Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oh no! I hurt that publisher's feelings!

Lately I've been less critical of the Sentinel than I once was. For good reason too. Since the new publisher took over, there's just not as much there to be critical of.

So yay for the Sentinel, right? Let's all move on to a happy new day of better newspapers! Let's forget the past crappy publishers and let bygones be bygones!

Or alternately, let's make fun of the hilarious comment the former publisher (or someone cleverly impersonating him) just made on this old post!

Yep, that would be more fun. But doing it on a post from five months ago would be pretty pointless, so I'll bring his long-ass comment to the forefront here, interspersed with my response. Fun!

Mr. Chuck Owen, former publisher of the Sentinel, will have his comments in blockquotes for your protection. I will respond in normal text. Don't get confused! By the way, I'm not going to bother throwing [sic]s in his quotes, because it's such a horrible mess it would probably take me forever. Just pretend there's a big [sic] at the end of the whole thing.

We start our tale with what I assume is a failed attempt at humor regarding my pseudonym. Or he's trying to insult me? Beats me...
Hey Madcow,

You know, I read your comments when you first posted them back a few months ago and I came across them again as I was looking into something on line. Let me offer you something, I am that departed publisher and I still stand by my words from that article. What is interesting is that you were not in the room when I was being interviewed so you wouldn't have a clue about the context of the question.

Yeah, that's not really interesting.

Also, the article was in interview form. Which sort of suggests that the context is right there in the article. Or was there a lot of hand-gesturing and winking that adds context we're not aware of? Maybe it was just edited down from a huge context-filled cornucopia of journalistic brilliance?

Not that it much matters if he stands by those statements anyway...

Oh, I should probably mention what statements we're talking about. The part that I focused on is presented here in full. I will use double-blockquotes so you know it's not something Owen said in his comment, just something he said in the Worcester Business Journal. I'll also bold the part that's particularly of interest/controversy.
What about competition?
Quite frankly there's competitors coming out of the woodwork: the [public access] cable, the [free weekly] Leominster Champions, the Fitchburg Prides of the world. The free newspaper has its niche, and I respect it a great deal, but it doesn't have the news of the day. They can shape it all they want as being flowery and nice news and stuff like that, but you know what, I'll use this analogy: People go to stock car races not so much because they want to watch it go around and around and around. They go to see the car crash. We're reporting on certain pieces of news, news that people may not like, and they may call it negative, but it gets people to respond, to clean up, to take an active role in their community.

So that's what this hubbub is about, and that sort of car-crash journalism is what Mr. Owen stands behind. Incidentally, that statement by Owen also got the attention of the Publisher of the Fitchburg Pride, who wrote about it (and me, slightly) in an op-ed here.

As you'll find throughout this post, Owen isn't big on sticking to any one topic for more than a couple sentences. He defends himself, then makes weird attacks on me, then goes back to defending himself. I will henceforth assume he has poorly-managed rapid-cycling bipolar disorder and his meds are acting up. Or maybe he just can't form a coherent thought. You decide!

Anyway, let's have an attack now!
Like many people who hide behind blogs, is that your an expert on many things but you probably don't have the character to speak with the person directly or go before a group publicly.
In this quote, Mr. Owen is clearly trying to confuse me by cleverly switching the subject in the middle of a sentence that doesn't make any damn sense in the first place. No dice, Chuck!

Anyway, yeah, I'm pseudonymous. Boo-fucking-hoo. Welcome to the internet.
What does come through pretty clearly in your writings is that your a pretty angry person.
Another blow! He thinks I'm angry! I am indeed! I'm glad my writing conveyed that properly.

Now, here's where things start to get extra-confusing. Taking a break from the attack/defend dichotomy, Chuck starts responding to the various comments on that old post. I won't say a lot, but I do encourage the commenters to stick up for themselves in the comments to this post.

Especially you, Mr. Bartender. He's about to move from praising you to insulting you in no time at all...
The bartender hits the nail on the head when he states some of the primary roles of a newspaper is ad sales and circulation of the paper but, to state it as if that's it's only purpose is wrong. Mr. Bartender, I grew up in the newspaper business and have worked in it from the business side for over 20 years, I have a very solid business perspective of the business. So when it comes to my understanding the role of newspapers, why don't you stick to mixing cocktails and pouring Bud's!!
I think the meds must have worn off halfway through that... And yeah, shame on you Bartender! How dare you express an opinion that actually defends what Owen said! He doesn't approve of that!

Continuing (and finally finishing up the first paragraph of his screed), we abruptly back away from praising/insulting commenters and move back to Chuck's stupid car crash.
The content is important to many who buy it and read it on line. When you look at the Sentinel over seven days, there is a whole lot of good positive things covered and they out weigh the negative. That is what was being discussed.
It's a shame that the thing being discussed didn't appear in that article, then. I was only responding to the article itself. I'm not a mind reader, Mr. Owen!

Anyway, Owen's first paragraph is finally over!
The Sentinel has been recognized by it's fellow papers in Massachusetts and N.E, for some of the articles written over the last couple of years winning awards in their category and newspaper size.
That's super. Unfortunately, a shitty paper winning awards because other shitty papers respect it is not a substitute for being a good paper.

You don't get that from the wind [Ed. Huh?], you get those results from very young reporters who are probably working their first full time gig. They are led by a person who cares greatly about how they do their jobs and is passionate about his work, Jeff McMenemy. You may not like Jeff's views in his editorials, I didn't always but, to my point that it gets people to respond, is important. He continues to work with reduced budgets and staffs like many business have to do today and because the these jobs are handled by new fresh out of college kids their average time at the paper is barely over 2 years on average. Many pursue the next level if they can and move on. It's not perfect, if you want a deeper dive into the human tragedy of not being able to afford an XBOX or any presents at all at Christmas, your fortunate you live where you do, pick up the Globe or the T&G and read the deeper dive into it. They have the resources to commit the attention it rightfully deserves.
I'll translate that semi-coherent rambling for you:

Nobody but kids straight out of school will work for us. Jeff McMenemy threw in all that shit about "liberals" in an hilarious attempt to be controversial. Also, he tries hard with the shitty budgets and stuff, he's just not really competent. Most people we hire leave after 2 years (once they find something anything better). It's okay that the Sentinel sucks because the Globe and T&G are slightly better.

Which just boils down to a lot of excuse-making. You're not automatically allowed to be a crappy paper just because nobody wants to work for you. More likely, nobody wants to work for you because you're such a crappy paper. Have some higher standards!

Also, it's not okay to suck just because other newspapers in the area don't suck as bad. What the hell kind of logic was that?

Anyway, we get a new paragraph now, and it's back to addressing commenters and so forth:
Sorry Rachel, the posting of Unicow didn't have a damn thing to do with me leaving. They were between me and my employer. Before you take up the practice of bashing what I did or didn't do, let me tell you a little. I attended many of the debates in Fitchburg from School committee to Mayor, I met with many of the Rotary members at their luncheons, I meet with many business owners in the area and attended openings. I spoke with Lisa Wong on several occasions and to make certain I was fair in my own approach, I spent an afternoon riding around the city with Councilman Donnelly, learning as much as I could and listened. I met with the Mayor of Leominster and other community leaders in both cities. Doing this while trying to lead a sales team as a market was sliding and tend to other aspects of running a newspaper.
Personally, I never thought what I write had a thing to do with Owen leaving. On the other hand, what firing isn't "between me and my employer"?

Also, bragging about doing the things the publisher of the local paper should probably be expected to do? Awesome! Hell, I've done a bunch of those things too and I'm just a cowardly blogger!

Now is around the time that Chuck Owen, former publisher of the Sentinel, starts to get upset with me. Watch out children!
Don't flatter yourself Madcow, you would reach more people standing on a street corner with a megaphone than reading your ranting blog. The only reason I found it back in January was when I happened to google the Sentinel and my name together.
I'm not really sure how knowing how many hits my site gets and judging that number to be bigger than the number of people I could reach yelling on Main St counts as flattering myself, but whatever. Apparently the only websites that exist to Mr. Owen are those he finds when Googling his own name.

And seriously, should he be saying I'm flattering myself then immediately launch into talking about how he's doing Google vanity searches on his own name? I mean, he could at least throw a couple sentences in between to make the irony less obvious!

Then Chuck's meds kick in and he's back to approaching lucidity again!
Let's be clear on something, sensationalism isn't what I was promoting, it's what people most often respond to in papers and click through on news web sites. People use papers for many things and everybody differs on what they like and dislike. The Sentinel isn't the problem in your area, if you insist that it is, your misguided. Poor economy, poor leadership over a stretch of many years, the electricity provider in the area runs like a monopoly. With Lisa Wong in place and a number of new faces on the city council, your headed in the right direction. Your state reps should be pushing for high speed rail to run out through Fitchburg. Shortening the commute to Boston substantially would drive housing in many of the areas, bring in more money into the communities and would help with traffic.
Okay, I don't have a lot to complain about there (aside from the lie that he wasn't promoting sensationalism, because that's exactly what he was doing).

I assume this was in response to my throwaway comment that included: "I've become convinced at this point that the Sentinel is one of the biggest problems facing Fitchburg in its quest for rejuvenation. It's a cancer on this town."

In retrospect, that was pretty hyperbolic. "Biggest" wasn't the right word. Oh, the S&E is a big problem (less so now than back then), but certainly not the biggest. So you win this round, Chuck! I stand by the paper being a cancer on the town, though.

Sadly, the meds didn't last long, and it's back to Angry Chuck Owen!
To be truthful Madcow, I'm not going to judge you based on your writings, [...]
Well, what a sweet sentiment that is. What a nice guy! Now watch while he does precisely the opposite!
[...] clean up your use of the vulgarities it really shows your age, early twenties? If your older than that, grow up. Oh but wait a minute that would infringe on your first amendment rights? The only place you would get published is on your own blog.
I forget where I asked for writing advice, but obviously I must have. Why else would I get this little lecture from a guy who writes at a fifth-grade level?

Worse yet, a former publisher of a shitty paper in an industry I resoundingly despise says I can't get published! Motherfuck! And all my goddamned swearing makes me seem ten cockwaggling years younger than I am!

And umm... something about growing up infringing my First Amendment rights? Huh? If someone tells me to "grow up" I don't think it's a constitutional issue. It's just a sign that that person is an asshole. An asshole who in this case works in publishing but seems to have a negative view of the First Amendment. Which is a bit creepy.

Now the final bit of Chuck's diatribe.
The part that gets me the most is how judgemental you and some of your fellow bloggers are. Don't let the title fool you, I'm more of a regular guy than anything else. I don't pretend to have all the answers and they more than likely don't align with you. When people ask for an opinion, I'll give it. Every body wants to be liked but I'm a big boy and what you or others like you think really doesn't matter. They usually come from people who don't want to put a face to the words, who don't want to get involved with the process from a public service stand point and generally they just want to complain and bitch about things while feeling they have all the answers but not the stones to try and bring them forward.
Oh no! I'm stoneless! We calls them "balls" in the grown-up world, Chuck. Or is that too vulgar?

Shockingly, it's quite true that I've never done any public service using the name "Unicow." Go figure!

For a guy who doesn't care what I think, that was a hell of a long ranty bitchfest about me expressing what I think.

So what have we learned here?

A summary:
  • Chuck Owen writes like a fifth-grader.
  • Chuck Owen was a worse publisher than I thought.
  • Chuck Owen doesn't like bloggers in general, and me in particular.
  • Chuck Owen is sort of a dick.
  • We are very lucky the Sentinel got a new publisher.
Yeah, I think that's about it!


fitchburg-shuffle said...

Don't you love making fun of people who take themselves too seriously? Fluck him if he can't take a joke!!

brian michael said...

you've really got to wonder about the sanity of someone who would write a (flimsy) rant such as that...a full three months after its original post. I mean, clearly this guy does not does not understand blogging and the internet (other than ego-surfing). And he does not even work for the paper any more!! It is odd don't you think?

The Unicow said...

Yeah, it definitely is odd.

I considered that maybe it was a hoax and someone was impersonating him, but given the details of his comment that seems unlikely.

If it is him (and I believe it is, or I wouldn't have written this post), it's pretty easy to understand why he's the ex-publisher of the paper.

brian michael said...

but you have to admit the whole "Madcow" thing must really sting. TOUCHE, Mr. Owen!

1970s Abraham Lincoln said...

I assumed it was a late-night drunken rant until I saw the time stamp. I've revised my estimate to noontime drunken rant.

ReallyRachel said...

Hey, maybe the guy was turned down for a job by someone who found the old post online. That would sure piss me off. Ironic, isn't it that a newspaper publisher doesn't know the difference between a contraction and possessive case. Guess he doesn't have a grammar checker.

Dear Chuck, no hard feelings but we're so glad "your" gone. Better luck in your new environs, wherever you've landed.