Michelle Sullivan Communications

Sage wisdom

I’m a huge fan of Sage Tyrtle and QN (or Quirky Nomads, in its previous incarnation).  Sage does audio-drama that turns heads as I laugh out loud walking down my street.  I’m not sure the old folk unused to iPod usage notice the earbuds and likely believe me to be insane.  No matter.  It’s totally worth it.  So much so that I was thrilled to become one of Sage’s QN Minions.  Thrilled.  To volunteer. Thrilled. To contribute, in some tiny way, to the audio-drama brilliance of which Sage is the ‘Maître d’orchestre’

Not everything is hilarity.  The other day, I had the pleasure of listening to Sage read an excerpt from Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody.  The historian and social media aficionado I am loved it.  And the timing for Blatchford is perfect.  Hope she reads the book or listens to Sage’s podcast some day soon.

Since everything is best when it comes in threes, I’ll close out my Blatchford-inspired series by sending you off to listen to Sage-as-Clay in Gin, Television and Social-surplus.  And yes, she asked for and was granted permission to use it.

Sages come in many forms and Tyrtle and Shirky are just two of the sagest.

Hat-tip to Sage: The repeated usage of your name as often as possible during the writing of this blog post is completely intentional.  Inside joke.  Go listen to the rest of Sage’s podcast to get it.  You’ll thank me.

Quote of the day: The fourth estate

Nineteenth century historian Thomas Carlyle referring to Edmund Burke:

Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, …. Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable. ….. Whoever can speak, speaking now to the whole nation, becomes a power, a branch of government, with inalienable weight in law-making, in all acts of authority. It matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures: the requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite.

Dear bloggers, ignore Blatchford.   Welcome to the fourth estate.

The Blatchford brouhaha

I’ve known Mitch Joel for a while now.  Unlike Jaffe, Mitch is pretty even tempered.  Calm, cool and collected.  So imagine my surprise to hear unmistakable Jaffe-esque frustration in his voice as he started to talk about Christie Blatchford’s recent Globe & Mail article in this week’s episode of Six Pixels of Separation, the Twist Image podcast:

I’m not blogging this, mark my words.

… says the headline.

Now I don’t know if Blatchford herself comes up with the titles for her columns.  After all, news rooms often have someone specifically tagged for this purpose working like the Wizard of Oz behind the proverbial curtain.   I’m not sure she could have come up with better.  This headline kinda says it all, doesn’t it?  A nice, neat and succinct taste of what is to follow which, as you can imagine, is an article that puts down blogging, bemoans the increasingly ‘lost art’ of journalism and pretty much freaks out about the impact the Internet is having on the profession.

Commenting on the fact that a colleague blogged about watching the triathalon with her in Beijing.

I’m not sure if my hair burst into flames, but I wanted to burn something down.

She describes that moment as

The official end of journalism as I know it.

Christie Blatchford, for those unfamiliar with her work, is a columnist for whom moments of high drama are rather familiar territory.  High drama and Mitch Joel? Maybe not so much.  Very interesting. Very revealing. I’m curious to hear what he has to say on the subject.  Curious, because I’ve stopped listening to the podcast to write these words, so as not to be influenced by his arguments. 

I find it interesting .. though hardly surprising .. that ‘traditional’ journalists like Blatchford might indeed freak out over the explosion of the very meaning of news reporting.  To push the euphemism further, We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.  It is no longer media as we once knew it.  Now, ‘citizen journalists’ have easy access to a powerful communications platform.  The average Joe can climb on a soapbox that carries his point of view much farther than the sound of his own voice in the town square might once have done.

I find it interesting .. though hardly surprising .. that this new reality isn’t being heralded far and wide by journalists who will fight and die for their First amendment and fourth estate rights as a good thing.  After all, if everyone is talking, is there anyone left to listen?  Christie Blatchford might be surprised to learn that the answer .. at least from my point of view .. is a resounding yes.

I believe that there will always be a place for ‘traditional’ forms of journalism.  I just think that journalists will need to adapt to a changing climate.  We’ll need fewer generalists, and more specialists.  We’ll need fewer reporters and more analysts.  More good writers, with compelling insight and commentary.  More journalists like Christie Blatchford, for example.

Blatchford compares the journalist’s craft to the skill of a surgeon, drawing the conclusion that blogging is paramount to a patient conducting self diagnosis.  Who is she kidding here?  If we were to conduct a survey of journalists who have manned news desks and won Pulitzers over the last, say, 50 years, how many of them could we categorize as ‘classically’ trained?  I suspect that until fairly recently the majority would have honed their craft on the job.  Talent is talent and the cream rises to the top.  It has been true for journalists and it is true for bloggers.  You write well? Are considered to be a credible source of information? You’ll have followers.

Blatchford quotes Michael Farber as follows:

« I have only a finite number of words in me. » He is guarding what’s left, properly determined not to squander them.

It is perhaps because I’m not a journalist that this statement is simply beyond me.  As a professional writer, however, I can tell you that blogging on a regular basis and putting thoughts to ‘paper’ — or the digital equivalent of it — allows me to keep my particular talents honed.  My blog posts might not all be gems, but there are enough of them for me to continue to think the endeavour is worthwhile and for my readers to continue to follow me.  Practice, as the saying goes, makes perfect.  The more I write, the better I get.

A lot of digital ink has been spilt in reaction to Ms Blatchford’s column, both in blogs and in the comments section of the article’s online incarnation.  The article was published on August 21st and remains accessible.  Just like the blogs that have been archived on the Web for the past ten years now.  Accessible for review, citation and comment.  Not too bad for something supposedly ephemeral. Ephemeral? On this point, Ms. Blatchford choice of adjective only serves to underline the fact that she is completely disconnected from the online reality.

I’m not sure why Ms. Blatchford is so wary of receiving comments and seems to prefer the ‘monologue’ of traditional journalism.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a journalist, but if I were in her position, I’d run with it and enjoy the ride, instead of debasing my readership as she seems to do in her article:

And journalism wasn’t meant to be a conversation, anyway. It was maybe a monologue, at its most democratic a carefully constructed dialogue. If readers didn’t like or agree with the monologues in paper A, they bought paper B. What was most important about their opinions was that they thought enough to spend the coin.

All in all, I find the position Ms. Blatchford has taken to be rather regrettable.  More for her than for the rest of us, mind.

The passion in Mitch Joel’s voice has moved me to write these words.  To document my impressions for the record.   Once I return to his podcast and finish listening to his point of view I may just call in to leave an audio comment.  Like everyone online who is reacting to Blatchford’s column, I’ll add my voice to a conversation that goes beyond my living room.  That goes beyond my city, my country, my continent.  This is the power of social media.  This is the reason we live in exciting times.

It might be worth reminding ourselves that Blatchford’s argument is nothing new.  When television news hit the scene in the 1950s, print journalists had a similar reaction.  Yet who among us who has watched footage from the Vietnam war or September 11th can deny the compelling impact of television news?

These is a place for every news platform and every communications tool. 

How grateful I am not to be facing the present and future with dread.

Flattery will get you everywhere (or how to get good Google love)

Flattery is the gift that keeps on giving, in the online world.

I was certainly flattered to be singled out by the ever charming Muriel Ide, along with four other bloggers, to receive the ‘Prix Arte y pico’ prize.  Created by a designer from Uruguay named Eseya, this prize has been making the rounds here in Quebec for a couple of months, but I’ve yet to see it on an English-language blog, so I’m pleased to take the opportunity to spread the love to the ROC. 

The rules of the game, as translated into English on Eseya’s Arte et pico blog:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contrubuites to the blogger community, no matter of language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award-winning, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4) Award-winning and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of « Arte y pico« blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules.

Nice intiative, all around.  Especially if you’re intelligent enough to realize that it can go a long way to getting you precious inbound links for your blog.  And, as they say, ‘render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s’.  With a blog that has garnered 4,566 blog reactions and a Technorati rank that breaks the top 500 at 401, Eseya is obviously the biggest benefactor of this viral initiative.  And so she should be.

So as a hat tip to Eseya, and out of respect for my fellow bloggers, I’ve decided to join the fun and submit my list.  For some reason, here in Quebec, the prize has been shared between women.  I’m going to buck that trend today, because there are some men out there whose blogs and podcasts I would be hard pressed to live without.    So without further ado, and in no particular order:

1. Bob LeDrew – all around nice guy, his FlackLife blog is always interesting.  More than once, he’s pointed me in a new direction and given me food for thought.  So thanks, Bob

2. Dave Fleet – all around nice guy (hmm .. starting to sense a pattern), Dave is a true collaborative blogger, sharing valuable tips and creating the Social Media Training Wiki for PR professionals.  Cheers, Dave!

3. Donna Papacosta – the queen of podcasting shares her expertise not only through the Trafcom News blog and podcast, but also through interesting webinars.  Always generous with her time and recommendations.  And, dare I say it? An all-around nice chick.

4. Joe Thornley – where would we be without the father of Third Tuesdays and of the Pro PR blog?  Joe was smart enough to know a good thing when he saw one and introduced the Third Tuesday concept to Canada a couple of years ago.  He’s a thoughtful blogger who lives and breathes social media.

5. Dave Jones and Terry Fallis – the hosts of PR podcast ‘Inside PR’ are engaging, funny, smart and make listening to a business podcast a real pleasure.  I never miss a week and am certain to walk away from each episode with a nugget of wisdom.  Thanks, Dave and Terry, for the 125 (and counting) episodes of Inside PR.  Now if only Dave would let Terry bring back ‘Inside Proper English’ …

I don’t think this should be seen as a kind of ‘chain letter’ (it certainly isn’t meant that way) but rather as an honest recognition of fellow bloggers who enrich my knowledge of social media on a daily basis.  Bob Ledrew and Dave Fleet, in particular, might feel a little overwhelmed, considering I just tagged them both in my 6 things meme last week.  If you decide to continue to share the love, all the better. 

6 things – the summer meme redux

Summer silliness.  Serious readers, avert your eyes.  We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program as of the next blog post.

So here is the classic 6 things summer meme, 2008 edition.

Dave tagged Bob.  Bob tagged me and other tag-victims including Laurent Lasalle, Stevie Z, John Meadows, Tom Lucier, and Mark Blevis.

The game? Post six random things that people didn’t know about you (me).

Random rules (hat tip to Connie Crosby):
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So in the spirit of community … which is what social media is all about after all … here we go:

1. I’m a Franco-Ontarian, not a born-and-bred Montrealer : grew up in beautiful Bramalea, north of Toronto.  My Irish father kidnapped (no, not really) my Québécoise mother and brought her into hostile territory during Expo 67.  She barely spoke English.  He didn’t speak a word of French. I guess they connected on another level.

2. It’s like nails scraping down a chalkboard for me when waiters bring a basket of bread to the table with those little plastic butter containers plopped in there like that.  Ugh.

3. I’m about to launch a podcast under a pseudonym with a friend of mine that will address issue #2, among other things.  Really.  Like any day now.  So there’s a hint for anyone who might be wondering who that magnificient and witty podcast host might be when they hear the show for the first time.

4. My best friends are Polish punks-cum-dub reggae musicians.  I adore them and wish I could be on tour with them right now.

5. I also adore my wonderful 21 month old nephew Caleb.  (wait .. that’s like the worst-kept secret on Facebook.  Scratch that.)

5. I secretly want to do a podcast on cemeteries and death, and take my show on the road while I’m in Varanasi, but am afraid only teenage goths would be listening.  The working title, Les cimetières n’ont pas de cannibales (cemeteries don’t have cannibals)  was from a surrealist Belgian poet named Guégan.  I haunt cemeteries.  They’re my favourite places.  Some of my boyfriends actually liked that about me.  Others tolerated it, a little bemused. Yes, I’m single now.

6. I was a very picky eater as a child.  When I didn’t like something (usually meat) I’d toss it nonchalently under the dining room table.  We didn’t have a dog or cat at the time.  My mother never said a word.  When I mentioned it to her years later she blinked and said she just thought we were messy eaters. 

So tag, you’re it: Bob LeDrew, Dave Fleet, Tod Maffin, M-C Turgeon,  Sébastien Provencher and .. why not .. David Usher.  Now that’s an interesting list.