Denis McGrath (heavily copy-edited):

I said, “I kind of look at it as – it’s my job to fail until I don’t. You try something, fail, fail, fail, keep failing, and hopefully eventually you look at something and say ‘That’s not a total failure,’ and then you nurture that little ember and follow it and hopefully you get somewhere.”

And the producer nodded and said, “That’s what separates real, effective writers from those who just have ‘ideas.’ Regular folk hit that first fail and either refuse to see it, or freak out about it.” […] So to all my peeps in rooms or pounding out pages today, wherever you are, here’s to today’s #fails.

My esteemed colleague is not being honest with himself. Let’s accept his suggestion that, in his teleplay writing, he fails and fails until he succeeds. He does not do the same on his personal Weblog, which has remained unimproved since it came into being.

I don’t like his tone; maybe that’s the sort of thing that really doesn’t change and isn’t up for discussion. But every single aspect of the appearance, code, and copy of his blog is atrocious, and to reach that level of ugly you have to work at it. With 133 inline font changes on the homepage, it’s least unreadable only in no-CSS view, which few can manage. Printing won’t help: There isn’t a print stylesheet.

Also, in cold light of day and after years of experience, it’s clear he hews to what I now call the Ouimet-McGrath school of Weblog comments, where only the nastiest survive. (They are the ones fed regurgitated vermin by their mothers.)

I can hold these objections if I wish. They pale in comparison to another objection: I don’t get any credit for my own improvements. I’ve gone to a great deal of effort in recent years to live up to high standards, and I don’t mean valid HTML. I mean, in essence, hypocrisy reduction.

As an example, McGrath assailed me for daring to delete blog posts. That’s happened three times since 1998, and anyway, these are not stone tablets we’re dealing with. Nonetheless, I thought about it and published a policy that offers researchers the chance to view any deleted item.

I view this as an ethically creditable policy. It is not made up of whole cloth. It merely explains what I already do. Additionally, when I get something hugely wrong, I publish a correction and leave the original up for posterity (first example; second). The stone-tablets analogy is not actually as imperfect as one might think, given the work I put into ensuring my sites function in future equipment.

(McGrath failed to mention the many blog comments I deleted or edited on the Tea Makers, including every unsalutary reference to him that could be deleted or edited. I also banned one epithet outright. This is an odd thing to overlook for a man who believes comment fields are meant for vituperation and character attack. Someone he himself attacks had tried – unprompted – to help him out. It takes a lot to ignore this sort of thing, since I mailed him directly to explain what I was doing.)

In this case, then, even when a particularly vicious and hateful third party levelled an accusation, I assessed and addressed its core. I tried to improve. I have seen no improvement of any kind in the years I have read Denis McGrath. Meanwhile, what I do to improve goes unacknowledged. (Some decided long ago they hate me and that’s that. For them, Robert Downey Jr. never got out of jail.)

Now, through an emergent or power-law effect, McGrath has become a kind of de facto blog spokesperson for teleplay writers in Canada. This has trickled up the ladder: True to Canadian form, if you do enough media you get to do more media, as McGrath displays on his guest segments on Q. I like his segments on that show. He’s also fine delivering presentations, from what I’ve watched. I see little he should be proud of online.

I think the small coterie of teleplay writers, supporters of Canadian television, and related fans should start a new emergent process. They should make somebody else the beneficiary of the power law. At the last Ink Canada boozeup, I talked to 15 people, but all I saw McGrath doing was backing up to the bar staring at the room or talking to one friend, or sitting alone thumbing his iPhone.

There’s a leadership void staring us in the face. There is a great deal of room for a writer for the screen who blogs ethically, well, and under continuous improvement.

That isn’t Denis McGrath. Who will it be?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.02.12 13:16. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

(Values you enter are stored and may be published)



None. I quit.

Copyright © 2004–2024