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Subject:Reality and Reporters
Time:10:39 pm
Recently a reporter disguised herself as a furry and attended a furry con. She then wrote a piece about it which (IMHO) was pretty damned honest and objective (read it here.)

A few furries are ranting about this being underhanded or dishonest. You know what? They're wrong. Here's what I had to say about it.

When a reporter or news crew hits the hotel housing a furry con, it's like feeding time for the outre. People who I wouldn't let into my house practically line up to spill their stories to the nice, sympathetic reporter. It's as if they think that telling their story will somehow cause the world to suddenly understand them. Does the reporter edit it for oddness? Hell yes. But the interviewees fed them such a steady diet of it that the reporter didn't have to work hard.

Kage and a few others try to run interference with reporters at Anthrocon. Not much in the way of news come out of it. Why? Because the reporters know they're being handled by a pro. They know they're only being given a particular and somewhat sanitized viewpoint. On seeing that, any reporter worth his salt is going to go digging for the 'real' story. Keep the reporters away from 99% of the furries, and the reporters will assume that 99% of the furries have something hidden. So they go looking for that hidden stuff. Eventually, they'll find somebody six sigmas out on the bell curve, and that only confirms their opinion that something was hidden. And who loses? The furries, who get painted with the brush of the most extreme of the crew.

This time something different happened. This woman came in as if she were an insider and wound up getting an insider's view. She liked what she saw. She saw old friends chatting. She saw costumers sharing tips. She saw art. She saw, as she describes it, a family-friendly place. God bless that man talking about his three-year-old daughter, and God bless the reporter for realizing that those two were the average furry.

She never would have gotten that story if she came in openly as a reporter. Instead she'd have been shuffled around by handlers, glommed onto by attention seekers, and avoided like the plague by the very folks who are the best examples of furries.

I'm not a furry in the sense that I don't have a fursona and am not real big on the anthropomorphic art (except Kevin and Kell. Gotta love Kevin and Kell). But I've been lucky enough to get to know the furry community from working Anthrocon and FurFright, and I tell ya, it's a joy and a privilege to do it.

This reporter came in, and by dint of not drawing attention to herself, got to see furries as they are: kind, friendly, fun-loving, practical people who are there to enjoy each others' company. I wish to hell more reporters would do it that way. There would be a lot more laudatory stories, and then a lot less news - because furries won't be looking odd any more.
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martip
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 03:12 am (UTC)
she'd have been shuffled around by handlers, glommed onto by attention seekers, and avoided like the plague by the very folks who are the best examples of furries.

Bingo. And a half.
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rebelsheart
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 04:03 am (UTC)
Bravo bravo
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smoooom
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 04:53 am (UTC)
I had no idea, I always thought furrys always worse costumes. I liked the article. Makes me wish a reporter would sneak into a filk convention. I do have one other comment. fursona?
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catalana
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 05:13 am (UTC)
I gather a fursona is one's furry alter-ego (a combination of "fur" and "persona"). I could be wrong, but that's what I've always taken it to mean.
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scs_11
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 06:24 am (UTC)
Erica has it exactly right.
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bigtig
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 06:16 am (UTC)
When we first moved Anthrocon (at only a few hundred people) to Philadelphia we were positively terrified of the reputation furries had.

The Vanity Fair article was lightweight in comparison to some of the self-espoused press from some key people in early fandom that sold it as a sex convention.

A lot of folks have worked hard to get around that and to be really honest I am very much glad to see articles portraying us as the "oddball" geeks as opposed to the child-seeking pedophile perverts.

It's a learning process. Conventions and the fandom should learn to be a bit more comfortable with the press now, for the very reasons you've put.

There will always be the bad press as with any event that people get together at, but if the basic news lead the reporter knocking on your door expects is "bunch of geeks in a hotel in our city" then you can relax a little and deal with the press as the legitimate convention you are.

Mark Evanier noted as being guest at the con he was often asked by fans if or why furry was held in such low regard. His comment to try and tell people that you'll only be held in low regard if you are showing that you should be by acting that way. He found nothing at all wrong with anything and that we should stop worrying.

(His con report was a great read: http://www.newsfromme.com/archives/2007_07_08.html#013689)

So yeah. Its sort of a watershed point now. Folks should relax and learn to embrace the press and not fear them. It makes sense now.
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autographedcat
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 11:17 am (UTC)
So yeah. Its sort of a watershed point now. Folks should relax and learn to embrace the press and not fear them. It makes sense now.

I wrote the following in response to reactions from some quarters of the documentary crew that was going around to the various filk conventions last year:

http://www.autographedcat.com/songs/press_gang.html

Seems to sum up the (unfortunately) typical fannish attitude towards the press/media, alas.
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scs_11
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 06:51 pm (UTC)
Very nice. I can hear Harold Hill belting it out right now. In propellor beanie.
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unclekage
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 01:03 pm (UTC)
The problem is that every other time that a reporter has snuck in, the results have been catastrophic. Remember the guy in the really bad lion suit who showed up in our Fursuit Dodgeball video, who turned out to be a reporter who wrote a very damaging video "expose'" of us?

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(Anonymous)
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-03 04:12 pm (UTC)
Some of Jennifer Abel's other articles for the Advocate show this is no fluke. Her articles about criminalization of homeschoolers and how identity theft really affects banks have the same kind of insightful paring down to essentials I wish a lot more reporters had.
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technoshaman
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-04 04:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks. As someone who occasionally wears both a Clark Kent fedora and a propeller beanie (not at the same time!) it's an interesting perspective... sometimes being an "out" pressman is a Bad Idea.

The first comment on that article is spot-on. By going incognito she was able to get the real deal, and, as the commenter said, put a face on the story. Having studied this quite a bit, that's one of the more important things a journalist can do, is bring a human understanding of the issue to her readership. "What's this *really* like?"

(Pointed here by cflute)
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wyld_b_wolfy
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-05 02:56 pm (UTC)
I think how she entered upsets folks because, as Uncle Kage pointed out, the press isn't always interested in the truth. It's a paradox - if you let them in they either have handlers (and thus don't get much of a real story) or they don't (and get besieged by the exact sort of people you don't WANT to have talking to them).

When one sneaks in as she did they could get a real story as she did or they could do what that other guy did and take things out of context to titillate the readers. I think this is why, despite the fact almost all of us like the article she wrote, we like less the way she got to write it. It'd be like having someone want to do a story on you, you say no, and then they follow you around and do the story anyway. Even if it's a fantastic story you're going to end up feeling like your privacy has been violated.

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mach
Link:(Link)
Time:2007-11-06 04:30 pm (UTC)
You have a good point here.. We scare away the good reporters by handling them, and the bad ones will do their best to find the dirt under the rug any way they can.

But I contend that this reporter was interested in the truth, in the real objective heart of how furries operate and what the con was about. Usually it's been our experience that this isn't the case.

I guess the only way we can really handle it is to let them come, maybe ask that they keep it low key so as not to attract the attention seekers and let them do as they will?

At that we'd still take hits, but maybe we'd also get more of the objective types as well. I don't know, but I've been personally burned in the past by being open and honest to reporters. Check out the Fox Furry News Interview. That was the tamest of the things at the time and we were as kind and generous as we could be.. and got burned.
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