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A professional journalist embarrasses himself in Jackson, Tenn.

Submitted by yelvington on November 24, 2009 - 8:15pm

As Thanksgiving approaches, perhaps we all should stop and give thanks that we have not, recently at least, made fools of ourselves quite as thoroughly as did Jackson (Tenn.) Sun editorial page editor Tom Bohs when he admonished "citizen journalists:"

"If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out."

You too, Tom.

In a column that bears the earmarks of a cranky old journalist being forced by his boss to endure the humiliation of neighborhood kids walking on his lawn, Bohs managed to misspell Dan "Gilmour" (it's Gillmor), misidentify the Center for Citizen Media as being part of the University of California (it's Arizona State and Harvard), and misspell "Berkely," the town where the center isn't located.

Oh, yes, and there is that little thing about completely fabricating reasons Dan is teaching.

And, when it came time to think and write about citizen media, maybe Bohs should have read the book. Or had a 14-year-old introduce him to the Google.

OK, everybody makes mistakes. Bohs had this to say about that:

"The other thing I know is that if I write about something and it is wrong, I am responsible, held accountable and perhaps even liable; if it is seriously wrong, so is The Jackson Sun. Trust me, this is not somewhere you want to go."

So, what does accountability look like in the world of professional journalism these days?

I wanted to leave a comment under the column, but I couldn't.

The only legitimate reason to pay an editorial writer is to help lead and facilitate community discussion of civic issues, but the Jackson Sun doesn't allow comments. Instead, there's a link to a forum -- a link that is 404.

As I said, everybody makes mistakes.

I learned "If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out" in 1969 from the mighty John Bremner at the University of Kansas.

But in my first week as a newspaper editor I misidentified a source. He was a 300-pound German-American plumber, even more intimidating than Bremner, and when he got done with me, he had cleared up any misunderstanding I might have had about the importance of checking it out.

In my years as a print copy editor in St. Louis and Minneapolis, I was made acutely aware of just how close we all are to making fools of ourselves in public every day. I learned just what a glass house we live in.

It is not wise to throw stones at the people outside.

Comments

C'mon, Steve. He confused Dan Gillmor with David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, a common error for those of us whose brains were scrambled in the '70s. And the Center for Citizen Media sounds as if it should have originated in California, even if it didn't. Close enough for editorial work.

Steve Thanks for writing this blog post - because I had almost the exact mental chain reaction. 1. Got Dan and what he is doing all wrong. 2. Oh, fantastic. I can't leave a comment. 3. Wait... what? I can't leave a comment? You aren't accountable to anyone.

Sadly, some of my colleagues still view this as an us vs. them battle. That is, of course, a myth. Folks online just want to be part of the discussion. I elaborate more here: http://blogs.knoxnews.com/silence/archives/2009/11/an_ouch_on_a_tn_1.shtml

"And the Center for Citizen Media sounds as if it should have originated in California, even if it didn't. Close enough for editorial work." Actually, it did originate in Berkeley. It was founded at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (co-founded with Harvard) and stayed in Berkeley for a year before moving to Arizona.