Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shoulder to the Wheel, Nose to the Grindstone, Eye on the Ball......

Last week was a strange week. And as the new week begins, I find that I'm reminding myself to put my head back down and focus on the things that really matter to me. I also find myself wondering why certain things get beyond our standard echo chambers, and others cannot.

Most of you know that Wednesday, the local blogosphere erupted over a Vanity Fair article that made a gratuitous, cheap shot at Cincinnati. As far as I knew, the hubbub began with this post from Kate the Great. (Apparently, other bloggers had seen and posted on this days earlier.) I did what I often do when I see an interesting blog item: I linked back to it and provided my own commentary. Within hours, Tom Callinan of the Enquirer did the same thing, linking back to KRM and here. Then Griff called me on the phone, telling me Fox 19 News was looking for me for comment. I got in touch, they asked if I'd speak on camera, and I agreed. So I ended up on TV for a few seconds. (Sadly, Kate the Great was apparently unavailable to defend the honor of the Queen City that afternoon, so I got pulled off the bench and into the lineup. I kind of wish I'd had 6 months to lose about a hundred pounds before the interview. Or that the camera man had taken a wider shot. We all should have been spared that close-up on my multiple chins. :-) )

But what (I suspect) only a few of you realize is that my commentary on VF was only the second time that week I was quoted in the traditional media. The first was last Sunday, when a front-page article in the Enquirer discussed recent changes in the practices of the HamCo clerk of courts in handling complaints filed by private citizens (i.e., criminal cases that are initiated by an affidavit that is not signed by a police officer). Deep in that article, which was written by Dan Horn, I'm quoted.

This weekend, I'm left reflecting on the two very different responses to the two articles. When Horn's article came out, I was pleased to read it and proud to be quoted. The private complaint issue is one that I'd spent time on in my day job. Horn didn't find me because of the blog or simply because I'm a criminal defense attorney; instead, this was something I'd worked on. I thought the article would foment some discussion. While I believe the law requires the change the clerk's office has now made, I also recognize there's another side to the issue: private complaint referrals were a way to preserve police resources. Eliminating them may make it more difficult--or impossible--for some victims of minor crimes to seek redress in the criminal justice system, as the gatekeeping function of a police officer's job will become even larger than it has been.

My post on VF, on the other hand, was a knee jerk response. It was meant to be a brief diversion on a day I hadn't had time to grab lunch. There's nothing particularly controversial or even worthy of an extensive discussion in that post. Of course we all (or most of us) like or love Cincinnati. And is it really news to any of us that lots of people who live on one of the coasts or overseas don't view midwestern cities as desirable places to vacation? Shocking!

So what interest was generated by each? Last time I checked, the Enquirer article on the citizen complaint issue had about 45 comments. Callinan's piece on VF? 200.

No one outside the blogosphere cared much about my post on difficulty finding emergency shelter for a client. Personally, I think that's a much more important story than our mutual love (or lack thereof) for the Queen City. Jack is involved in an important lawsuit about how we help former inmates re-enter society after they've "paid their debt." While the media has covered it, the post here generated a total of zero comments. (Perhaps the post was poorly written. I'll certainly admit that's possible.) And the Enquirer's article (a well-written one by Dan Horn) garnered fewer than half the comments than Callinan's VF piece did.

What's my point? I'm not sure. It was nice, of course, to email my parents and tell them I was on TV, or to tell my friends over dinner Wednesday to watch the news that night. But nothing that happened that day or the next accomplished anything. No one's life was made better. No cause was advanced.

The past week reminds me of why I originally accepted Griff's invitation to blog: to write about things that matter. It's the same reason I became a lawyer: to do things that matter. This doesn't mean I'm not going to continue to post on some great place I had lunch or cheer on the Bearcats. But I want to make sure I'm spending the bulk of my time here and--more importantly--in my practice on things that really shape people's lives. I want to make a difference, not to simply be a cheerleader. Both my job and this blog leave me in a unique position to do that. I just need to make sure I focus on the important stuff.

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