Honing Ideas While Speaking Your Mind: Why I Do All These Pundit Shows, Anyway
For me, the most challenging part of the gig is working out ideas. How do I know whether it's worth excavating Anchorwoman or looking skeptically at the CNN/YouTube presidential skirmishes? Around the office, I'm the guy getting into conversations with anyone who will talk to me -- shaping ideas under the guise of BS-ing about the latest American Idol castaway -- until I found a new way to work out ideas.
All this pundit stuff.
This not-so-original realization came to me after reading this Florida Times-Union story which included my comments in a story dissecting it's recent cartoon scandal. As I noted last week, the newspaper was drowning in criticism after printing a cartoon which seemed to utilize some clumsy stereotypes about black folks to make a point about the "Stop Snitching" culture.
At the time, I asked on the blog "Is this cartoon racist?" because I wasn't really sure. But when a friend forwarded a bunch of emails from the listserv of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, I did pen a few emails which clarified my thoughts. The Times-Union wound up publishing part of one email after asking my permission.
Basically, I didn't think the cartoon was racist -- an incendiary term I think is slung around way too much these days -- but I did think it was a stupid way to start a conversation. Especially for a newspaper which in 2000 published an op-ed which garnered national attention for saying slavery had "existed "briefly in America" and "its effects are not permanent."
Jacksonville is an area which struggles mightily with issues of racism and intolerance. So if you're a cartoonist looking to start a community conversation on the stop snitching issue, do you start it with an insult? Or are you really just looking to poke at some people whose choices you find awful, for the benefit of those who agree with you?
Instead, the Times Union columnist focused on my words about how important these issues can be to people of color, because the majority makes decisions based on a stereotypical image of a people rather than its reality. But I kind of wished they had also talked about the area's history of troubled race relations and the newspaper's part in it.
On Sunday, I got a chance to clarify my thoughts on CBS' Kid Nation (button-pushing reality gone too far) and Jon Stewart (equal opportunity skewerer) on CNN's Reliable Sources. Who knew there would be a benefit to all this bloviating beyond giving my mother a chance to see her boy on TV?