How does one ‘write like a liberal?’

“You write like a liberal,” Floyd tea party member Rob Bonsignore told me after the group’s meeting the other night.

Really?  How does a liberal write?  I cover both news as a reporter and write opinion columns for a variety of web sites and publications.

I doubt President Barack Obama’s supporters would agree with Bonsignore’s analysis, especially when I wrote this for a national political web site last year:

Barack Obama wants another four years as President.

Oh boy. Be still my heart. I haven’t been this excited about something since I jumped stark naked into a vat of ice-cold Franklin dimes.

Four more years of failed leadership, four more years of meandering from side to side like a rowboat in stormy waters, four more years of flawed policies.

Or this:

Barack Obama sure talked a good game when he mesmerized the public with his captivating rhetoric that propelled him to win the Presidency in 2008 but two years into his occupation of White House shows a long string of broken promises, failure of leadership and an unwillingness to keep his promises to the American voters.

Of course, I write things like this about the other side of the political fence:

Perhaps the saddest commentary on the lackluster field is the revolving door of frontrunners that came and went before the first vote was cast in the primaries:  Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, etc.

Then, of course, there’s Ron Paul, the candidate who never met a newsletter he couldn’t deny.  Like Romney, Paul is an empty suit.  Paul’s, however, is a cheaper and ill-fitting suit.

Like most partisans, Bonsignore doesn’t recognize it when someone is non-partisan.  As a newspaperman, I treat every politician, every elected official, every candidate for public office with a healthy and equal dose of skepticism.   The same goes for self-declared “grassroots” movements like the tea party.  Nearly all have agendas and few are honest about the true intent of those agendas.

I follow a simple rule that Echols taught me many years ago:  “If your mother says she loves, confirm it with a second source.”  I also follow legendary Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne’s advice: “It is the job of a newspaperman to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Partisans perceive “objective” reporting as that which agrees with their point of view. Truly objective reporting has no point of view.  It simply presents the news as it happens.  In an age of conservative news channels like Fox and liberal ones like MSNBC, objectivity is lost in a sea of political slant and spin.

While I do write opinion pieces, they are written from the perspective that everything, and everyone, must be questioned and measured by the same yardstick.

In 1965, when Roanoke Times city editor Jim Echols offered me a full-time job as a reporter, the offer had conditions.

“You have six months to piss off at least half the people in this city,” he said. “If you don’t, I’ll fire your ass and hire someone who will.”

I stayed five years.

During an 11-year tenure at The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, letters to the editor lambasted me as a liberal, a conservative, an anarchist and even mainstream.

“I’m not sure what to make of you,” the Telegraph’s city editor, Elmer Broz said about six months after I arrived.  “I’ve never had a reporter who is such a total political agnostic, so devoid of personal philosophy and beliefs.”

So the question remains:

Just exactly how does one “write like a liberal.”


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11 thoughts on “How does one ‘write like a liberal?’”

  1. I’ll use this opportunity to comment about how you are writing less and moving the furniture around to make this some sort of hybrid video site. You should read about the digital divide.

    I realize this is a personal problem for me that I could cure with growing my monthly bills. Or you might take a trip to a computer on dial up and visit your own website.

    You could create a video index that doesn’t embed videos that must load before the site functions for people that just want to read.

    I hope it’s a fading trend in general. I know I’m not alone and other critics aren’t limited by lack of broadband access. Just because just about anyone can make a video, doesn’t mean they should.

    So, I guess I’ll label you as following the crowd. That’s rarely a good thing.

  2. Well Jeff, you’re the first complaint I’ve received about the redesign. Most who have taken the time to email, comment or talk to me in person have complimented the new look.

    My background is in visual journalism and that is what this site has always featured. I find readers like — and often prefer — video, photo galleries and multi-media.

    Sorry you don’t like it but I haven’t had a single other complaint so I guess they see “following the crowd” (if that is indeed what I’m doing) as a good thing.

  3. OK Doug, I guess that make’s me the class clown.

    I wasn’t really being critical of the content as much as the construction of the site. It seems your feedback group is in the haves, and none of the have nots. The latter group will have nothing to say for the reasons I’ve already mentioned.

    Your visual background was restrained by the publisher. Go for it, write a couple of sentences, or nothing about the latest sporting event and shove out 100 pics in a photo gallery.

    Digital photos and even videos are so often altered they don’t have the credibility of yesteryears.

    I’m not quite sure what your mission statement is for this site. Something for everyone, or being everything, has become growing clutter.

    TMI on the homepage that is too active. Consider it constructive criticism from a less privledged viewer. If you don’t care, I don’t care. We won’t miss each other too much.

  4. I must be dense Jeff because I can’t understand the problem. Are you saying the redesign loads too slowly? I can load the site on my Droid without any delays. I used the Droid as a Wi-Fi to see how fast it loaded on my MacBook Pro and the home page loaded in under 10 seconds.

    The old home page actually took longer to load because there were more photos in the design.

    There are no videos that have to load on the home page. There is a link to the video page and featured videos in a rotation but they point to the page where the actual video is located. I tried home page videos as part of the original redesign but didn’t like the results, so I changed it. Perhaps you hit the site during that period?

    The mission for Blue Ridge Muse is the same as it has been since the beginning in 2004: Serve as a news and information site about the area: Nothing more, nothing less.

    As for being constrained by the publisher: What publisher? I’m the publisher. I own the site, I own the web server it runs on and I own the hosting service that sends it out over the Internet. Do you think I’m constraining myself?

    I find it interesting that you used an article of 930 words (with one illustration) to complain about a lack of words and an overabundance of photos. Very strange.

  5. I have been visiting your site for a number of years for information about the Floyd area. I seldom comment on sites I visit, but I must agree with Jeffery King. The latest “redesign” is significantly harder to use, so much so that I no longer visit as often. The old site had content that was all visible at a glance. Now, with large revolving images, it takes more effort on my part to identify articles that I may want to read. Video content is great, but don’t make me endure it if it is something of no interest to me. I have a broadband connection, but your site loads much slower than it did before the recent changes. I can only imagine having to connect via dialup.
    No one likes it when someone calls their “baby ugly”, but like a good reporter, some times it needs to be said.


  6. Yes Doug, I visited your site when you thought homepage videos are a good idea. That’s what I was talking about and since you removed them, all is well.

    To further clarify, your videos weren’t the usual still frame with the large Play button in the center that allows viewers to choose to download. They loaded with the page. That was the problem. Notice how most sites, Yahoo for example, generally have a teaser headline and the still frame in the link. Some even include the word Video.

    It’s nice to know your wi fi works as well as whatever broadband source you have. What does that have to do with dial up? Yes, time is relative and 15 seconds is less than 20 seconds. Do you know that it takes 5 minutes to download each 30 seconds of video via dial up?

    My publisher comment refers to your previous life when the newspaper gave you a column space and chose one or two photos.

    Add me back to the group that has no problem with your latest reconstruction. You almost admitted I didn’t imagine the problem.


  7. The latest changes to the home page make for a much more pleasant user experience for me. How one responds to criticism indicates the basic character of the individual. As I said, I have been following your site for a number of years and have a pretty good idea of how you react. Although I don’t always agree with you, I find your mix of conservatism and liberalism to be quite pleasing. It keeps both sides on their toes.

    Although “you write for yourself, not your audience” it is your audience comments that provides the pleasant feeling that that so pleases most us. Please continue to be your “own man”.

    If you get to East Tennessee to “ride the Dragon”, send an email and we may be able to meet for lunch.


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