Danger! Municipal blogs!

We have several spheres of interest here at WW. One of them, naturally, is observing the media because the idea of creating this blog and writing on an almost daily basis about things we see and hear in our small town  was a reaction to not only the municipal deaf ear, but the main stream media’s deaf ear. Perhaps not only a deaf ear but an ear on one side of the head, that listened to  only one side of an argument or an issue, and you can guess which side of the head that functional ear is .

So we go elsewhere for news and opinion and try our hand at reporting and commenting on events ourselves as have other bloggers the world over. If we had more time and didn’t have  other work [this “job” at WW doesn’t pay very well you might notice!]  we could do a better job.

We have not been surprised at the decline of newspapers as a source for news and opinion and have followed the downward slide with mixed feelings. We would much rather see interesting, balanced, relatively neutral, fact driven reporting in the press but we don’t. Just as one example locally: It was left to us and to the Athenaeum to report on the questions surrounding our CAO’s contract in Lutz Becker’s broadsheets at the post office. Why? Our local Lois Lane was unaware of the issue? Don’t think so, but  neither The Advertiser nor the Chronicle Herald is interested in news that we are interested in, only in not rocking the social boat.

People are not buying newspapers, advertisers are not paying for space and bloggers are being blamed for the loss of readership and revenue.

Drive-by pundits, to spin off of Rush Limbaugh’s “drive-by media,” are non-journalists who have been demonizing the media for the past 20 years or so and who blame the current news crisis on bias.

There is surely room for media criticism, and a few bad actors in recent years have badly frayed public trust. And, yes, some newspapers are more liberal than their readership and do a lousy job of concealing it. [really!!! -they should conceal it? We think they deny it.]

But the greater truth is that newspaper reporters, editors and institutions are responsible for the boots-on-the-ground grub work that produces the news stories and performs the government watchdog role so crucial to a democratic republic….

Constant criticism of the “elite media” is comical to most reporters, whose paychecks wouldn’t cover Limbaugh’s annual dry cleaning bill. The truly elite media are the people most Americans have never heard of — the daily-grind reporters who turn out for city council and school board meetings. Or the investigative teams who chase leads for months to expose abuse or corruption.

These are the champions of the industry, not the food-fighters on TV or the grenade throwers on radio. Or the bloggers (with a few exceptions), who may be excellent critics and fact-checkers, but who rely on newspapers to provide their material.

As others have noted, the Internet can’t quickly enough fill the void created by lost newspapers. In time, some markets simply won’t have a town crier — and then who will go to all those meetings where news is made? What will people not know? In such a vacuum, gossip rules the mob.

Watchdog role? Where please? Turn out for meetings sure, but then they churn out pap. Investigative teams exposing abuse and corruption? Don’t make us laugh. We see very little of that at any level of reporting- local, provincial or national. And what we do see in that way is one sided, so suspect.

Bloggers are the result not the cause of media weakness. And one thing about bloggers; they are usually pretty up front about their bias unlike the MSM which is in a profound state of denial because, we suppose, they think their readers are stupid and won’t notice doctored photos, or inaccuracies only corrected in the small print days later [as when it was reported in one of our papers that McCain had been a PoW 6 months instead of 6 years!], or the stories that AREN’T covered at all. The free press is not free and freedom of speech is an endangered species.

And as for who will go to the meetings and report? People like David Daniels, and Lutz Becker , sometimes us, and perhaps people like this woman who wrote a letter to the editor of the Register about the lack of trust in Municipal leadership. [We’ll add a link if it shows up online]

A long time municipal councillor recently advised me I should be less argumentative and just trust council. Well that’s easier said than done – especially these days. Trust is something not simply given to someone because they have a certain status or position – it must be earned. …NOt only has trust been erased, it’s been replaced by  a deep seated and well earned suspicion not all is what it should be. Something is rotten in Kings County.

The issue in this woman’s case was the amendment of the MPS, suspicious in camera meetings, and the nullification of one councillor’s vote but she could have been writing just as well about Wolfville and the Brideau contract issue [and the paper gives Wolfville as her address!] She continues –

Why am I writing to you? [the editor] Basically, it’s because I’m hoping more citizens of Kings County will start to pay closer attention to the activities of our council and councillors. Transparency and accountability are necessary preconditions for the fair and effective operation of a democracy and, right now, they are in very short supply.

Yes, blogs are making some people  nervous.  This is one mayor’s reaction:

In her final State of the City address, Salisbury Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman warned residents of what she sees as a great danger to the city: malicious bloggers.

Tilghman said in her address Thursday that over the last five years, the presence of a small group of suspicious, mean-spirited people focused on the negative has grown, endangering the city’s vitality. [Really?! like rending the social fabric of the town?]

Tilghman says some people are avoiding serving their city because it’s not worth chancing the scorn of bloggers. But Tilghman says they need to stand up for the city.

Is she standing up for the City and its residents or the status quo? Would she be equally upset if the negative stories had appeared in the local newspaper or on the local TV news, where perhaps they should be? Probably. It’s so much nicer if you have a tame press, isn’t it? What will they do without it?


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