Sunday, July 13, 2008


Yesterday was exhausting. It's Sailfest weekend, which means vendors, rides, food and people flocked to the area, and the streets to which local merchants are constantly trying to draw foot traffic are overrun with a diverse assortment of area residents. I had to walk around in the mayhem looking for "vignettes" for today's paper.

The good news is that the awesome yoga teacher who lives in my building latched onto my elbow for awhile and walked me around to introduce me to a bunch of young, artsy New Londoners. I met a crop of great people yesterday, and I hope I can parlay some awkward introductions into a new social circle. Probably not, because I'm usually the least alternative of my friends, and I'm an introvert. We'll see.

But my moods swing like the unsafe looking rides that dotted the pier for Sailfest. Last night, I sat on the roof of the parking garage near work with a colleague and her boyfriend watching the Mashantuckets' grand fireworks display (one of the fireworks was in the shape of a dollar sign, lest viewers forget who's running that show and, really, most others in the area). Before the explosions started, the boyfriend's former girlfriend and her son came over to say hello, causing my friend to stiffen beneath her gracious exterior. She told me later that, after she was already dating her boyfriend, that ex had written a text: "Missing you from the waist down."

And this woman seemed like one of the classier folks in the vicinity. The Star-Spangled Banner played before the show began and, when I groaned (oops), various neighbors, who had stood and removed their hick baseball caps from their greasy heads, scowled at me. I was surrounded by motorcycles, cheap, ugly clothes, flab, petty conservatism, stupidity, bad food, hair, and teeth, etc.

I was not surrounded by: fashion sense, cultivation, subtlety, class, grace... all of which I've worked hard to cultivate and all of which stands out in me enough so that a waitress at a bar near Niantic called me "Mary Poppins," because she found my mannerisms prim. Yes, I was the one at "Sex and the City" who leaned over to the girl sitting beside me and said, "You can't actually take books out of the 42nd Street library." I miss New York, where fools still have great shoes and if I make a Kafka reference without self-censoring, every single person over 15 on the Upper West Side would get it instead of going slack-jawed.

But I'm here, and I came to do good journalism. I did not anticipate how a lack of media sophistication here would make me so tired - I constantly have to put up with disrespect that borders on verbal abuse, small-minded suspicion and a misunderstanding of what media is (things that it is not: a glorified series of press releases, a place for feel-good spin, a place where things are not "balanced" - only negative when not glowing). Readers have venomous reactions when what they read is not exactly what they think. This is not a blanket observation - there are residents, school officials and town officials who have educated, nuanced understandings of our mission as a news-gathering organization. But they're in the minority. And they often have name-brand college degrees and experience living places that are less insular. Just sayin'.

I abhor the rednecks who comment on stories, because their comments have nothing to do with journalistic skill, good writing, getting the innovative angle or the unique voice, and everything to do with their narrow, unsophisticated agendas. A senior profile a colleague wrote last month about a teen mother who is going on to college was plastered with Puritanical reader comments about how she should have kept her legs shut.

Comments on the story I posted yesterday, my A1 coup, were evil. Readers took a piece of thoughtful writing with a specific angle and (I maintain) subtle, balanced execution and panned the fact that I mentioned the fact that teens drink when I could have written about the agricultural nirvana that is the fair for a 44th consecutive year!

Here's the best one:

This was a very poorly written article. Kira: Your choice to soil the hard work of those involved with putting together such a great event for a town that has taken so many hits this year was a poor one at best. What was your motivation behind this? North Stonington has received a lot of bad press this year and this did nothing but make it worse. How about you get it together and start looking at some of the great things that happen in this town. Where are the articles about the great success our kids have in the outside world? Where are the articles that highlight the fact that our taxpayers take on a tremendous financial burden to maintain a high quality of life for our families? Where are the articles about the classic New England farming traditions that are still maintained in this town? Where are the articles about the diverse education we manage to provide to our kids despite the extreme financial challenges our the town faces? Where are the articles about the incredibly creative teachers we have in our classrooms? Thanks a lot for dragging us through the mud again. Talk about kicking a town when they're down. This was a cheap shot and it's time for The Day to back off for a while. This is a great town and the negative perception the newspaper has is based in rumors and poor research. This is a pathetic example of journalism and a poorly written article. You should be ashamed of yourself Kira.
The poster is anonymous, because there's nothing like not putting your name on something that screams "legitimacy." (Bear with this post's shoddy writing, friends - I'm frustrated, lonely and have a headache.)

Perhaps I need a thicker skin to last in journalism. Or perhaps I need to scale back my idealistic naivete, to stop giving two shits about what people in my coverage area think, and write my way back into an unrealistic bubble full of educated intellectuals who understand the importance of curiosity, creativity and writing.

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