David Rodeback's Blog

Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Life Among the Mormons, and Other Stuff

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Friday, February 12, 2010
An Exclusive Interview with Myself

Way more than 20 questions, mostly about recently-announced developments here at LocalCommentary.com.

Occasionally, I interview myself here at the blog. No one else seems to want to interview me, but for some reason readers enjoy my -- how shall I say? -- exposed interior monologue.

Q: Thanks for being here. Are you ready?
A: Where you go, I go. Let's do it.

Q: So we're here interviewing ourself on the occasion of you having made a little announcement yesterday, something about surgically removing the local from what for more than five years has been your local commentary?
A. Yes.

Q: Yes what? Yes, we're here? Yes, you made an announcement? Yes, the words local and commentary are divorcing each other in your curious little corner of the space-time continuum?
A: Yes. All those yeses.

Q: Are you really going to stop writing about American Fork politics and government?
A: Yes.

Q: Temporarily or permanently?
A: The current plan is permanently.

Q: Why?
A: I suppose a complete account of my motivations would be more complex, but the simple answer is, I am choosing to devote my time to some other projects.

Q: Was it something we said, or didn't say?
A: Not at all.

Q: Is it because the American Fork City Web site is so much better now that you no longer feel the need?
A: No. I agree that it is much improved. But even if it were perfect, the need for continuing third-party scrutiny and discussion would remain. Government should never be the sole source of information and discussion about government.

Q: Is it because you no longer care about American Fork or its politics or government?
A: Absolutely not. If anything, I care about American Fork more than before. In fact, I'm planning to blog about that very soon.

Q: Are you tired of all the writing and background work?
A: I'm usually tired of something, but that's not my motivation in this case. I enjoyed almost all the writing and almost all the background work.

Q: Are you moving from American Fork?
A: Not to my knowledge.

Q: Are you dying?
A: Aren't you? Aren't we all?

Q: I'll ask the questions here, if you don't mind. Let me put it this way: are you secretly dying of some dread disease?
A: To my knowledge, neither secretly nor openly.

Q: Is it because other bloggers have stepped forward to take your place?
A: No, they haven't. But I hope they will eventually.

Q: Is it because you've been losing readers?
A: No, you're confusing me with print newspapers and the Big Media Acronyms. In recent months I've had more readers than ever before. We passed 1000 unique monthly readers during the last election cycle.

Q: Is it because being so opinionated in a public forum is costing you friends?
A: I'm not sure it has cost me any friends. Maybe a few. But I've made far more friends by blogging about local matters than I've lost. There are a lot of good, interested people out there, and most of them are grown up enough to deal gracefully with disagreement.

Q: Is it because American Fork's city government has improved so much since you started that there's no need for third-party commentary any more?
A: Didn't I already answer that? As long as there exists a government, there is a need for third-party discussion and information. I don't foresee that changing; I hope it never does.

Q: When did you decide to abandon us? Have you been thinking about this a long time?
A: Last month -- January -- was when I came to the decision, but some of the pieces were moving into place well before that. I managed to squeeze in the necessary time for all that election coverage last year, but it was a very difficult thing. That got me thinking a little. One of the four new projects I want to pursue has been percolating for more than a year. Two others bubbled up late last year. The fourth actually sprang into (theoretical) existence just a few weeks ago, and quite unexpectedly.

Q: How do you do that?
A: Do what?

Q: Insert parenthesis so seamlessly into your speech, almost as if you were writing, instead of talking.
A: Trade secret.

Q: So is this the end of the much-ballyhooed Groundhog Day Limerick Contest?
A: No, I think it will survive, but it may land somewhere besides LocalCommentary.com.

Q: Where will you and your blog land? I understand that you'll still be doing some blogging; is that true?"
A: I'm not yet certain where my blog will land, and I think there will still be one.

Q: What will become of LocalCommentary.com? Will people still be able to read their favorite essays? Will others post new stuff?
A: I'm not sure yet, but I'm flattered that some readers like to go back and read some of the old stuff. So do I, actually. I'll archive the old stuff somewhere; maybe I'll leave it at LocalCommentary.com. As far as the site's future, only the future will tell. If there are others who want to step into it and liven up and inform the local discussion with their commentary, I'm open to the possibility.

Q: Will you continue to publish juicy selections from the Chronicle of Vilka, or does it now fade away with all other things American Forkish?
A: What makes you think that has anything to do with American Fork? You know, besides the fact that vilka is the Russian word for Fork? To answer your question, I don't know. If I discover other noteworthy excerpts, I'll post them.

Q: Are you quitting the local thing because of a real or threatened lawsuit? Or because of anonymous threats?
A: Nope, nope, and nope. There is no real or threatened lawsuit. There have been a few anonymous growlings over the years, but nothing like I saw my mother receive back in the 1970s, when she was active in state politics in Colorado -- no death threats yet, in other words. Such rumblings as there have been . . . do not move me. And if you're wondering about my mother, death threats did not deter her. She didn't back off. She passed away of something entirely apolitical, fully three decades later.

Q: So what are these other projects?
A: I can't say. Yet.

Q: You don't know, yet, or you can't say, yet?
A: I can't say. Yet.

Q: When was the last time you watched Dave, anyway?
A: It's been a while, but props for noticing the reference.

Q: What is the average number of hours you've devoted to the local part of your commentary over the past six years?
A: I didn't keep a log. A few hours per week, I suppose. In a given week, anywhere between zero and twenty-five hours.

Q: Why does it take so much time to scrutinize and pontificate on local government and politics?
A: First, it takes much longer to write a blog post than to read it. That's rather obvious. Second, where local matters are concerned, there is an even more significant time commitment. The background work which precedes the writing can be very time-consuming. It involves attending public meetings; conversing at length with officials and others behind the scenes; exchanging e-mails and phone calls; reading long, dense documents; and asking questions and getting answers and asking more questions. There are no safe shortcuts in local matters. In national and even state matters, I can usually learn what I need to know by reading readily-available documents, usually on the World Wide Web; this typically goes very quickly for me. I can also listen to others' discussions of state and national issues as I drive or work in the yard; this is not the case with local matters.

Q: If you were spending that much time blogging on local government and politics, including all the background work, how did you have time to be a Mormon bishop for six years, while also holding down a full-time job?
A: I didn't. That bishop guy was someone who looks exactly like me, lived in my house, and wore my clothes. Haven't seen him in over a year. Haven't seen some of my clothes since then, either.

Q: Seriously, you won't say anything about those new projects of yours? Yet?
A: I'll say a little. Of the three or four other projects I want -- or in some sense need -- to pursue, all but one involve writing and could also be construed as civic activities. One or two are of local interest. One is focused on national politics and government. Maybe they all will see the light of day eventually. I hope at least some of them will, and I hope to announce at least one of them to you soon.

Q: Will anyone be happy, or at least relieved, to learn that you're excising the local from your local commentary?
A: If so, I'll take it as a compliment.

Q: Will anyone be disappointed?
A: I'm disappointed. If someone else is, then I am also . . . grateful.

Q: Do you have time for just a few more questions?
A: Sure, but you're buying dessert.

Q: This isn't a lunch meeting.
A: Good point. Skip the dessert. What are your questions?

Q: Is your wife still your favorite city councilor? You've been calling her MFCC for a long time.
A: Absolutely.

Q: So your heart is still in the acronym?
A: Yes, and doubly so this weekend, for Valentine's Day approacheth. This one happens to be the 22nd anniversary of the evening when I proposed and she said, "Yea, verily" (or words to that effect).

Q: Does she read your blog?
A: Yes. I read her blog too.

Q: Who's your Second Favorite City Councilor? That would be MSFCC?
A: Nice try. One incumbent has applied for the position, but the position doesn't actually exist.

Q: How do you think things are going in American Fork with the new mayor?
A: I really haven't had a chance lately to pay much attention, but so far I have no complaints.

Q: Will you say more about the blogosphere's role in local elections and government?
A: One of my parting local shots will be about that; it will be either tomorrow or Monday, I think. For the moment . . . Newspaper coverage is understandably inadequate for a self-governing small city like American Fork, especially when there is no local newspaper. What coverage there is often comes after a matter is decided, or nearly so, and it's too late to affect anything. Moreover, and quite apart from whatever spin the writer, editor, or publisher might put on a story, often there isn't time for a reporter to dig into a story before the filing deadline, to explore its significance and to check the facts thoroughly. Who said what in a given meeting is rarely a complete story, but that's often all we get. So there's lots of room and need for further reporting and discussion, and the blogosphere is the most likely venue for it.

Q: So where will American Forkers go for such discussion? 
A: I don't know. Someplace respectable, I hope, where they don't traffic in cowardly anonymity, where writers at least try to do their homework, and where comments are screened.

Q: I've been meaning to ask, What percentage of your readers are in American Fork?
A: Between one-third and one-half, ordinarily, as far as I can tell. During a local election cycle, it's probably more like two-thirds to three-quarters.

Q: Last question: Looking back, if you could do anything differently, what would it be?
A: I'd have insisted that this be a lunch meeting, and I'd have bought Microsoft and Intel with a lot of the money I earned as a youth, working on farms.

Q: Thanks for doing this, Ellen.
A: You never change, do you, Bill?

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