Rules of the Road

The purpose of this blog is to share with you my thoughts on issues pertaining to Oil City and Venango County and to foster discussion.

However, that requires some basic rules. Personal attacks, inappropriate language and venom-filled postings will not be tolerated. Comments will be screened, and if necessary edited, before posting.

Disagreement and a variety of opinions are encouraged, but I ask that it always be in a respectful, positive manner. So fire away, but do so cleanly

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On Being Back and On Not being Snide

It’s been way too long since I’ve blogged – 11 weeks to be exact since I put up a new blog and seven since the last post on the subject.

A regular reader/commenter made that clear with the following note:

“John,Time for a new blog buddy.”

He’s absolutely right. And I need to make a commitment to blog more regularly. To do so you might see a slight change in format on occasion where I will put up more of random thoughts on a variety of topics, rather than focus on one basic subject. I might even veer off of government and local issues on occasion. But more than anything, I hope that all of you will participate, but remember the basic ground rules and understand that when the end of a subject is reached I reserve the right to call a halt so that we don’t simply continue going round and round.

So to get back in the saddle I thought I would write a bit about the writing exercise that runs in the Derrick on Fridays called the Spray.

Simply put, I don’t like it. I’m not sure what it is supposed to be or what purpose it is supposed to serve, but so often I find its comments snide.

Among the primary definitions of snide are: derogatory in a malicious, superior way; contemptuous; disdainful; supercilious. The secondary definitions include: counterfeit; sham.

(I might add that if I spoke or acted in any of those ways growing up it would have resulted in pretty serious lecture from my mum, if not also a crack on the rear. They are not admirable traits.)

I think both the primary and secondary definitions pretty much describe what is too often found in the Spray. Certainly, at least from my point of view, that was the case last Friday with a remark regarding the Main Street Program.

Main Street volunteers interviewed in a recent article said one way to brighten up the downtown would be to put up window displays in vacant buildings. They were not suggesting that as the ultimate idea or a long-term solution to our downtown’s ills, but simply a quick stop-gap measure that could clean things up a bit. It makes sense to me, both as a resident and a member of the Main Street Steering Committee.

But apparently the anonymous staff writer at the Derrick who commented in the Spray, which is always anonymous, did not think much of it, and did not put it in context. If you read the comment, you understand. I’m not going to bother repeating it because it isn’t worthy of repeating. I will say it was derogatory in a malicious, superior way contemptuous, disdainful, supercilious and counterfeit and sham -- in a word, SNIDE.

Positive and effective criticism is not snide. It is important and beneficial. It is how ideas and concepts are fully vetted and lead to the best outcome possible. I strongly wish the Derrick/News would do more of that with real editorials, a willingness to take a stand, more local columnists with signed commentary and by supporting in-depth reporting.

I’m not bashing the Derrick/News Herald. There is a strong tendency to do that, and it’s unfair. Actually, there is a long tradition in this country of loving to hate your local paper wherever you happen to be.

We are blessed to have a local daily newspaper. It is important to the community. It remains the best way to stay informed on local issues and its reporting is pretty good.

It would be a better paper if it dropped the snide comments in the Spray and stepped up to the plate and put some thought and effort into developing real editorials and adding some thoughtful local commentary and we would be a better community for it.