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Media for hire

Media not alone in childish behavior

By Leigh E. Rich

We apparently all have our price.

But in light of recent events in the Washington, D.C. area and with midterm elections just around the corner, we must ask what exactly the media’s role—and responsibility—is in this, our complex, multi-issued corner of the world.

Let’s face it, the media are like an ex-girlfriend on a Saturday night, whom you actively dodge at a local bar when other females appear interested but gladly chat up when it’s nearly last call and all that awaits you at home are dirty dishes piled high in the sink and a goldfish with no name.

Don’t misunderstand this defense of the media—they aren’t always the people you want to invite to the party—but apparently we make the short list when someone or some agency has an agenda in mind as a bartender is needed when there are drinks to be served.

These days, the media are usually over-frenzied and hyped up with an unhealthy desire to be the first on the scene and the first to report a story that’s certain to dominate every broadcast and front page ad nauseam. They were clearly in the wrong in the early days of the sniper investigation—jumping the gun, as it were, on unreliable witness reports of a white van in the vicinity—and deserved Montgomery Police Chief Charles Moose’s on-target reprimand.

But it does seem hypocritical how, so shortly thereafter, Moose and company need the media for the very voraciousness for which they were condemned.

It is clear the media need to take a more ethical and more responsible approach in day-to-day operations—rather than mindlessly duplicating the same stories and the same format as countless others night after night—but the media also aren’t the mouthpiece for the powers in charge and deserve credit—where it’s due—for their help in the capture of the alleged snipers.

Speaking of people with power, if one has enough in the campaign coffers, a candidate can use the media in a very similar fashion while traveling the rocky road to political office. It’s hard to believe the childish bickering of “did not, did too” that’s being waged through 30-second spots on all the major networks actually tells anybody anything of import about our so-called future leaders of our communities. All it’s done is churn the collective stomachs of Colorado citizens and teach the state’s children that dollars and denigration are the qualities we seek for the voices who represent each and every one of us.

On a recent episode of Colorado Inside Out, panelist and editor of the Westword Patti Calhoun patted the back of broadcasters KBDI for its ongoing coverage of the election that, so far as we can tell, has moved beyond the “am not, are too” rhetoric.

In a recent Independent Thinking, for example, host Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute loosely moderated a head-to-head conversation between Gov. Bill Owens and Democratic opponent Rollie Heath (apparently the Green Party’s Ron Forthhofer must be M.I.A.). Caldara, who is nothing if not subjective in his interviewing tactics, at least posed some rather interesting questions to the major party candidates such as asking Owens what he wishes he would have done better in his current term and then pushing the podium to Heath to describe what he would applaud Owens for accomplishing. Kudos to Caldara for moving beyond the typical adversarial M.O. of election debates and attempting to promote a sense of bipartisan cooperation that is key to the success of any community.

Unfortunately, both Owens and Heath managed to hiss out thinly veiled attacks on each other’s political party, with Owens suggesting that, while he attempted a relationship, civilities between he and the Dems in Colorado’s Congress have been tense at best and with Heath applauding Owens for prioritizing education but in the same breath attacking him for how he’s been going about it.

And then the program unraveled in a not-so-civil yet all-too-repetitive spat about taxes—Owens touting a “read my lips” tone that would make even Papa Bush proud and Heath struggling to explain to the sophomoric Caldara the complex argument that he supports raising some taxes but not others.

C’mon, Mr. Heath, we Americans only understand good one-liners that promise giant leaps of mankind in terms of improved community life, security and education without any one of us having to raise a finger—or a tax—to do so. So sorry you lost this Caldaric battle by trying to give us what we need—media time to actually get to know what candidates truly think of pressing social issues.

It’s difficult to understand America’s children. In everything but an election, America is an endless variety—sure, of the same thing, but an endless variety nonetheless. In everything but an election, America roots for the underdog. So, what happens on Election Day that so clouds our minds, which at all other times require an exhaustive choice of rock stars or band-aids? Why does our two-party system prevail in the very area of life where choice—and a wide range of choice—matters most? Wasn’t it G. “Diddy” Washington who, in his farewell address as president, warned against falling into the traps of a party system?

In the end, all Owens and Heath could agree on was Ginger, instead of Mary Ann. It’s not such a surprise these political leaders reach for the shinier bauble of the two—as if those were the only choices we have on the island.

Rich, L. E. (2002, October 30). Media for hire. CU-Denver Advocate.

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