of other issues revolving around the site --

Beth: In the e-mail while you thank ___ blank for noting the error you note that you are, and I quote, "an exposed nerve."

C.I.: It was late. There had been no sleep in over 24 hours. And I was alternately being trashed by visitors for not replying and for replying in a manner they didn't like. It was a mistake to reply. My mistake. I own it. I wanted to note it.

Beth: A mistake because?

C.I.: I don't contact the Times.

Beth: You go over the policy for being quoted here and you say thanks for pointing out the error.

C.I.: Still an error on my part. Dallas was hunting down links and I was tired and tired of The Common Ills. While we're doing the Times, the two friends I have at the paper state that Judith Miller was never in danger of being fired. I didn't ask that, they wanted it noted here. Someone who used to work in the Justice Department claimed to the press to have inside info on the Fitzgerald investigation. He made claims this week that he knew, insider info, that Miller was about to be fired. That seems unlikely to me for a number of reasons. Mainly, unless the Justice Dept. was tapping the phones of Bill Keller and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., how would anyone in the Justice Dept. know if Judith Miller was going to be fired? And I seriously doubt, though I could be wrong, either Keller or Sulzberger would discuss employment issues with Justice or with Fitzgerald. He also made the claim that re: the outing of Valerie Plame, there was no crime there. It seemed more likely that he tacked on the claim of Miller's firing to get more attention on his other claim. Regardless, unless wire taps are being claimed, his assertions seem unlikely.
Both friends state it's not true. I believe that they firmly believe that. I doubt Miller was about to be fired, she goes back to far with Sulzberger, but I don't know. I also doubt the the former employee of the Justice Dept. knows anything and wonder why the Bully Boy and co-horts had nothing to say about a former employee discussing the case that they claim can't be discussed due to it being an ongoing investigation? It seems like an attempt to get attention, a strategic leak. I was asked to note that they firmly dispute the rumor so it's been noted.

Beth: There was another reporter issue we spoke of in the interview we started but had to stop due to my back pain.

C.I.: Forgot that. I noted the work of someone. Two days after which, a friend who knows I do this site reminded me of when the reporter in question did a favor for us. I had no idea that person had done a favor. It had to do with my friend and I being stranded and the reporter being a good samaritan and took place over a decade ago. I remember the incident. I didn't remember the name and the person wasn't working for the Times then. I wouldn't have noted the report if I'd been aware of this at the time and the reporter, if noted in the future, will only be noted if a member e-mails in on it.

Beth: The last issue I wanted to raise was Kat's review of Carole King's The Living Room Tour.

C.I.: Okay.

Beth: You've said Kat's review would have gone up regardless of whether it was Carly Simon or someone else. That it's her space.

C.I.: Correct.

Beth: You've also said it was strong writing.

C.I.: Yes.

Beth: But strong writing, which I agree it was, doesn't say if you agree with it or not.

C.I.: I think that was probably dealt with in the roundtable at The Third Estate Sunday Review.

Beth: Not really. Your remarks aren't really addressing it.

C.I.: I thought they were. If they're not, even better. I don't want to get in the position of saying, "I agree with this review." If I'm doing that repeatedly, people will assume that if I don't say "I agree with this review," I don't agree with it. They're her reviews, her opinions and her writing and we're better, all of us, because she shares. That's what important. But when someone disagrees passionately with a review, they want me to come out against it. I won't do that. If I did disagree, and I'm not thinking of one I've disagreed with yet, I don't understand the need for me to weigh in. That's Kat's space, her "corner." She doesn't need me second guessing her reviews. Before she did her first review, we were exchanging e-mails and I was telling her that I thought she would really be improving the community by participating. I think that's what has happened. I have no idea how many reviews she's done. I'd guess it was something like fourteen as well as the pieces she's done on the state of music. I think the community appreciates her input, I now I do.

Beth: There's been Wilco, Maria McKee, Carly Simon, Tori Amos, Judy Collins, Carole King's Tapestry, Carole King's The Living Room Tour, Coldplay, The White Stripes, Green Day, Aimee Mann and Nirvana. That's twelve and I may have missed something.

C.I.: Kat did her first review somewhere around December 19th. We've just started August, so what's that? Seven months completed? Always check my math. So at two a month, the most we should have would be fourteen. Now add in that she did two pieces while I was on reduced posts due to the inauguration and those pieces weren't reviews. Also she's done the list of albums from the last forty-one years as well as the reply. So that's sixteen. I may be forgetting something but my point is, she's done her part and then some.

Beth: You haven't done an album review.

C.I.: I'm lazy and/or I just don't want to step on toes. When Folding Star was doing A Winding Road, I didn't worry about noting what was going on in the Senate. I'd just note FS's entry. If something comes in on counter-recruitment, for instance, or if I come across something, I'll slide it over to Mike because that's one of his big issues. I don't think we need my opinion on everything. It's better to get other opinions. Or, at The Third Estate Sunday Review, when A Winding Road was still up, they'd just highlight FS's book reviews for their book coverage. They'd done cuttings from poetry before, for instance, but it was better to fall back on Folding Star and steer traffic there since there was always a weekend book chat. If someone else will cover something, I'm thrilled. I find myself as boring as some visitors do.

Beth: I'll disagree with that assessment.

C.I.: And I'll say thank you for doing this interview because members enjoy them and since we're doing it on Friday night, if it's ready by Saturday, it will give members who want more content on Saturdays something to enjoy. So thank you.

Beth: And I'll try to not go so long between interviews next time. And I'll give out the e-mail address,