Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oh thank God for you Mr. Knight, what would we have done without you?

The Sitting Duck got up and left after five years and some months in Olympia. After having passively read it for most of the five years and closely for the past few months (ever since publisher Knight got into a scuffle in Lewis County), I'm not sad to see the paper and publisher Terrence Knight leave.

Actually I'm kind of happy.

I was never all that impressed by the journalistic effort of the Sitting Duck, and after reading the "see you later (not!), screw you" edition of the paper, I know exactly why.

Knight writes about bee-bopping around Olympia in the Summer of 2002, just more than a year after the bottom fell out of downtown. The Nisqually earthquake disconnected downtown by closing the 4th Avenue bridge, so the downtown Olympia that Knight found was a depressing version of the downtown that I grew up with.

His specific reference to the Spar is especially troubling to me. By the time he made it to the Spar, it was a sad shadow of the restaurant that I grew up with. To me, Mcmenamins buying the Spar was a sigh of relief. The service is worse there now, but I'm still glad it moved on to new ownership.

I could go on for awhile about how I resent being told about the soul of my town from someone who moved here in 2002 and is now leaving, but let me just say this:  Knight is full of himself. I cite the end of his "I'm outa here" column, Knight speaking of himself as the hero in "The Magnificent Seven:"
And so they ride back and shoot up the bad guys and in the process get pretty well shot up themselves. But they've empowered the villagers as best they can, and now its up to (the villagers) to protect themselves.

Like many before us, we had fallen in love with the curious character of our moderately famous community, and believing that ideas, truth, and words still make a difference, we're determined to give it a voice. That's what we came here to do and we have done our very best. We tried to fight the good fight. The fight isn't over though -- it never is -- and our biggest worry is that during the next few years, Olympia will need, more than ever, an alternative and original voice.

...

Our work here is done. And now it's time to ride on.
Well, since you did your harm to public discourse in this town, I'm happy to see you leave. We did an ok job before you got here, we'll survive without your inflated ego.

8 comments:

einmaleins said...

Thanks for those words - I agree with you although I'm new to town I got the same impression from the paper.
Now we just need to start a new one!

Mike Kretzler said...

I valued the Sitting Duck, though the publisher needed an editor, sometimes. I think that the Duck contained some of the clearest and most useful reporting of the Olympia City Council that we had. The final issue was very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Geeze Emmett to read your post one might think Terrance killed your puppy. The Duck was always an uneven publication but it was more than Terrance's contempt for naked Emperors.

The Duck's coverage of the arts, theater in particular, shamed all other media. The Duck profiled small businesses and local performers no other media outlet and that includes Olyblog. And finally, it was profitable and paid its contributors, something no other local media outlet is save the Olympian.

Terrance had the audacity to critique an in-bred political economy prevalent in most small towns. He was critical in countering the hurricane to condemn Matt Green for Janette Hawkins playground taunts. (A preview of our current council?) Terrance questioned the 'crisis' in downtown parking by pointing out the methodology of the 'survey' on which the PBIA made its recommendations to the Council does not pass the laugh test. As a final gift his dared to point out the council is acting like frat kids.

In all the fervor over Terrance I have yet to read someone proving Terrance fundamentally wrong on anything he wrote. Say what you want, the man did his research. I have talked for hours to friends and acquaintances who do not like Terrance's writing and in those conversations every critique I've heard is that Terrace's tone mean spirited but none of his critics have called his facts into question.

The "he's not an true old school Olympian" should be an embarrassment to anyone who utters it. So is "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything." I for one rue the passing of Mr. Knight's old school muck raking journalism.

Emmett said...

While I didn't directly reference the email-gate article in the post above, I'm sort of glad you brought it up, Anon.

Knight did a good job pointing out the immaturity of some on the council while using their city issued laptops and email accounts. There was also one troubling, borderline illegal exchange that I thought was well buried by his piece.

Though, his tangential side trips into the Bush Administration and use of unrelated insults to other council members killed the piece overall.

The topic would have been better handled by a more mature reporter.

Jason Taellious said...

The topic could still be handled by a "more mature reporter." In fact, I'd say it's begging for it. I think T.Knight was going for style then substance but found himself a going away present.

In alternative print Olympia now has Works in Progress, which does not pay its staff. And I'll echo Mike, "the final issue was very interesting."

Thad Curtz said...

As far as I know, The Olympian still has not informed its readers that the Council has been in flat violation of the Open Public Meetings Act by regularly carrying on private consultations by email at the same time they were participating in supposedly public Council meetings. Nor (as far as I know) have they informed their readers that Councilmember Kingsbury was chatting away to Councilmember Hyer about how the former Planning Commission Chair addressing the Council during the public comment period was "a coward" because he wasn't looking Kingsbury in the eye. Nor (as far as I know) have they informed their readers about how Councilmember Hyer was writing Councilmember Kingsbury about how they needn't bother extending the comment period to listen to the other people who'd stayed to try to testify about the nuclear free zone issue because "I the outcome is predetermined ... why bother?" I think the "harm to public discourse" done by putting stories that embarrass the Council down the memory hole far exceeds problems with the Duck's tone.

Jim Jekyll said...

Yeah, it's too bad the Sitting Duck was so poorly executed and generally sophomoric, although that can be done well too, except it wasn't. It seemed like it could have been a good publication if it really tried.

But hey, why does it have to be The Olympian, or any other newspaper for that matter, that brings these issues to the forefront. Newspapers are dying, so wtf now?

Jim Jekyll said...

And to follow up on that thought ...

Is an alternative publication really even viable in the Olympia market? Seriously. I'm not questioning the need for one but the print model takes loads of cash and a few good martyrs. That was in better days. Now, it's just not viable. The advertising market was shifting away from print long before the current economic downturn and the cash cow of classifieds has long since disappeared since Craig's List.

So everyone can be a publisher now with the internet but it takes a certain level of professionalism to do it well and who is going to spend the horrendous amounts of time to do good investigative pieces for FREE? Google's CEO was just bemoaning this ironically enough but also saying they won't try to prop up the dying print industry, even though they could, because the industry is no longer economically viable. Everybody wants the news, everybody wants an alternative voice but no one wants to pay for it due, in large part, to Google.

Seriously, what is the answer?