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Leading Off

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There’s an old journalism cliché that crusty city editors used to tell their cub reporters to stoke their skepticism: “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” Don’t just swallow what people tell you. Don’t mindlessly accept the conventional wisdom. Look for the story behind the story. If there’s a theme for this blog, that will be it. I’m a contrarian. Always have been. Contrarians are independent thinkers. We try to remain skeptical of what people say, particularly statements by public officials or anything in press-release form. We’re suspicious of official histories. And that, I hope, will be the essence of this blog: countering the conventional wisdom, looking for the hidden story in the day’s big news, fact-checking politicians and special interests, teasing out hypocrisy, exposing tiny lies and larger truths. One note of clarification: I like to think there’s a difference between contrarians and devil’s advocates—people who annoyingly argue an opposing view point, regardless of the merits, simply for argument’s sake. Those are the people who will argue with you for 45 minutes at a barbeque or a dinner party, then suddenly say they agreed with you all along and were just playing devil’s advocate, and who, if it were socially and legally permissible, you would stab with a fork. Contrarians, by contrast, challenge the conventional wisdom only when they think they’re right and when there’s a good case to make. I’ll be mostly making this up as I go along. So I want to hear from you, even if you’re a devil’s advocate. You can leave comments, questions, rants, corrections, profanity-laced invectives, and spam ads for mail-order Russian brides in the comments section below. Or email me at mann[at]texasobserver.org.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.