April 24, 2003
Some Lovin’ from the Man

A few days ago (prior to Seven Truths and One Lie), I ran a piece noting a specific article in local alternative paper The Stranger, covering the crushing death of Olympia native Rachel Corrie. I used the article as a jumping off point to praise and criticize the paper, crediting editor Dan Savage with displaying renewed creativity in editorial choices at the paper at the same time as I noted and lamented some lapses and a general sort of malaise the publication has presented over the past few years.

What should land in my email last week but a detailed series of comments on my piece from none other than Mr. Savage himself. It was unexpected, to say the least.

I clearly need to adjust my expectations on these matters. When I commented on last year’s redesign of Wired, the designer responsible dropped by to correct a misstatement of mine (see the comments).

When I incidentally noted a local man’s interview and picture in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (stemming from a recently-settled terror case), he wrote in to express his displeasure at my characterization of the interview.

John Ashcroft, President Bush, Tom Ridge: I didn’t mean it! I take back all the nasty things I’m afraid to write! Please don’t strip me of my rights!

In all seriousness, what this means is pretty simple: I can’t practice casual, un-fact-checked writing here anymore, and it was a mistake to believe that this forum is a casual one, like a journal. It’s clearly not, and I promise to shape up and fly right from now on.

That said, I have asked Dan for permission to publish his letter, and haven’t heard back. So I’ll summarize his corrections and observations – not, it should be noted, with his customary wit.

First, he notes that he’s been the editor for two years there. Second, he notes that arch-rival Seattle Weekly only hired one writer away (George Howland) in contrast to my impression that the Weekly had “cherry-picked” the writers at The Stranger and furthermore, that The Stranger is now the home to Christopher Frizelle, who came from the Weekly.

Deservingly, he takes me to task for praising only the national-scope writers (except for Eli Sanders, who wrote the Corrie piece), and like a champ, lists his stable with pride: “… sandeep kaushik, amy jenniges, zac pennington, megan seling, jennifer maerz… actually, going around the edit office, we have more new people in editorial now than old timers.”

Additionally he notes that Sherman Alexie is now a regular contributor with a biweekly column, “Reservations,” to which I say hoo-HA, may have some more, please!

(Anybody else enjoy that Alexie piece in The New Yorker? Beautiful and sad, just like the town. While I can’t speak to the actual reality of Big Hearts, the Indian bar near Pioneer Square, the rest of the terrain of Seattle depicted – from the viaduct to Real Change – was authentically rendered. Hey look! An interview!)

He cops to the drinking issue (ha-ha! cops to the drinking issue! get.. oh, never mind) but insists it contained valuable social satire (mmm, you be the judge) and takes the time for a swipe at the Weekly that’s amusing enough to cite under fair use:

“as for the weekly condos-and-benz stuff, that didn’t stop in the early 90s… they just did a ‘home’ issue with lots of great news in it for ‘high-end’ condo buyers. did you catch that? howzabout their spring fashion issue? i don’t buy a t-shirt before April, you know, until after the spring fashion dictates come down from the weekly.”

So, to wrap up, Dr. Savage stood up for his team, and pointed out several incorrect statements and assumptions in my piece for which I can only say “thank you!” As a direct result, I now formally eschew off-the-cuff statements of fact in the context of this website, and will endeavor faithfully to note when I’m speaking from ignorance or without a specific source when I’m discussing matters of fact.

Tangentially, fezellow bloggaz, am I uniquely cazizursed with this? When you make off-the-cuff remarks about this and that in the larger media sphere, do your subjects write in to set you straight?

mike whybark. 717 words. Posted at April 24, 2003 02:27 PM
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