“Nashville is Talking” blogger quits

Brittney Gilbert at one of the WKRN-TV sponsored blogger meet-upsBrittney Gilbert suddenly resigned yesterday as writer of the popular Nashville community blog, Nashville is Talking. I have more thoughts about this than I can say, but a few things require my comment. I was, after all, the creator of this site and concept. I believe Brittney was the first person paid by a local media company to be a full-time blogger. It’s sad that she’s leaving.

First of all, Brittney said she was resigning because she couldn’t take the nastiness of certain commenters anymore. In this sense, the bullies won. Brittney is a fine and sensitive young woman, despite her biting wit and prose. She notes that this has been coming for a long time, although everybody associated with the site was shocked.

While we can all talk about how ugly comments can get, they are a part of life in the democratized web world (just as they are in the real world). The community tends to police such, but it can get to you, if you’ll let it.

In her final post, she credits Mike Sechrist, Steve Sabato and myself with giving her this chance in life. I no longer consult for the station. Mike left a month ago, and Steve was fired shortly after Mike left. In other words, Brittney lost her support base, and while that’s not been mentioned as a reason for her departure (except by Rex Hammock), I have a hard time believing it didn’t play a role here.

It’s one thing to take criticism from an occasionally angry mob; it’s quite another take it without superiors watching your back and providing encouragement. WKRN’s web efforts have been pioneering, but not everyone is cut out to be a pioneer (something about the occasional arrows). There’s nothing “wrong” about that; it’s just life.

Her final post sprouted a flame war in the comments between members of the community who were antagonists and those who came to Brittney’s defense, and a thorough study of those comments — and the “final straw” issue — would make a great project for some journalism program. I added my two cents, because of references by some that Brittney “represented” the editorial process of WKRN-TV, an assertion I find self-serving.

…let me add that efforts to tie this blog to the output of WKRN’s news department benefit only those who seek to use the affiliation as a hammer in making their position come out on top. This is not a mainstream media outlet, and it never has been. It doesn’t operate by the same rules, and it doesn’t have to.

Members of both sides of the public debate have manipulated the “rules and traditions” of the mainstream press to give our country a bad case of irritable bowel syndrome. Walter Lippmann’s social engineering of a century ago has produced a culture void of argument, and this is what the personal media revolution is bringing back.

Those who wish to hide behind the “press isn’t supposed to be that way,” wish to have their cake and eat it, too. We can either argue or we can’t, but you don’t have a right to say only you can argue.

This website was an experiment in not only social media but also in shining a light on the many voices that make up the Nashville blogosphere. Brittney was required to walk a fine line here — to fully engage ALL voices, which she certainly seems to have done and at the same time maintain a certain distance. That some are unable to tolerate certain voices is sad not only for this experiment but also for the First Amendment.

Nashville is Talking will continue in some form, although it may end up in the hands of the community itself. Katherine Coble, herself a terrific blogger, has temporarily taken over for Brittney.

I know a lot of companies are trying to find ways to incorporate the local blogosphere into their plans and strategies, and there are many lessons we’ve learned from this experiment. I’ll likely write much more about that some other time.

Comments

  1. I’ve read NiT for a long time. Brittney regular amazed me with her maturity and grace in handling a wide variety of people and voices. She demonstrated character qualities that would be noteworthy in someone twice her age. Wherever she ends up, she will do quite well.

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  1. […] Walter Lippmann s social engineering of a century ago has produced a culture void of argument, and this is what the personal media revolution is bringing back. Those who wish to hide behind the press isn t supposed to be that way, … …more […]

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