Saturday, July 19, 2008

Journalism in Pensacola

We confess that we have no idea who J. Earle Bowden is targeting in his latest Saturday column. Bowden, of course, is the justly revered editor-emeritus of the Pensacola News Journal whose name is honored among other places by Bowden Way, that stretch of beautiful Gulf-front road between Pensacola Beach and Opal Beach.

His latest column appears in print but not on line as of this writing. Nevertheless, you can get some idea of what's bugging him from this brief excerpt:
Some unnamed Internet bloggers cast me a museum relic, a throwback. Well, maybe. One unnamed blogger said I should be banned by the Geneva Conventions from ever writing another word. ***
Sounds a little like Mark Twain's "Journalism in Tennessee", doesn't it? No "mush-and-milk." A veritable assault on the editor himself:
I never saw a pen scrape and scratch its way so viciously, or plow through another man's verbs and adjectives so relentlessly. While he was in the midst of his work, somebody shot at him through the open window, and marred the symmetry of my ear.

"Ah," said he, "that is that scoundrel Smith, of the Moral Volcano--he was due yesterday." And he snatched a navy revolver from his belt and fired--Smith dropped, shot in the thigh. The shot spoiled Smith's aim, who was just taking a second chance and he crippled a stranger. It was me. Merely a finger shot off.
We hasten to point out that Mr. Bowden can't be thinking of us. We've had nothing but good things to say about him -- his unique syntax, puzzling neologisms, and frequently mixed metaphors notwithstanding.

J. Earle Bowden is a gentle soul and a hugely entertaining raconteur, both in person and in writing. He is justly regarded as a giant in the two worlds of Pensacola history and Florida journalism.

We suspect, though, that he doesn't know a blogger from a troll. On that shoal his latest column seems to have run aground.

Try as we might, neither we nor several Internet-savvy friends we enlisted in the cause can find any "Internet bloggers" who have had a bad word to say about Mr. Bowden. The closest we can come is a now-ancient snark -- a sideswipe, really, criticizing another PNJ columnist -- by Rick Outzen which appeared a few months ago.

Outzen is both a newspaper publisher and a blogger. We blog. None of the other Pensacola area bloggers we read have had much, if anything, to say about Bowden.

So, who got under his skin? Our best guess is that it's some trolls on the Pensacola News Journal's own message boards.

For Mr. Bowden's benefit, the Urban Dictionary helpfully explains that a "troll" is --
one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or messsage board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.
By contrast, Mr. Bowden, a "blogger" is authoritatively defined as "a person who keeps and updates a blog" or "web log." (Or, if you prefer Stephen Colbert's outdated but famous definition, "A person with a laptop, an ax to grind, and their virginity.")

With distressingly few exceptions, the PNJ's message boards, which were begun in a pathetically misguided effort to increase readership by inviting instant feedback, seem to be infected by swarms of trolls who add nothing to the body of any article they are reacting to. Far more often than not, they have nothing so valuable to say that it's worth anyone's time to read.

Virginity aside, we merely want Earle Bowden to know that it's not bloggers who are his nemesis. His target should be the trolls his own newspaper invited into the Internet Pipes.

1 comment:

panicbean said...

I read his column and thought exactly what you have so very nicely been able to put into words with this post.

Who would even dare to critique Earle Bowden in print and expect to retain their head?

'Bloggers' in their pajamas living in Mom and Pop's basement, that's who. Lol