September 13, 2016

On Futility

I should have known better.

I was right the first time.

I dramatically cut back on blogging here (2010ish) in part because the effort seemed futile.

To that point I had created what I think is an interesting body of work (might even be a book in here somewhere). Several academic essays, a book chapter, and an encyclopedia chapter came from it. I achieved tenure at Missouri State University in part because of Rhetorica. There’s nothing like daily, written engagement to keep you focused and help you develop ideas.

Rhetorica began as “Timeline” — a blog at my Presidential Campaign Rhetoric 2000 site run on the servers of the University of Missouri – Kansas City as part of a graduate project in rhetorical analysis. Rhetorica is one of the oldest, continuously-published blogs on the internet.

I am very proud of it.

I’ve attempted a few times to re-jump-start it — the silliest of those attempts being the “doom files” days. But that silliness actually said something important about where my head is and has been.

Blogging about the rhetoric of journalism and politics these days is simply an exercise in frustration and futility. Donald Trump is the final nail in a lot of coffins. Our civic discourse is damaged — potentially beyond repair. Political journalism doesn’t have the tools to help correct it because, frankly, political journalists are a big part of the problem and seem unable/unwilling to understand how and why. They are slaves to their master narratives and biases.

No amount of blogging is going to make the slightest dent.

Rhetorica will remain open as long as I have a credit card that works. And I will, from time to time, post things here.

But the main project is finally over. It’s really been over a for many years now. I wish I had had the grace to realize it and close the lid.

Here’s another “but” and a hopeful one: Carbon Trace Productions is now the main creative focus of my life — although not necessarily the associated blog 🙂 My 60s are going to be my documentary years!

Last year my team of students and I completed our first documentary short entitled Shared Spaces.

This past May we completed our first feature documentary entitled Downtown: A New American Dream. It is an official selection at the 2016 New Urbanism Film Festival in Los Angeles next month.

We also have projects working about the student debt crisis, the Trans-Siberian Rail Road, and homeless cargo-bikers who make their way picking through our dumpsters.

The Rhetorica Network will remain my main brand. I’m not sure what that means 🙂

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August 10, 2016

Where I’m Coming From

Back in the day, I wrote this:

As I learned early in my journalistic career before becoming an academic, there is no such thing as an objective point of view. And the ideal of fairness is almost as elusive. But I will always attempt to be fair according to standards that I will try to make plain. I will try to reveal my biases when I think they intrude on my critiques.

Yesterday I wrote a scathing and snarky critique of Donald Trump’s latest outrage. I did not publish it, and I will not publish it because I need to change a few things regarding the quote above.

You can use the following to decide if you think Rhetorica is worth your time during the remaining weeks of the 2016 election.

I consider Donald Trump to be a dangerous amateur, and I despair for the Republican Party that it chose this person. His candidacy is so alarming that I am unable to maintain the fiction of academic detachment. He must be stopped.

I will hold my nose and vote for Hillary Clinton. She’s just another centrist Democrat. I am sick to death of centrist Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

My track record here over the years, and the tools that I have published for your use, may be employed to determine if anything I write here in the next few weeks is worthwhile.

I will try to maintain focus on press coverage, especially regarding the glaring differences between reporting and stenography.

But I may not be able to let another scathing snark-fest go unpublished.

Just so you know.

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May 7, 2015

Why Rhetorica Sucks

I have spent much time on this blog since 2002 examining the persuasive intentions of journalists and politicians in order to help people understand, if just in my particular way, how and why journalists and politicians speak as they do.

Such a project assumes two things (among many):

  1. That journalists and politicians are basically reasonable people.
  2. That political and journalistic discourses are understandable as rational attempts at persuasion.

But we have a problem. The political discourse in America has been destroyed (you can pick your own agent — there are many). Not broken. Not troubled. Destroyed, as in it no longer exists.

So let me define what I’m talking about. By political discourse I mean to indicate texts (complexly understood) intended to identify and examine political/social/economic problems. Further, political discourse is then about negotiating solutions to problems (and, within the solutions role, political discourse is also about “winning” politically and accepting the democratic bargain). And, more positively expressed, political discourse is also about negotiating our common understanding ourselves as a nation and a culture.

That has been destroyed. Don’t believe me? Conduct an experiment: Turn on any cable news channel. Watch for 30 minutes.

Or read The New York Times. This article in today’s edition is arguably the most perfect example of the total loss of our political discourse and what prompts me to write today: Conspiracy Theories Over Jade Helm Training Exercise Gets Some Traction in Texas.

Because we no longer have a functional political discourse, Gov. Greg Abbott knows he faces no political cost whatsoever in feeding red meat to idiots. I absolutely reject any argument that would claim he is himself an idiot, i.e. actually believes Jade Helm 15 is anything more than just another military exercise (albeit a large one).

And he knows it’s a sure win. In that sense it is a heresthetic maneuver. Because every American with half a working brain (a dwindling number, apparently) — and regardless of political ideology — knows that President Obama has no intention “taking over Texas” (whatever the hell that could possibly mean), Abbott will be able to claim victory at the conclusion of the exercise.

This situation (all the bazillion ways this is seriously fucked up) can only occur in a country with no rational political discourse and no news media willing to promote and defend a rational political discourse.

And if you think this one is bad, wait a week.

I have, by fits and starts, tried to reinvigorate Rhetorica. But that’s just impossible in a country with no rational political discourse. In the real world I’m walking around in, Rhetorica is a colossal waste of time.

And that’s why it sucks.

For the three or four of you still reading, it’ll continue to suck by fits and starts.

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August 7, 2014

Mass New Media Word Salad

Yes, I did just start a website for my MED581 Issues in media Ethics class called Mass New Media Citizen Ethics. My challenge was coming up with a name that captures the complex nature of media ethics now that citizens — especially millennials — are also, and expect to be, media producers, i.e. more than just a part of the conversation.

I think it works 😉

School starts on 18 August. So keep an eye out for their contributions. And use the contact form to make suggestions. The comment system will be open.

I have listed the site on the sidebar under Media Ethics. I will not be listing it as a part of the Rhetorica Network just yet. Still mulling that over.

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January 22, 2014

Taking a Break, Back in the Spring

Rhetorica and Carbon Trace will be on an extended blogging hiatus until sometime in the spring.

This is mostly a career-related break. I have several projects and matters to attend to that are going to require my full attention.

Now, when I say full attention, that doesn’t mean I’m going dark. I’ll still be commenting on the various topics of interest related to my two blogs through Facebook and Twitter.

I know you’re all out there just clinging to the edges of your seats 🙂

Back soonish…

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December 19, 2012

Rhetorica Update

I’ll be busy with other things over the holidays — the kinds of things we ought to be busy with — so I won’t be posting on the rhetoric of our failing culture until the new semester begins. But I’m sure the recent shootings in Connecticut will play a large role in my first post of the new year.

I hope your holiday season is joyous and unmarred by violence and stupidity.

Good luck with that.

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May 13, 2012

Rhetorica At 10

I’m ten years burning down the road 
Nowhere to run aint got nowhere to go 

–Bruce Springsteen

The 10-year anniversary of Rhetorica has come and gone without notice. Or, rather, I’m noticing it now almost three weeks late.

Ten years means Rhetorica is one of the oldest, continuously-published blogs on the interwebs. That’s kinda cool.

Moving forward… I’m not sure what that means. I’ve obviously tired of day-to-day blogging here. That was apparent awhile back when I declared that I was no longer interested in examining the press-politics nexus. Part of the reason for that is my belief that political reporting in the United States is broken — hopelessly broken. And politics for that matter is also hopelessly broken. I fear the whole damned experiment we call America is broken.

If we are to fix anything, I think we have to start in our local communities where the insanity of partisan national politics, and the stenographic journalism that enables it, is often an annoying insect buzzing about our heads. We swat it away and get on with the business of making our lives better where it really counts. I’m getting a lot more satisfaction with my local blogging than I am with Rhetorica because, frankly, Carbon Trace makes a difference.

I have occasionally written about local journalism on Rhetorica. And I may do so again from time to time.

I would say “stay tuned” except that I’m not sure what you’d be tuning in for 🙂 I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

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October 7, 2011

Rhetorica Update

Just a reminder to loyal Rhetorica readers: I will not be covering the presidential campaign the way I have done in the past, i.e. examining the rhetoric of the press-politics relationship. I am out of the politics game — at least on the national level. It remains to be seen if I use my space here on Rhetorica for state and local press-politics coverage. I’m still thinking about it.

Due to other commitments (especially regarding the sites I run for my classes — Ozarks News Journal and Reflections in the Screen), blogging on Rhetorica will continue to be a low priority. Exception: This will be the primary space for sharing my academic work. I am finishing my peer-review draft of my case study on journalism and poverty now (deadline early next week). I’ll post my results and thoughts as soon as the latest draft is complete.

Most of my blogging effort is going into Carbon Trace now — my blog about bicycling and walking for basic transportation. I’m having a much greater impact on the world with this local blog. The whole point of writing a blog (for me) is to make some difference in the world, to apply rhetoric to an exigence for the purpose of persuasion and, thus, to  create the world I want (see here and here).

I suggest that you subscribe to Rhetorica’s RSS feed so that you’ll be alerted when I post new content if you remain interested in Rhetorica.

I’m also thinking about a re-design. Hmmmm… if you have thoughts on that, please leave a comment.

Rhetorica isn’t going anywhere. I have too much important work represented here to close the site. Further, as Rhetorica approaches 10 years of existence, it is one of the longest-running blogs on the internet. That’s reason enough to make sure that I keep it going.

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April 2, 2011

My Talks at the MCMA Conference

The Missouri College Media Association is holding a conference in Springfield today sponsored by journalism students at MSU. I’m giving two talks (from the program):

Blogging For Journalists: Bringing an Audience, Bringing a Brand

The presentation will acquaint participants with two important reasons to begin blogging while in school: today’s news organizations want you to come prepared with an audience and a brand. The session will also discuss best practices.

Everyone is Now Multi and Meta

This presentation introduces multimedia skills and theory for web publication. Special attention will be paid to the Ozarks News Journal site — a multimedia journalism project at MSU.

I’ve prepared a short Prezi for the first presentation. You may see it here. For the second, I’ll be using ONJ as a source of examples of what to do and what not to do — we manage both 🙂

What’s kinda cool — given my first talk today — is that Rhetorica turns nine years old later this month (I mistakenly claimed nine years last year … duh). That makes it one of the oldest, continuously-published weblogs in the world. And if you count (which I do) my early proto-blog Timeline (part of the old Presidential Campaign Rhetoric 2000 site — a student project of mine — archived here), then that makes me one of the longest running bloggers in the world. None of that is a claim to expertise. I’ve simply been around long enough to be a curiosity.

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February 15, 2011

Lots of Opinion (Journalism)

The unfortunate thing is this: The way the semester works out at the moment, readers of Ozarks News Journal have to wait about six weeks into a given semester before our main features and the television show begin showing up on the web. That will change by this time next year (because we’ve created a new 100-level class to teach basic web/new media/ social media skills so students are up to speed by the time they get to my multimedia journalism class).

But, even better, the site is open for past students to use. And, still better, the site will soon be open for citizen contributors.

The goal: By this time next year ONJ should be a year-round news organization with a steady stream of local content.

Students have been blogging from the first week, and transparency has been job #1. Their first assignment was to post bios that tell readers “where I’m coming from.” The comment feature is wide open. We also have a corrections & amplifications form linked on the top menu for citizen feedback. We have a Facebook group for citizen feedback (where we post the reporting group assignments). And you may subscribe by e-mail, Twitter, SMS text, and RSS.

The main features will fall within the parameters of “news” and “features” — i.e. content reported and presented using the best practices (we can muster) of multimedia presentation and journalistic craft. The blog posts are (supposed to be) opinion journalism, and, at the editor’s discretion,  well-handled blog posts may be placed in the featured position. Neither I nor the editor edit or otherwise supervise these posts (although we may edit if we find glaring errors of fact/usage. ONJ reporters are supposed to approach their blogging by these criteria:

  1. Does the post pass the grandmother test, i.e. don’t shock your grandmother. The point is to keep content appropriate for younger readers. We don’t do pornography or violence.
  2. Does the post demonstrate good opinion journalism? i.e. based on one or more of: reporting, first-hand experience, and/or demonstrated expertise.

So there’s plenty of opinion on ONJ. And plenty of opinion about the topics the students are reporting because they are supposed to blog about the news and features they are working on. How is that going to work? You’ll find out as we do.

Also of note, the editor of ONJ last semester is doing an independent project in online opinion journalism. Her blog is Blogging and Opinion Journalism. Check it out.

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