"Locals Only" is the catchphrase. But what I saw today on this website wasn't local. It wasn't necessary. And it wasn't, I hope, representative of what passes for journalism with NBC here in DC these days.
I'm annoyed about what I saw. I'm annoyed that what I read is featured on a website for a legitimate news-gathering and dissemination organization. I'm annoyed, frankly, that someone got paid to write this particular piece of dung.
Here's the deal. A few days ago, I read a very sad story on a UK news website about a 77-year-old woman, Joan Cunnane, with a serious hoarding disorder. Cunnane's mania for shopping and collecting was so bad, she had only a 2-foot-wide path to navigate the space in her home. Tragically, pathetically, a stack of suitcases fell on her, and Cunnane, an elderly - and clearly ill - woman died. When her body was discovered, and the enormity of her disorder revealed, her neighbors and friends were shocked.
Hoarding disorders are serious and awful things. My late sister suffered from this - not at the level of the woman who died in England this past week - but still shockingly bad. I got sick from spending hours in my sister's home, trying to sort, toss, and save (when possible) years of smoke-damaged purchases and bags and bags of clothing and jewelry, many items never worn.
It's not a funny situation. It's a sickness that can horribly damage lives.
But don't try to tell that to the "journalist" who wrote this article that is featured on NBC4's website. This lousy piece of journalism trivializes Joan Cunnane's death, and the author, Lauren Crighton, calls the elderly Cunnane "girlfriend."
As in, the urban use of the word girlfriend.
Here's the quote: "According to the Daily Mail, girlfriend owned 300 scarves and literally thousands of trinkets..."
Did she, sistah?
In describing Mrs. Cunnane's home, the article goes to say "This sounds worse than a New York apartment, which is tough to do!"
Read that over a few times and tell me what's wrong with that sentence. Tough to top, maybe. Although that's crap journalism, too. Did anyone edit this?
But wait - it gets better! Crighton writes: "All that said, the Daily Mail's headline describing her as a "Shopaholic Spinster" might make things even worse. I mean, why not just throw an "old maid" in there for good measure? Sigh."
First, it looks like our writer didn't even bother reading the original, legitimate news story. In the opening to her piece - before calling the septuagenerian "girlfriend" - Crighton says Cunnane is "a girl in the UK." I think 77 is a bit past the "girl" stage, but maybe I'm out of touch. And, Lauren, dear? "Spinster" is a legit word for an older, single woman, babycakes. Merriam-Webster.com is your friend.
I mean, jeez louise. I use "sigh" out here from time to time, but I'm a cheesy personal blogger. I'm not writing for the web presence of a major news outlet. I'm not representing the news organization of Huntley, Brinkley, John Chancellor, and Tom Brokaw. (That's David Brinkley, by the way, Ms. Crighton, not Christie.)
Here's the capper (or, crapper, as I'm thinking of it.) Crighton wraps up by writing "As a fitting epilogue, the upcoming Confessions of a Shopaholic movie starring Isla Fisher will apparently run with a disclaimer—no doubt about the risks of said shopping behavior."
The link in that line is not mine. That link is featured in the article as it appears on NBC4's website. It leads to a snarky fashion website called fashionindie.com which features the tagline "exclusive invites free shit & smack talk." there, cunnane's story is reduced to two snarky, jokey lines of text and a photo of an actress surrounded by shoes:
"A woman in the UK took a one way trip to that great sample sale in the sky when her closet toppled on to her suffocating her in a 3 foot high pile of unopened boxes.
Confessions of a Shopaholic now being released with a disclaimer and a Law and Order style “Ripped from the Headlines” trailer."
Anyone reading it would recognize that the last line (penned by FashionIndie.com co-founder Daniel Saynt) is a joke. A joke, kids. Yet, it shows up in the NBC story as something real.
That's just bad.
Is this really how a venerable news entity wants to represent itself? I think they should be embarrassed. A little ashamed of themselves. Is there no editorial control? No fact-checking? Should poorly written, blog-like articles like this have a home on a news organization website?
On my worst days, I could pull a better article out of my ass, frankly. And I would make it more accurate. In a week that sees the wonderful, talented writer and editor Magazine Man out of a job, it infuriates me to see crap not only rewarded, but given a wide audience.
I dunno. Maybe the world is just getting more stupid. Maybe this is how Joe the Plumber wants his half-assed news presented. I'd like to think there is more dignity and accuracy out there. If this article is a harbinger of what passes for journalistic integrity and excellence now, I think we're screwed.
Oh hell. Maybe I'm just not cool enough to appreciate the New News Order.
In my book, though, NBC's news division jumped the shark. Their reputation has diminished in my eyes.
I'd love to hear a response from NBC4, but I have a funny feeling that's a Cold Day in Hell moment.
Wait - it's going to be something like 11 degrees here tomorrow morning. And we still have a few days left of DC being under the Bush administration. Maybe I'll get my Cold Day in Hell moment after all.
I remain cranky, but all yours,