When Middle of the Road Is Not an Insult

The dreaded MOR is exactly what xina called AAR in a post on this blog last week.

I’ll admit that I knee-jerked to that designation because my head was suddenly filled with visions of Barry Manilow, James Blunt, Bread and other musicians simply too horrible to be named here.  I’ve always hated MOR artists and those radio stations they advertise as perfect for work because they won’t offend anyone because…well, gee, because to me music that doesn’t offend somebody just ain’t real music.

But what xina meant, as she explained later was this:

“Well, middle-of-the-road is perhaps not exactly what AAR is, but I only said that because the site is so diverse.”

Then she went on to add: 

“On AAR there are many opinions, many views. I don’t think we could all agree if we tried, so in that way I think we average out as middle-of-the-road. In other words, I don’t think the opinions are extreme, one way or the other….as a whole.”

Ahhh, now I see.  And for the first time in my life I’m happy to be Middle of the Road because diversity is something we’ve always celebrated.

Let’s start with staff.  We’ve got a college student, teachers, lawyers, an ad copywriter, fashionistas, not-so-fashionistas – young, not so young, and every age in between.  The perspective that Jane, our university student, brings to a book is far different than that of Ellen, a long-time college library staffer and instructor.  We’ve got Democrats and Republicans who, not surprisingly, have different points of view on many things.  We’ve even got reviewers who live in Germany, Trinidad, and New Zealand.

When it comes to the publishers, we are equally diverse.  Blythe, Rachel, Lynn and I have discovered in the six months we’ve been working together to run the site, that, while we may disagree on little things, on the big issues we share the same vision about where we want to take AAR.

Still, bottom line?  When it comes to staff, there simply is no singular voice.  Not even close.

And then there are the message boards where readers rule the roost.   For many regulars, the boards are the heart and soul of the site where they connect with other readers to get recommendations, bitch, kvetch, and share the joys of romance reading. 

But, unlike blogs – including the two right here at AAR – readers aren’t limited to reacting to a set topic and the point of view of the blogger.

At our site, readers control the discussion and I think they like it that way. And I’ll take it a step further to say that I’d bet that many of them just aren’t that interested in simply reacting to a stated position by a blogger.  And that includes the AAR blogs.

And, despite the fact that I regularly write for both blogs, I’m perfectly fine with that.  Great, as a matter of fact.

When Laurie Gold founded AAR more than 10 years ago, she did so in direct reaction to the Cult of Nice.  Along with The Romance Reader and the awesome (and enduring) Mrs. Giggles, Laurie set a table in which the romance genre was held up to the light (sorry – poor inside joke) without those Nice Girl shackles.  Though there have been more than a few flame wars along the way – including some that rightfully achieved legendary status – AAR has always been a bastion of free speech where all voices are welcome.

And Laurie wasn’t afraid to take a stand either.  She stood up to plagiarism, authors who turned their back on the genre that made them a success, and censorship by Wal-Mart to name just a few of the issues tackled by none other than MOR AAR.

We have a proud history here and, every once in a while, we should remember it and take a lesson or two from Laurie’s courage and willingness to fight for what she believes is right.

Though much has changed through the years – and in the past six months – the important stuff hasn’t.  All readers are welcome.  All voices can be heard.  And if that makes AAR Middle of the Road, well, then color me happily mainstream.

Just don’t make me listen to Bread.  Please.

-Sandy AAR

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17 Responses to “When Middle of the Road Is Not an Insult”

  1. ldb says:

    The alternative to middle of the road is preachy one way or the other I think. I’ve stopped going regularly to other other sites because of their beating me over the head with their various views on where publishing should go and what kind of books should be in the mainstream, and there’s so little from the other side that it just isn’t worth it to argue. Here there are so many people that a reader doesn’t have to worry about disagreeing with one of the bloggers or reviewers or all the readers ideas because it would be impossible.

  2. xina says:

    Thanks Sandy for rethinking the meaning of my comment. I never have thought that AAR is milquetoast. Unlike review blogs where there is one opinion, and one opinion only shared by all who frequent the blog, on AAR someone can disagree and not be set upon like a pack of wolves. Simply because there is more than one subject to talk about and focus on, which makes it nice to share an opinion that might not wash with some, but at least it can be heard and responded to or ignored. That is the very positive side of a message board with a large and diverse community.
    Anway…Barry Manilow? IMO, he’s not middle of the road…heck, he’s not even on the road. (My apologies all you Manilow fans. A dear friend of mine I have known since 5th grade listens to him. I forgive her because she can be a lot of fun, :) )

  3. AAR Sandy says:

    Thanks Idb and xina. I agree that the biggest strength of AAR is that there simply is no party line or prevailing point of view – what I was trying to say with my long-winded post. And, okay, so Barry isn’t even on the road. I just found that cheesy photograph and couldn’t resist using it.

  4. AAR Sandy says:

    The venerable Mrs. Giggles is apparently taking another online break.

    Can’t say that I blame her.


  5. xina says:

    Yes, I read that too Sandy. I’ve just recently gotten back to her site and enjoy her blog entries. She seems quite miffed. I still love her sense of humor.

  6. AAR Sandy says:

    She is the real deal. I’m going to have to try to figure out what blog entry was deleted because right now I don’t have a clue.

  7. xina says:

    Did she delet the entire entry or just the comments? I know she did a less than glowing report on the Smart Bitches book..which kind of surprised me, in a way, and I didn’t read the comments on that one. I think it was the entry shortly after that review.

  8. AAR Sandy says:

    Mrs. Giggles is a true trail blazer. AAR has always been on the journalistic side. Mrs. Giggles has never suffered fools and has her own unique style and voice. Me like her. Always have. She’ll be back.

  9. xina says:

    Yes, she’s straight forward and is her own person on her website. And apparently, it’s not a popularity contest for her either. I like her too. She has true sticking power…she’s been around for many years.

  10. Lynn Spencer says:

    I hadn’t checked Mrs. Giggles for a little bit (work =bring on the crazy), so I just saw she is taking a break. I’ll miss her while she’s gone. I don’t always agree with her, but I like her voice – and I loved her reasons for why MB’s speech didn’t apply to her. That was classic!

  11. xina says:

    I was just going to add….she has a new post today. I like it. She is so to-the-point. Sometimes, I just want to stand up and cheer. Oh…I guess she is on a break, but came back for a minute. :)

  12. LinnieGayl says:

    I haven’t checked on Mrs. Giggles in quite some time, but have always enjoyed her site. Didn’t she take a break at one point some years ago as well? I just can’t remember why…or maybe I’m mixed up.

    I’d definitely have to concur with AAR representing diverse, wide-ranging viewpoints. I had this drummed into me when I began acting as a pollster here back in 2006 for the initial re-polling of the Favorite Books by Favorite Authors. I was totally shocked to see the variety of books listed by readers for their favorite authors — including some by a number of my favorite authors that I didn’t like. This was completely reinforced by the 2007 Top 100 Polling (so many different books and authors represented), and then by the 2008 Annual Poll. Virtually every one of the winners in this year’s Annual Poll also received votes for being disappointing/worst book.

  13. AAR Sandy says:

    I think you’re right, LG, she take a break a few years ago. And, Lynn, that perfectly sums up my feelings.

    Honestly, xina, that latest post definitely read like a flounce to me. I liked it better before the dramatic exit.

  14. xina says:

    True Sandy…it was a bit of a flounce, but I liked what she said anyway. Because she has so much respect in the online romance community, she can tell it like it is.

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