The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

Billy Don, meet Mr. Wildflower

I watched in awe as Bill Moyers led a camptown revival for journalists at the annual AssoClyde Bentleyciation for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference recently. Then I sneaked out the back of the tent to talk to the heathens.

Moyers is probably best known these days for Bill Moyers Journal – a series of hard-hitting documentaries on PBS. He is often associated with liberal ideals and criticism of the powerful. But he was raised Billy Don Moyers, retains a strong Oklahoma/East Texas drawl and is proud of his degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

And I tell you, brothers and sisters; Billy Don can lay down the fire and brimstone.

The hell he preached of to the AEJMC choir was peopled by an unknowing and uncaring populace bathed on the right by a torrent of tainted information and on the left by a mere trickle of soft water.

The road to salvation, he said, runs through an aggressive newsroom. But journalists can no longer be quiet recorders of the times. We need real journalists not only trained to write but trained to crusade for just causes

Moyers sent a cold chill through the room when he recited the statistic of a recent poll that implies half the country would support government controls on speech, especially if that speech is unpatriotic.

The notion that free speech and commentary is unpatriotic unleashed the best of Moyers’ eloquence.

“Tell your students:” he said as the crowd hushed – “Silence is sedition.”

But sometimes silence is golden, according to Mr. Wildflower. Wildflower is the screen name of one of the 13,000 or so bloggers hosted by KTVI TV in St. Louis. Despite the conservative reputation of Fox2-STL’s corporate parent, the station runs an amazingly open and popular forum. I have seldom signed on to my own MyFox blog without finding nearly 5,000 people online at the same moment.

In many ways, these are the pros of commentary. A single day’s output on KTVI’s blog system will file the New York Times Op-Ed section for months. But in traditional journalism terms, folks like Mr. Wildflower, Fireman33, Jeannette and LadyCardFan are not real. That said, I turn to them when I need a healthy dose of reality. So I asked them for their take on Moyers’ speech.

True to form, the bloggers disagreed with each other about his definition of sedition.

“Sometimes silence is needed because however you try to explain your view on a certain subject, someone is going to get the wrong meaning out of what you say,” replied Mr. Wildflower. He said he won’t comment on race, for instance, because someone will misconstrue anything he says.

And then there are the personal repercussions. LadyCardFan is a mother and grandmother and blogging mental health advocate whose real identity pops out at times. To her chagrin. A critic who she said misunderstood her protested to her employer.

“Yet another went further than that and made false statements to our largest contract, which could have had major repercussions, not only for me, but for the entire non-profit organization and those we serve.”

She still writes, “but by using greater caution today does that mean that I am less of a person?

Probably not. As Mr. Wildflower noted, “When a cop reads you your Miranda, it says ‘You have the right to remain silent…””

Most of the bloggers, however, are more than happy to give an opinion at the drop of a hat. And many think it is their duty to do so. A blogger called said it best:

“Our nation’s founders didn’t keep their mouths shut and I will be damned if I will either.”

To which the congregation said, “Amen, Brother Weird.”

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August 21, 2007 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley

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