Part of my job, as I see it, is to read as many local blogs and Web sites as I can. And it's interesting to me how the local efforts mirror the national blogs. Thaddeus Matthews, for example, is our local version of the Drudge Report. He throws up every outrageous rumor that comes his way, no matter how potentially libelous or scandalous. And about half the time he's on target.
Of course, that also means that about half the time he's totally full of crap. It's a case of reader beware, but even so, Matthews has posted dozens of items that have led to stories in mainstream media outlets.
It's the same with other local sites. In Memphis, we've got media blogs, liberal blogs, conservative blogs, food blogs, art blogs, and dozens of variations on those themes. Add in the hundreds of MySpace accounts and personal journals and the number of options for reading local "authors" of one sort or another becomes overwhelming.
One thing I've noticed, though, is a consistent theme in reader comments: Memphis-bashing. It usually comes in the form of "I'm glad I left this stupid town" or "This is the last straw. I'm moving to DeSoto County" (or Fayette County or Covington or some other perceived Shangri-la).
What the Memphis-haters seem to have in common, however, is an inability to stop themselves. If they've moved away, why are they still engaged in local issues? Why go to a blog to insult Willie Herenton if you're now living the good life in Olive Branch?
Sure, we've got problems here in River City, but there is also hope and more media outlets than ever before -- amateur and professional -- performing watchdog functions. The old 24-hour news cycle is dead. Web sites, including MemphisFlyer.com, post around the clock, as news happens.
Never has more information been more available to the public, and I believe better things are possible with a better-informed electorate. It happened nationally in the last election. It can happen here. We need to keep smoking the rascals out and then take action at the ballot box.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced last week that the I-55 "old bridge" across the Mississippi would be closed for nine months, beginning in 2017, so that the department could build new exit and entrance ramps. This is a really horrible idea, with potentially disastrous economic, public safety, and even national security ramifications ...
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...