Baltimore City Paper

Do the Rewrite Thing

I'm a horrible blogger. Horrible. And as a current journalist who, perhaps foolishly, harbors hopes and dreams of continuing to be a journalist in the future, I realize I'm not only way behind the blogging (and Twittering) curve, I'm also not properly embracing and/or wrapping my head around coming up with good right-now news item posts to blog about.

One of the reasons I don't blog more often is that I'm not a big fan of taking a newscycle story-that I typically discover via a web site or e-mailed link-and merely passing it along or commenting upon it in my own words. It makes me feel like I'm shamelessly using somebody else's reporting at best or passing along information without scrutiny at worst, and neither really feels that much like I'm adding anything to the story other than possibly generating a new news-feeder keyword hit for City Paper's web site. For instance:

Perhaps you've read that at the American Chemical Society's Sunday, Aug. 16 conference in Washington, D.C., the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's Dr. Yuegang Zuo presented a study that showed that 90 percent of American paper currency has traces of cocaine on it. Expectedly, such a finding has been making its way through the newscycle.

The first story I saw came from the London Telegraph, which posted its "Nine out of 10 US dollar bills 'have traces of cocaine'" at 7 a.m. BST Aug. 17. The story's 17th paragraph reads:

The Baltimore



posted a story credited to Los Angeles KTLA News to its


at 2:56 p.m., Aug. 17. Its final graf reads:

Variations on these basic facts appeared elsewhere: The

(published Aug. 17), the

(most recently time stamped Aug. 18, 5:55 EDT), the web site

(published Aug. 18, 3:00 PDT), the

(published Aug. 18, 10:02 a.m.), and more. And today, the


Full disclosure: I have RSS feeds, news aggregates, etc., that siphon stories to my inbox as defined by various filters and keywords and what not I've specified, and the above stories are coming to me as they're posted. And, yes, I've been paying closer attention to these briefs because Baltimore was cited as a place where its money is the most contaminated by cocaine residue. But following it has become more like that grade-school demonstration where the teacher whispers something in a student's ear and the kids pass it around the room and the final student says it out loud and it's not exactly the same thing, because by the time the a


appeared about the findings (date stamped Aug. 18, 5:18 a.m.; not sure if that is EST of PST) the writer notes:

To recap: a larger city such as Baltimore displays the most bills contaminated with cocaine, the result of being "used to snort the drug, handled by coke-contaminated hands or spread through counting machines," and now, according to the Tribune Co.-owned paper of record in L.A., the entire city of Baltimore itself is part of a triumvirate of "bigger, more evil" American places alongside Detroit and Boston.

Now, I don't know the

L.A. Times

writer of the piece at all, but I kinda doubt that he carries some deep hatred for Baltimore, Boston, or Detroit—you know, that he doesn't have axis-of-evil emotional levels of animosity for any of those cities. In fact, I'm willing to imagine a scenario where this writer is merely trying to come up with a few hundred words about this news story and is trying to make sure it's not redundant to wire copy and avoids plagiarism. I mean, after a story has been rewritten a few dozen times in major media markets, you start to run out of appropriate ways to present the information and still call it your own work.

A brief aside: Given that the news-media reading population of Baltimore isn't shy about voicing its disapproval for the city's portrayal in media—see: the




television critic David Zurawick's blog following Bourdain's recent

No Reservations

episode that included a Baltimore stop—I'm wondering if there's going to be an online outcry over such argumentative language in a news report. I mean, if the representation of Baltimore in a mere

cable TV show


can generate ire, how might citizens react when Baltimore is being comparatively deemed "more evil" than the average American city in, you know, actual news?

Where was I? Talking about how far too often blogging feels like repeating something? Talking about how the very act of repeating something might possibly distort it? Talking about how I need to blog more if I want to have any future in this dwindling journalism economy? I forget. All I really want to say right now is that: