I ain’t no Punky Brewster

Before I start ranting, let me just say how very much I appreciate Public Allies recognizing me with a Change-Maker Award, and what a nice gesture it was of the Raleigh News and Observer to take that occasion to write a profile of me. But…

Why do old media journalists have so much trouble grokking new media? The N&O reporter who wrote this story about me is no older than I am, and I spent at least 30 minutes trying to express this one concept to her: I help progressive nonprofits use the Internet to accomplish their missions.

And yet the article still comes out sounding like an awkward introduction to some kind of space alien. We don’t really get her, but isn’t she quaint?


Peppy and earnest, with funky spectacles and cropped hair, Sinreich also updates her own personal blog, accessed off lotusmedia .org, with tidbits of interest, including her reaction to receiving the award (she found the Public Allies announcement a little “anemic”) and her personal political opinions.

One need only glance at her postings to know she’s an unabashed liberal, she’s quirky and she’s getting married.

Quirky? Funky? Peppy??? Sounds like Punky Brewster.

Final peeve: the article calls me “a self-described ‘technogeek’.” That word is not in my vocabulary. In my mind, “techno” refers to music. I am a geek, plain and simple.

Anyway, thanks so much to Bonnie and Harry at the N&O for doing this, and big ups to my very fabulous friend Cal at Public Allies. Good karma all around, and I hope I can return the favor someday.

Ruby Sinreich is a progressive activist, local politico, online organizer, capacity builder, and social networker.

Posted in rants
11 comments on “I ain’t no Punky Brewster
  1. Brian R. says:

    When I read these main stream media writings that use inaccurate adjectives and completely misunderstand the subject of their story I just laugh. Because it’s the fundamental problem of writers not being connected to their communities and being incapable of expressing the “truth” on the streets that there business model is doomed. Not because of the Internet, NOT because of citizen journalist, NOT because of blogs, but because of incompetence and owners greed. Independent media is just filling the void being left by bad journalism. This is a classic example of the market taking control of the situation. Oh ye capitalist take heed your “free and open markets” wheild a sword that cuts many ways.

  2. Anton Zuiker says:

    Ruby,

    So what three adjectives would you have preferred? And, a tip: next time you’re interviewed, be suggestive, or subliminal, and give the reporter a base to work from. “Some people say I’m peppy and quirky, but I think of myself as brilliant and visionary.” Help the storyteller find the words to describe you.

  3. Ruby says:

    Well exactly, Anton. That’s why I spent most of the interview talking about nothing but one straightforward concept: I help progressive nonprofits use the Internet to accomplish their missions. And that did get across, but it was not understood.

    I have been working with the media for almost 15 years and while I have certainly made some mistakes, I think I am pretty good at sticking to the main points and trying to focus reporters’ attention on what I think is important. I try to stop short of writing the story for them though, especially when it is about how wonderful I am. ;-)

  4. Ruby says:

    One other correction: Public Allies is not “a part of the federal AmeriCorps program,” it simply receives (limited) funding from Americorps.

  5. Anton Zuiker says:

    Ruby, I know what you mean. In the CH News article last week, I was described as an architecture buff, but all I said was I read a few architecture magazines and I’d travelled to Bilbao expressly to see Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim. Does that make me an architecture buff? Oh, the outrage. You hit on something about journalism, though. There’s an energetic movement (going back to the Sixties and Hunter S. and Tom Wolfe) toward narrative journalism and more descriptive writing. I’m part of this, having attended the Nieman Narrative Journalism conference three years in a row and writing a narrative article for my medical journalism thesis. For beginning narrative journalists and young reporters, it’s quite easy to think that one can observe enough detail in an hour interview to write that narrative article. But every good narrative journalist will tell you it takes many hours, many days, many observed scenes to be even close to describing someone. Which is why the rule still stands for reporting: show, don’t tell. Anyway, of course you’ve got the right idea — use your own medium, the blog, to counterbalance what the reporter offered. That’s why I suggested a few months back that anyone who is interviewed by a journalist should record the interview and make it available online.

  6. Jason Baker says:

    Ruby,

    I remember you warning me not long ago of something called the “eighteen year old filter.” The thing that made me chuckle as the campaign began to progress is that it doesn’t seem to be isolated to student publications. :)

    But I’m glad to see that you were recognized for your efforts none the less.

  7. Ruby says:

    For what it’s worth, the Chapel Hill News ran the same article today with no by-line but with a color photo of me and with a slightly improved headline. “Public Allies names Sinreich ‘change-maker’” vs the N&O’s “‘Technogeek’ nudges nonprofits onto Web”

    If anyone has paper copies of either version, would you please let me know? I only get them online.

  8. Tim says:

    I spend five years working on the web site for a Cincinnati television station. My cohorts and I were viewed with more distrust and disgust than I could have possibly expected. Toward the end, things were changing a bit, but it was constantly amazing to me how hard we had to work to even get the existence of our (award winning) site recognized by the newsroom.

    I think there was no small amount of fear that the Internet was going to somehow replace journalism. As if the two are even synonymous!

    Things have come a long way, I guess. It sounds a bit like the author of your profile got a bit caught up in the tone of her piece, and forgot to keep listening.

  9. Trish says:

    Ruby,

    I have today’s CHN on paper. Like you, I only read the news online, but my spousal unit hasn’t come into the computer age (yet!). You are more than welcome to it.

    Cheers,
    Trish

  10. Ruby says:

    Thanks Trish!

    I just noticed that the Chapel Hill News also gave me a ‘rose‘ today. Very nice.

    Roses to Ruby Sinreich, recently honored by Public Allies North Carolina as a “changemaker.”

    That doesn’t mean she gives you quarters and dimes back from your dollar bill. It means she’s made a positive difference in the community. Public Allies, a part of the federal AmeriCorps program, honored Sinreich for her work in helping nonprofit organizations learn to use the Internet to their advantage.

    In addition to that work, Sinreich is the founder of http://orangepolitics.org, an online marketplace of ideas about local issues.

    I think the Chapel Hilll News “gets it” a little more than the N&O. (But they did repeat the error about Americorps. Oh well.)

  11. Trish says:

    Ruby,

    The issue is a Ruby & Brian kinda day (bonus!) Pretty cool scrapbook stuff for the grandkids.

    CHN did better, but I don’t think they did your work justice though. Personally speaking, I read your blogs quite frequently and although I am not an easily led sheep, my opinions and social philosophies have changed (slightly) as a result of OP.org. OP and the ACLU blog are pretty powerful tools for the community & I recommend them to as many folks as possible.

    I can pop the paper in the mail. Enjoy.

    Trish

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