Saturday, January 24, 2009

Buying Ink by the Pixel

An age-old aphorism states, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” Attributed variously to Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and H.L. Mencken, the basis for this adage is rooted in the idea that newspaper editors, authors and writers are somehow omnipotent, as they can disseminate their side of the argument to a much wider audience through their publications.

Those days are gone.

Today, everyone has access to wide variety of outlets in which to express their views of the world. Sure, editors and columnists may have a ready-made audience, but the success of individual web sites and blogs has certainly narrowed the gap.

Just because you don’t work for the newspaper doesn’t mean you can’t get your opinions in print. This very publication has a quite an open editorial policy. Drop a note to the Frisco Enterprise (you can find the e-mail address in the masthead on page two) and chances are you’ll see your comments in an upcoming edition. Naturally, you’ll want to make your point relevant to current events. And bear in mind that the extraneous use of colorful epithets may not help your case. But if you make a cogent argument, the editor is likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. For those of you inclined to wax rhapsodic in a more loquacious fashion (that is, use a bunch of big words), you might consider penning an entire editorial column. Trust me, newspapers are always looking for unique content from their local readership.

When I started writing “The Frisco Line,” the first thing I asked for was a web page where I could post my articles, soliciting feedback and comments from readers. With the agreement of my editor, I launched a Blog at I had the choice of a myriad of online services, most of them free. Shortly thereafter, my wife launched her own site. Now, I can think of half a dozen people off hand that post their various musings for anyone so inclined to read. Most of them aren’t looking to capture a world-wide audience or become the next Drudge Report. Instead, just the act of articulating their thoughts in a public forum gives them a chance to closely examine their beliefs, and often refine them a bit.

If you’re not ready to step up to your own Blog, check out some of the online discussion sites. I spend a fair amount of time perusing the Frisco Online forums ( While I don’t personally contribute much, there’s a robust crowd of folks out there that aren’t afraid to share their opinions. Again, with a minimum of effort, you can make your positions known and, hopefully, take away a few nuggets of wisdom yourself. Fair warning, though: participating in the forums is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared for folks to take a razor sharp scalpel to your ideas.

If writing’s not your bag of chips, how about the noble art of oration? In the days of Rome, opinions rang out from every street corner. In modern times, if you stood on the corner of Preston and Main and started spouting ideas, you’d be more likely to draw the attention of the local mental health authorities than an audience. But just about every municipal meeting – from the City Council to the Urban Forestry Board – has a slot on their agenda for “public input.” That’s your chance to rise and speak to just about any topic you see fit. Sadly, due to the convoluted requirements of the Texas Open Meeting Laws, the board members won’t be able to respond directly. But you’ll have had your say and, if you strike a nerve, chances are you’ll see that topic on a future agenda. And in the case of the City Council, your performance is captured and broadcast on local cable stations and across the internet. Your 15 minutes of fame have begun!

While you’re at it, don’t stop at just attending a board meeting, go ahead and join the board! Every year, there are dozens of board memberships open for appointment. All it takes is filling out a simple form, submitting a resume and then undergoing a 15-minute grilling by the City Council. Come through that process and your odds of getting on a board are pretty good. Personally, I had to go through the process twice before garnering a seat on the Community Development Corporation board, but it’s been well worth it.

In casual conversations with friends, acquaintances and the odd fellow citizen in line at Starbucks, I find that there is no lack of opinions about Frisco, North Texas and the world in general. Sure, you can continue piping up at the local watering hole, hoping someone picks up on your ideas. But why take the chance? Never before in the course of human history have ordinary folks had more access to more people through more media outlets.

Go ahead, share!

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