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Start the Presses: Seeking change from the bully pulpit

November 15, 2013|By Dan Evans, dan.evans@latimes.com

Quasi-anonymous blogs seem to be an ignoble specialty of our towns, Wi-Fi-enabled trolls cowardly throwing stones from behind the blue screen of their computers.

Do they actually believe what they say, do they affect anything, and do they even want to? One in Burbank acts like a private club, cheering on one another's takedowns like boozy frat boys. (The fights they have between themselves resemble this as well, but is a lot more fun to watch.)

I suppose you could call this local chattering class the digital evolution of the council gadfly, those souls who show up week after week to pick at elected officials regarding their pet projects, be they pension reform, leaf-blowers or puppy mills. I have no quarrel with gadflies, though, as they put themselves out in public, inviting discussion rather than quashing it.

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Perhaps it's more accurate to equate the Semichorus blog as the online form of talk radio, where hosts and guests bloviate for no other reason than ratings.

Online, though, the currency of the realm isn't cash, but the number of comments you collect and the damage you inflict. That's middle-school-level thinking, folks.

I got my own taste of the Media City's online nastiness a few months after I started my job in 2009. In an effort to meet various people in town I had coffee and lunch with various public officials, business leaders and nonprofit executives. One of those meetings was with Dennis Barlow, the former city attorney.

I tweeted about the lunch, something that was widely discussed on Semichorus, with the implication that I was clearly in the pocket of the city because I shared a basket of chips with Barlow at Don Cuco's. (Given that we successfully sued the city regarding bonus information about a year later in part because of Barlow's intransigence, I rather doubt Burbank officials agree.)

Since that point, I have repeatedly reached out to Jim Carlile, who runs the blog, asking him to meet with me and to explain his concerns. Except for one unrelated email exchange, he has not even deigned to respond. I let him know I was writing this piece, and, again, he did not respond.

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