This is a blog, not a newspaper and I am a Citizen, not a journalist.

Twice in the past six months, a paid professional has gotten so frustrated they’ve told me I have no business writing about these subjects and should go back to school. The first time an expert in public finance wanted me to go take courses in commercial real estate.  Yesterday a local reporter said that my writing is irresponsible and suggested I take journalism classes, preferably more than one.

I disagree.

Writing this blog has offered me a front-row seat on the cataclysmic change in the information business brought on by the internet’s free access to an audience.  Anybody  with a keyboard can write about anything they want and try to get people to read it.  Corporate executives who used to be able to pick up the phone and call the publisher when they didn’t like an editorial direction have no idea what to do with a loose canon like me working as a volunteer.

What gets professionals so upset is the fact that I make mistakes.  The day before yesterday I didn’t understand Neyer wasn’t a single entity.  Another time, even though I’d been asking questions for months, I misinterpreted how the committee process works at City Hall.  I also got the timeline of the Castellini new construction on the Hamilton County Auditor site wrong.  Of course my worst goof – the one that left me sitting on the edge of the bed crying – was in a guest editorial I wrote for the Enquirer where I used the term ‘abatement’ when the ordinance involved a Tax Increment Financing project.

Something must be wrong with me.  I’m not ashamed.

These are tough, complicated subjects that require working knowledge of a ridiculous range of highly specialized knowledge and I try anyway.  From the beginning my sensible husband questioned why I had to be the one to tackle this subject and my answer was, “Who else is there?” Retired, I could afford the risk that is the natural bi-product of questioning the status quo and I was mentally prepared to look like an idiot sometimes.

The independent blog is the perfect vehicle for this type of inquiry.  In every single instance I sited above the system worked beautifully.  Within minutes of hitting the “publish” button, a better-informed reader came back and told me where I’d gone off-course.  That’s what the internet does.  It corrects itself through an amazing intelligence that is bigger than any one human being.  Wikipedia with its reader-edited content is now a respected source of information.  As soon as I got that information, I admitted my mistake and shared what I learned.  Immediately.  My biggest disappointment is that so many smart readers message me their perspectives behind the scenes rather than posting directly in the comments section when they disagree.

The reason I do what I do on cincyopolis is because we have a problem at City Hall with the integrity of the decision-making process regarding development decisions.  These projects involve huge taxpayer subsidies, yet votes are rubber-stamped and should City Council ever question these deals it is considered a vote of no-confidence in the City Manager.  There is no place in the process for public input.  More and more of these decisions have been moved outside the domain of elected officials to the Port Authority and 3CDC, entities not directly answerable to voters.  The Hamilton County Auditor and Cincinnati Public School records both reflect a drastic drop in revenue from commercial properties in the city in the last ten years.  As this country focuses  daily attention on the growing inequality of wealth between the rich and the rest of us, our community cannot afford to wait for paid professionals to figure out how to fix it.

To limit writing on blogs to the rules and standards established by print media in a different era is a terrible waste of a powerful tool for citizens to educate themselves, share information, and get involved in the process of change.  cincyopolis is not the authority on anything.  But I promise to stand behind every word I write, be honest about when I’m wrong and admit it.  Mistakes are not to be feared, but used to advance a very, very important conversation.

20 thoughts on “This is a blog, not a newspaper and I am a Citizen, not a journalist.

  1. Craig Hochscheid

    You’re making waves Kathy. By asking questions that our local media refuse to ask you are exposing the all too cozy relationship that exists between our local 4th estate and the business community, and neither party is happy about it. Keep making those waves, and get all involved good and wet!

  2. Andy Shenk

    As someone new to Cincy, I really appreciate the work you put into this blog. I’m fascinated with learning how the city works and cincyopolis is one of my favorite reads.

  3. Andy Scheurer

    Kathy, you may not be perfect in your knowledge but you are genuine in your intent. Today’s real-time, interconnected world of data and knowledge is messy and increasingly self-edited and crowd-informed. The mistakes you cite are in the margins at best. The attempts to hold your feet to the fire are attempts to distract from the broader issues at hand.

    Your efforts around sensing that something is quite possibly wrong and dragging it into the light for further inspection is noble. I applaud you. The powers that be would prefer that you leave it to the professionals who speak the language and ‘understand’ how things work. Phooey!

    You’ve struck a nerve and that should be satisfying for you. I stand with you.

  4. Bruce Whitman

    You are doing a great job. Keep it up. It is very interesting. As a lawyer, I get criticized all of the time for taking an adversarial position and investigating wrongdoing. The wrongdoers will always use this kind of ad hominem attack.

    1. executivedreamer Post author

      Oh, gosh Bruce. I’m so glad to hear from a lawyer as the potential legal consequences of this experiment come up on a regular basis. “Reckless disregard for the truth” was a term that came up in my recent conversations with the professional media. All I care about is the truth, so it was a little disconcerting.

  5. Quimbob

    Something I learned on the intertubes years ago was that people are more likely to correct you than just answer your question. They might call you an idiot but at least you get your question answered.
    FWIW, I remember people suggesting journalism classes for high school because of the preponderance of bloggers.

    1. executivedreamer Post author

      Journalism classes for high school students is a solid idea. Unfortunately, at 59 years old, I’m afraid that ship has sailed for me. I’ll keep trying to do my best and appreciate all the help I can get.

    1. executivedreamer Post author

      Jon, I started this blog as a way to keep ‘working notes,’ thinking they might be helpful to a handful of geeky wonk wanna-be’s. The shock has been seeing how many people read what I write and the power of the forum to provoke critical conversation (and I mean that in a good way).

  6. Bill Collins

    Kathy, this service that you are provided is much, much needed. Part of the beauty of online media (I know from personal experience with my own business-to-business industry blog from 2002 until 2007) is that one can correct errors quickly and as soon as they are pointed out.

    So, unlike print, those errors can be erased. That’s called a “learning curve” and you, my friend, are learning fast. As my friend in North Carolina, Wilbur Hobby, used to say, “Keep the Big Boys Honest.” THAT is what you are doing, and I thank you for it.

  7. executivedreamer Post author

    Bill, friends like you keep me going. It’s the talented, intelligent people I’ve met through this adventure that make the discomfort worth it. I feel confident that if we keep going, this forum will be of ever-increasing value to our community.

  8. 5chw4r7z

    I get so tired of people trying to say that bloggers are journalists.
    #1 bloggers answer to no one but themselves.
    #2 bloggers write and cover what they love, or follow their passion.
    Blogging is as much about learning, self discovery and tree shaking as it is anything else. If anything we as consumers of news should worry more about a journalist writing for a paycheck than a blogger making a mistake here and there.
    That said I’ve been debating taking a class, maybe creative writing.
    OR spelling LOL.

  9. executivedreamer Post author

    Someday I’d love to meet you in person, Bob. You’ve got a lot more experience in this arena than I do and your perspective would be comforting as I so often feel like I’m navigating a very strange country without a map.

  10. Mark Manley

    Keep asking the good questions, and blogging, Kathy! You must be getting somewhere, otherwise no one would care that you were doing it.
    As a side note, how pathetic that a paid journalist would take time out of their busy day to worry about your journalism skills.
    Love reading your blog!

  11. Ollie Kroner

    Cincyopolis has become the most provocative publication in the City. You present facts as you understand them, and ask others to help you and your readers understand how and why things operate as they do. Personally, I find this style engaging. I really don’t understand the criticism, but I can’t imagine it will deter you in any way.


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