Self-Scrutiny—All right fellow media critics, we’re about to make “Thin Line” history. As best I can tell, this is the first time the Telescope of Righteous Indignation has been flipped over, leaving the Alibi squirming at the wrong end.
I know the metaphor of scrutiny usually involves a microscope, but in the case of media criticism, I think a telescope is more accurate. We look on from afar, read a product not a process and, like astrologers, try to make heads or tails of the movements of gassy giants, gleaning info from the things written and not written.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s move to less esoteric territory. Last week, Laura Marrich and I put together the Valentine’s Gift issue, focusing on anniversary presents as a way to avoid some of the cliché of the holiday while still partaking in its sweetness.
We met. We talked about our readers and ourselves, about how many people these days wrinkle their noses at the thought of marriage in a traditional sense, how the Alibi is known for working for the people not served by Albuquerque’s mainstream dailies.
Hear that? That’s the sound of the first well-intentioned paving stone clinking into place on the road to hell.
My job was to find couples to interview who had been together for all different lengths of time. Marrich’s was to write up some pithy blurbs about anniversary gifts appropriate for various lengths of time. I came up with four couples with interesting stories, three straight, one gay, and, unfortunately, all married. “Well,” I thought, “that’s probably not too big a deal. People will get the gist.” Then, at the last minute, the gay couple was unable to do our interview before the issue came out.
Marrich faced a different problem. The traditional framework of marriage was too narrow to encompass our broad audience. Instead of addressing the validity of all kinds of relationships—short-term and long, gay and hetero, married and not—she opted to leave the language nebulous, open to interpretation and, hopefully, open to everyone.
The two combined to very disappointing effect for one reader. He called and left us a message. He expects different things from the Alibi; he expects to see all kinds of love in our pages, not just the kind condoned by the more conservative papers in town.
We get lots of calls and e-mails here, from crazies and sane folk alike, and most of them are taken with a grain of salt. This one stuck for me, though. I mean, here I am, picking reports and broadcasts apart word by word, week after week, calling them out mostly for thoughtlessness. But then, it’s always more fun pointing out other people’s shortcomings than acknowledging our own.