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Bienvenue: Au Revoir et Á Bientôt

Alternating columns with her daughter has been a special joy.

I have now become a real journalist. This is my final column for Patch as their budget for folks like me has apparently disappeared. Ain’t that always the way?

I am now in the ranks of journalists who used to have a sweet little job but even that pittance was more than the employer would bear.

It has been a lot of fun, because journalism is a very serious business and Patch extended to me the rare freedom to say whatever was on my mind. The added joy of this column was alternating weeks with my daughter, Julie. The gig gave her the chance to grow as a writer and we both provided our readers with a glimpse into our little town of Moorpark, from two distinctly different points of view.

I’ll bet that we were the only mother/daughter columnists that lasted longer than it took to receive a check for our work. As a mother, it was a true pleasure to read Julie’s version of our life together and what lessons she has incorporated into her own life. Easy come, easy go.

This budget reduction is part of the larger trend of publishers now choosing to use writers who apparently are either so wealthy or so desperate for a coin or two that they forego monetary compensation. In other words, writers have lost most of their value as professionals these days. We have been replaced by scribes who have no experience, little appropriate education, and value their work at absolute zero. As in all things, you get what you pay for.

I believe that the notion of the “citizen journalist” is an oxymoron. Just because someone has a cell phone and happens upon a house fire, it doesn’t mean that what they write is accurate or relevant. It just means they have a cell phone and know how to use it.

This citizen journalist could even be one of the growing subset of the walking stupid who become so absorbed in their cell phone activity that they blindly walk into: a) a live 600 pound bear coming up the sidewalk; b) a mall fountain which was caught on camera and then became the object of a lawsuit; or c) pedestrians who fail to acknowledge the purpose of crosswalks on busy streets.

Seriously, is this the demographic that you want to be the messengers of current events?

Citizen journalism can also be seen in the nasty, snarky, mean-spirited comments on any story with some controversy. Quite often, one comment is simply not enough for these anonymous people who believe, deep down, that what they have to say is really important. So they say it over and over. Then another one disagrees with them either by citing 25 other websites to prove them wrong or just rails at them endlessly. It becomes an exercise in juvenile insults, which devolves into playground chatter of nah, nah, nah. Oh yeah? Well, neener, neener, neener.  Citizen journalism. Free and enlightened.

Sadly, what has now been named “hyperlocal journalism” is actually an important function of the media, but has been devalued so much by the publishers that one large and poorly managed corporation now outsources its hyperlocal stuff to India. No kidding. Somehow, I don’t think that was done because someone sitting in Madras has a better handle on the mood of the Chicago suburbs.

So I say au revoir and a bientot. It will now be up to you to hold the feet of politicians to the fire of transparency. You have the map, just follow it wherever it may lead.

Julie Bien August 03, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Proud to have worked beside you, mom!
Ruth Peeples August 03, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Proud to have gone to journalism school with you!
L August 14, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I'll miss your articles. They were a very nice local voice (or voices, for the 2 of you!).

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