THE BLOG
02/02/2015 06:40 GMT | Updated 01/04/2015 06:59 BST

Hall and Hebdo in a Huff with Obama?

I see President Obama has criticised the scribes and pages of this august paper. "Get informed, he says. [but] not by reading the Huffington Post..."

Well, as one of those scribes I'd say writing a blog for the Post can be a ball, but I approached it more in the manner of setting out a good stall.

I took care to write properly, back up my statements, moderate my assertions (that was quite a lesson - like anyone else, I have my bad days but even when it seems the world does pall, there's still two sides to every argument, one and all), pull the wool over the reader's eyes and then the rug from under his or her feet, then sum it up with a concise closing line clearly in sync with what came before.

So though there may be many more bells and whistles in this brave new world of journalism to dazzle folks today (much as Cinerama did in its long-forgotten heyday), I didn't let myself be seduced by the razzle-dazzle and roses.

My watchword was: write a good column, add hyperlinks and pictures to make a fine veneer; but at heart and core set out the store; and whether they be in the park or on the iPad, try to give the audience both a good read and that little bit more.

Pre-Huffington Post, I'd had a long and hard apprenticeship to the art of authorship, but one of the last stops along the way was at a hostel in Monterey in March 2010, the morning after Barack Obama signed the Health Care Bill which became the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare.

Pleased with the potential promise of health care for all (or at least more) Americans, I bought five national papers that day. Funnily enough, the local Monterey Herald seemed to sum it up best, and the straightforward headline:

Obama signs health bill

...now hangs framed above my bed. Though perhaps not quite on a par with the lost innocence of Kennedy's tarnished Camelot, Obama's Bill was a substantive part of the explosive, whirling framework of chance and coincidence which had swept me from a flat in Partick to the shores of the Pacific and Steinbeck country by way of Sunset Boulevard and a certain Hollywood star.

And of course no Camelot can long endure. My blue and sunny days in Monterey became part of myth and Dear Miss Landau, but since then I've seen Obamacare challenged, Obama himself disturbingly reviled, been on hand for the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death and had to consider whether America may indeed be in irreversible decline.

Sometimes it seems like that peak of personal achievement by the Pacific's shore was a one-off, doomed to be reclaimed by the mediocrity that lies in wait along so many of life's byways.

And sometimes it doesn't.

I've never met Barack Obama, of course, but I've been overland across America three times during his Presidency, considered its Constitution and even paralleled the fictional path John Steinbeck's Joads took over the Colorado River and into California via the arcing bridge at Needles during the last Great Depression. I've also been reminded of the importance of free speech, laid down in the U. S. Constitution's First Amendment and recently borne to prominence once again courtesy of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Namely, that Congress "shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

And also, as per Evelyn Beatrice Hall's quotation (wrongly attributed to Voltaire) which acts perhaps as statutory instrument to that legislation, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

So I've seen some of Obama's America and reported it as fairly as I'm able, but while I may disapprove of the President's seeming dismissal of the Huffington Post as a relevant source of news, I'll sure as hell defend to the death his right to say that that's what he thinks.

James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.

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