Archive for November, 2009

Mother knows best

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Clay Aiken, the Raleigh native famous for being an American Almost-Idol, used his Web site to offer some thoughts on the recent election that dramatically altered the makeup of the Wake County school board. Here is Clay’s analysis, in its entirety:

What happened to Wake County Schools?!?1 Now that i have a kid i am so much more invested and I am EXTREMELY disappointed that so many selfish idiots ran and won seats on the school board. i hope we can get rid of them as soon as possible before they ruin my school system. Idiots.

Yes, why tinker with a school system that can instill such critical thinking skills, not to mention a free-spirited approach to grammar, in its students? (I wonder which of Clay’s local English teachers would like to take credit for showing him how to alternate question marks and exclamation points for emphasis?) But I digress. The more pertinent question is, Why did Clay’s comment end up on the front page of the News & Observer last week? Editor John Drescher later explained the rationale:

The front page should be a lively mix of stories including traditional news as well as stories on the arts, religion, culture and sports.

There’s a place too for stories of humor, quirkiness and inspiration. Some stories should make the front page simply because people will talk about the story, what we call a “talker.”

That was the case with the Aiken story.

But as Drescher noted, even Clay’s mother thought it was a bad call:

Among those objecting was Aiken’s mother, Faye Parker.

“I find it so interesting that you and your reporters waste time on the opinion of others that are posted on a private site,” Parker, who lives in Wake County, wrote in an e-mail. “If Clay Aiken was not a celebrity, would you give a ‘hoot’ about his opinion?”

I’ve got to go with Mom on this matter. Most celebrity utterances should be ignored. Being famous is not the same thing as being smart, insightful, thoughtful or helpful. Political comments of the same fine quality as Aiken’s are routinely made by dozens of average citizens on the N&O’s Web site every day. But the paper doesn’t highlight them on the front page (thank God).

Besides, Drescher himself inadvertently revealed the soft underbelly of his argument. The story was indeed a “talker” — but by his account, it was because “riled” readers “didn’t think the story belonged on the front page.”

In other words, what was most being talked about was the N&O’s bad judgment. Not the kind of “talker” Drescher had in mind, I imagine.