Showing posts with label Republican National Convention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Republican National Convention. Show all posts

Friday, September 7, 2012

Newspapers need to step up

MSNBC's Chris Hayes, "Getting Past the Fa...
MSNBC's Chris Hayes
 (Photo credit: thecommongoodusa)
One of the best show on television, for anyone who cares about current issues and events, is Up with Chris Hayes, on weekend mornings

I find this young man to be energetic, optimistic, enlightening, and highly intelligent. I've seen more of him lately, what with all the political goings on as we move closer to the November 6 election, which to me translates into hope for the future of journalism. I had feared that our best days were behind us. I find Chris Hayes' the MSNBC contributor whose off-the-cuff analysis in many cases, is downright genius.
I tuned in to UP recently where the discussion, while centering on fact checking spurred by the Paul Ryan speech at the Republican National Convention, morphed into a talk about news media, journalism, one-newspaper markets, and how it all relates to politics. It was a fascinating program. With a guest panel that included various journalists, like Bob Herbert from and who also writes a column in the New York Times, the discussion made me feel like I was at home. I wanted to jump into the television to join in; I would have loved to relate my experience, working at a local newspaper that cornered the market in the small town where I lived. With no competition, I wanted to explain how often times I had to fight for a story that didn't follow the deeply-engrained thinking. I usually won, except for twice when the owner pulled a story that he thought to be politically damaging even though it was true. He was a Republican; I was a Democrat. Another one told the truth about a school election. He couldn't afford to harm those people. They were all friends and advertisers.

Small local newspapers with no competition worked when a town was small enough that everybody knew one another. It worked when the local gossip mill was as informed as the morning headline. But when the town started to grow it became a different story. About the time when the townsfolk realized they really should start locking their doors at night, it was also time to bring competition to the news market. But that didn't happen.

"WATCH YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER^^" - NARA - 535653 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Objectivity, which was never the priority anyway, ceased to have a chance. What happens is people are so concerned with the obvious changes in their town that they never even considered the below-the-surface needs that they have come to take for granted--like the lack of objectivity in their newspaper. When they finally did notice, the local newspaper was among so many other pressing problems that it became relegated to bottom rung of the priority ladder. As the town grew, more and more people became subscribers, it certainly not for the news value. Folks kept up with shopping ads, little league scores, and the latest obituaries. They were unaware of how things had always been and they didn't care. Often times, they continued subscribing to the newspapers from where they came from, recognizing that the local newspaper was nothing more than an extension of the good ole boy network that ran the town. The news was completely skewed and self-serving to its owners. As long as the small paper's owners didn't lose business, they didn't feel a need to change policies. The status-quo worked for them.

It never worked for me. I have long said that a lack of objectivity in the local newspaper contributes to the decline of understanding, information, and ultimately the politics of a region. This allows the local leaders to completely take advantage of the public for its own gain. News is force-fed in the form of one-sided opinion and commentary through what was once a valuable resource that exposed such behaviors. Today, they are contributors. The political leanings of the owner of a newspaper has become evident in all his editorial decisions. He has the ability to sway the better part of an entire populace, if they aren't paying attention. 

The problem has only been exacerbated by the economic downturn of the newspaper industry, which further denigrates what newspapers used to be--a trusted source of fact. With the focus shifting from the readership to merely selling advertising, newspapers as we have known them have ceased to exist.

I always believed that the local newspaper, an information and education resource, is the basic form of communication in a community. It must be balanced to cover the community it serves, but with a much broader perspective. If the perspective of editorial content remains too narrow, readers are left uninformed or worst, misinformed.

In the town where I worked, most of the people have a narrow focus, believe and rarely question what their parents and grandparents believed. They go about their daily lives unaware of what they are missing. They are confidant that all is well as they live in a bubble away from all outside influence. That is until something happens to burst that bubble. Where I lived, it was a state-sponsored proposal to build a huge airport, displacing some of the region's best farm fields with concrete and asphalt.

That bubble and its naive sense of well-being makes whole populations completely vulnerable to outside forces that recognize their innocence and take full advantage of it.

It is my hope that newspapers can retain their profitability if they recognize their value is less profit-oriented, and more of a social and education necessity.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Watching RNC painful; reminder of lessons learned

Mitt and Ann Romney on December 22, 2007, at a...
Mitt and Ann Romney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I felt great anticipation; I knew this was going to be painful.

That statement might refer to sitting in a dentist's chair awaiting a root canal. Or it might be the moments just before the start of the Republican National Convention. I knew it would hurt, but I didn't realize how much.

For me, the agony was in reliving the past. I have a little understanding of the political process, due to my long history battling Illinois politicians over their foolish notion to build a third Chicagoland Airport 40 miles south of the city near rural Peotone, Illinois.

I know how feudal it can be to try to have a decent conversation with politicians who have their minds set and their marching orders in hand. I know it can be infuriating when they refuse to listen, even though that is, or at best should be, part of their job description. I know truth is often buried beneath surface rhetoric; sometimes it is buried so deeply that it cannot be recovered. I know there are mean-spirited people with humongous egos who talk down to everyone around them. I know there are always questions that will go unanswered. I know that perspectives can be skewed, the thought process rarely strays from the pre-approved talking points, and the opposition is the enemy.

I learned these things at the hand of the GOP in Illinois. This may sound confusing to some who may recognize that the loudest voice on behalf of the Peotone Airport is U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. The Peotone project may appear to be a Democrat-inspired battle.

Although it may no longer be widely known, the Peotone Airport began with the Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly. It was definitely a GOP airport. In fact, for years I kept an article in the top drawer of my desk from the Chicago Sun Times, Oct. 1988. The headline read, "Du Page plum for GOP pals // Political ties bring profits in airport expansion," The article detailed an aggressive plan, by the DuPage Republicans who at the time were the leaders of the state. They planned to expand the DuPage Airport, located at the edge of the county. This is the same county as O'Hare neighbors and foes, the municipalities of Bensenville and Elk Grove Village.

The DuPage Airport was a completely self-serving project, paid for by taxpayers to the tune of $90 million. That was not chump change in 1988. I have long maintained that this project was a model--a how-to method--to build a third airport. Remember, the Peotone plan was hatched by the DuPage GOP as a means of  resisting expansion at O'Hare--or so they thought.

Though Jesse Jackson, Jr. happened to be a Democrat, he brought his own skill set to the table. He was a community activist of sorts who knew how to turn everything he touched into a racially-charged issue. He was a shoe-in as a congressional representative. And he had a rebel-rousing, well-known black activist father. DuPage Republicans didn't have much experience with race relations, since DuPage was predominantly white in 1988. This would need to be a numbers game. The more people to sign on the better.  If it worked, Jackson could make a really big name for himself. That was very appealing to him. His strong dislike for then Chicago Mayor Richard Daley gave him a kind of kinship with his GOP pals. He teamed up with the late Congressman Henry Hyde, a DuPage GOP kingpin. Hyde died and Jackson became the front man of the project, while still cooperating with those DuPage GOP. He made the project his obsession, still wanting to make that name for himself.

Given that kind of base, watching the shenanigans at the RNC was all pretty predictable.

I heard governors talk mostly about themselves and their accomplishments despite their facts being largely exaggerated at best. Much of what they said failed this morning's fact checking. It was easy to recognize the pattern when I heard it. The main point they wanted to get across was based on their need for self aggrandizement.

If all these wonderful statistics were true and the governors who spoke turned their states into such job havens, why wouldn't those great benefits fall under the umbrella of Obama's economic policies? If their states were doing so well, wouldn't the numbers for the whole country look better? Trying to look at only a partial picture is a pretty typical political move. I know it to be one the GOP uses all the time. Politicians are largely one-trick ponies. They learn one trick and use it over and over and over again, even when it ceases to work.

Nikki Haley's harangue about Obama suing South Carolina over Boeing was only half the story. She forgot to mention that all those new jobs from Boeing in South Carolina, a right to work state would have saved Boeing lots of money that it was paying its workers in Seattle, who incidentally got laid off. That is another typical political move--cherry-picking information, using only what makes you look good and hoping no one notices.

It is really nice that after all these years, that Ann Romney really loves her husband. Perhaps if he bought me fancy cars, beautiful homes, and all the riches I could ever ask for, I'd love him too. Well, maybe not because to me, those things don't translate into love. I'm not sure she convinced everyone to love her husband just because she does. Or do I trust him just because she does. Perhaps she is really naive because I don't trust people that tell as many lies as he does.

Gov. Chris Christie's keynote address was a barn-burner alright. It was the best speech of the night. He really is a great speaker. Trouble is he forgot that he was supposed to talk about Mitt Romney. Instead he merely set the stage for his own run for the White House in 2016. Politicians are such self-serving egomaniacs.

And then there was Mitt Romney. The one thing he has going for himself is that he lacks that whole ego thing.   Romney doesn't have enough personality even for his own ego. He seems unfeeling, unemotional. I suppose that is a defense mechanism that is necessary when you do as much harm to people as he has during his economic life at Bain.

I don't care what his wife thinks of him. I don't trust anything he says because it has become quite clear that what he said yesterday may not be what he says tomorrow.

Just the other day, I saw a videotaped piece where Mitt Romney said he didn't invest in the Cayman Islands to save money on taxes; that he didn't get any tax break for his offshore investment. Liar! That is the only reason to invest in the Cayman Islands.

Even if he didn't lie about everything he touched, or released his tax returns, I would still disagree with Romney's philosophy of running the government like a business. Businesses are profit driven. I don't think that should be the objective of government. Making money is not what it is all about. Government is about people. Mitt Romney doesn't seem to have a sense of how to deal with people. I hate that he doesn't want to answer questions. That is also a part of government that I feel is very important.

I'm anxious to see if there is anything redeeming about Paul Ryan's speech tonight, although I feel like I'm about to sit in that dental chair again. I suspect the pain is going to escalate as the convention wears on. All I can say is, thank goodness, the RNC has been shortened by one day.

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