Monday, April 13, 2009

Writer's workshop with Mike Fitzgerald!

It's tough coming up with daily content for this site. I don't say this to garner pity, I say it to make a point. One of the features we came up with to help generate that content is the Quick Links, which is basically a list of multiple stories that we make fun of. We fully admit to it being lazy writing, but we can get away with that because we're unpaid bloggers who do this in our free time. If you're a paid writer who has, say, 3 columns a week, we expect a little more.

But Mike Fitzgerald's column Sunday wasn't just an example of lazy writing, it was like a lazy writing clinic. By our count, there's at least 3 lazy writing techniques in just that one column. Missed them? Feel free to follow along at home.

As we said, lists are lazy writing. Lazy writing we're guilty of but lazy writing nonetheless. Anytime someone starts a column off with "A few random thoughts." or "Some loose items for a lazy summer Sunday." they're pretty much saying "I couldn't think of anything so watch me blow smoke out my ass." Fitzy does this occasionally. Don Blount's done it already during his short but illustrious stint as the Monday columnist. Mike Klocke not only throws up random lists but also usually lists the same things (more often than not his columns are an El Guapo roll call). And of course Bob Highfill has made the meandering mind droppings column an art form. Tomorrow one of Must Be's bulletpoints will probably be "I wonder when that Nick Diaz fellow is going to fight again. It's been a while hasn't it?" (By the way, watching Diaz pretty much bitch slap Frank Shamrock for a round and a half was glorious. And the Stockton crowd was out in force Saturday night).

But anyway, yeah, lists only work when the items are related. When you're jumping from budget cuts to book shilling to a glorified obit it kind of kills any flow the column could have had. And trust me, I know all about killing the flow of a column/post.

Next, and the one I take biggest issue with, is playing devil's advocate. Presenting something unthinkably stupid and then saying "Just kidding! But it's an interesting thought, ain't it?" Fitzy not only does this, but he couples it with his populist crusade against "frivolous" government spending (OMG! They're spending money! You guys don't have any! Follow me with your torches and pitchforks!). He spends a majority of his column on this one item in which he suggests killing the Asparagus Festival and the presents and then shoots down arguments to keep it. All in the interest of playing Devil's advocate. Of course he forgot one big reason why his idea doesn't hold water, but it would kill the whole discussion right away so he doesn't bring it up. Plus it also makes his whole excess government spending crusade look bad. And we can't have that.

Anyway, the big hole in his entire argument is that, as he states in his column, the city spends roughly $526,000 on the Asparagus Festival. $300,000 of that going towards police OT. But the city's budget shortfall is $31 million. So his entire bad idea is based on the premise that the city would make up less than 1/60th (or 1/30th if you want to count the 2010 Asparagus Festival as well) of the budget disparity by eliminating one of the few entertaining events we have left since the city raped the spirit of St. Patrick. Of course, this lapse in logic hasn't stopped him before in calling for the elimination of free coffee/water for government employees (saving the city $32,938, which is such a small fraction of the budget shortfall it's not even worth calculating. Also, ironically suggested during another list column), so why should it stop him now?

And then of course there's the last bit of lazy writing, copying and pasting. Which is pretty much what he did with that part about Vernell Jefferson. Maybe I've just spent too much time at the Duke family household, but a large family is hardly a big deal. I used to know a family in Lodi that boasted 22 kids (yes, they were Mormon), so this reprint of an obit doesn't impress me at all. So yeah, saying "Hey did you catch this?" and then reprinting it is way lazy. Sure, we do it all the time. But more should be expected from Fitzy. He's a well-paid columnist in a field that's seeing across the board cutbacks, and we're just a bunch of anonymous drivel.

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