In general, I support government organizations in their efforts to get online and provide information to the people they serve, but it would seem that some organizations probably get a little too excited about the possibilities of social media.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department announced last week that they would turn to the ever-popular Facebook to conduct Q&A sessions with the public on various subjects, including mental health, self-defense for women and careers in law enforcement. This is an excellent idea in theory, and in general, the Sheriff's Department has been good to me when I've needed information—but will one hour a month of such social-network interaction really be that helpful?
This effort seems to fall into the generally well-meaning idea of interactivity, and letting the audience help drive the information available—but many of the people who are likely to have time to spend online between 9 and 10 a.m. on a Tuesday aren't exactly the sort of folks with a lot to add to the conversation. Don't believe me? Just drop in on one of the Arizona Daily Star's online chats. While the online discussions focused on Wildcats sports are predictably well-populated, any chat focused on straight-ahead news ends up being a chaotic mess of conspiracy theories and nonsensical remarks—and that's what the moderator lets through.
Maybe the PCSD Facebook experiment will be the exception, but sometimes it's better to go ahead and offer the answers without asking for questions.
The week on The Range
We shared the announcement that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords would step down, collecting remarks from political insiders, her fellow congresspersons, and President Obama; looked at the race for her seat and tried to make sense of the two elections that will be held in less than a year; criticized one legislator's attempt to make vaccinations optional for college students; wondered if Frank Antenori was inspired by the Blue Collar Comedy Tour when he spoke on the floor of the Legislature; wondered if Rand Paul was exaggerating a bit about his experience with the Transportation Security Administration; noted that Nancy Young Wright is officially running for the District 1 seat on the Pima County Board of Supervisors; clarified the news about the alleged Tucson Unified School District book bans; covered the latest news from Project White House 2012 and introduced you to the candidates; and talked about the presidential race on Arizona Illustrated's Political Roundtable, with your host, Jim Nintzel.
We let you know you could eat Thai food at a Buddhist temple; drank coffee at Liv Café and Bistro; cursed the retail gods for taking away Bohemia; tried to keep up with all the new Asian restaurants opening in town; and prepared you for the Pinkberry invasion.
We encouraged you to see Jeff Smith's photographs at the Temple Gallery; offered an instructional course on making hashish; suggested you listen to tracks by Electric Guest and MNDR; mentioned that Sublime (or a version of that band, at least) is coming to the Rialto; theorized that help desks aren't really all that helpful; offered our Wikipedia-replacement services; tried to save the Arizona economy by inviting the porn industry to make our state home; mourned the loss of Jonathan Holden; introduced you to a rapper who really believes he's the best; talked comics; and informed the completely talentless that even they can do anything.
Comment of the week
"I adopted this dog. He is the best dog in the world! I love the connection we have formed and I feel so blessed."
—It's always nice to hear that the Tucson Weekly had some small part in finding a pet a new home like the one "Adopter" provided ("Critter of the Week [Dog Edition]: Scooter," The Range, Aug. 18, 2011).
Best of WWW
While we try not to take it personally, people sometimes use the various comment sections at TucsonWeekly.com to question our journalistic abilities. While the easy response would be to make some snarky remark and move on, we're going to try a new online feature in response to the angriest commenters, entitled "Your Turn, Hater!" The premise is simple: If a commenter mentions that he or she could do our job better, we'll give them a guest post on The Range, and subject them to the same sometimes-cranky readers we experience. Commenters for this privilege will be subject to our rules, and they'll be limited to one post (this isn't the TucsonCitizen.com, after all)—but it should be an interesting experiment.