News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective
9th November 2009

Mean for meanness sake

posted in In the News, Local Politics |

Today’s Boston Globe has an op-ed about the need to re-institute the Fairness Doctrine amid the current lack of civility in today’s media. That point should resonate with anyone who pays attention to Lowell politics and our own media outlets, particularly our local newspaper. (Local radio, some blogs, and internet comments especially, also can be harsh, but that’s a post for another day.) According to the Globe op ed: “…consider the state of ‘mainstream media’ outlets. Increasingly they dine on the same fears and ginned-up wrath as talk radio. Rather than wondering, ‘Does this story serve the public good?’ they ask. ‘Will it get ratings?’”

It’s no surprise that mainstream media is a business out to make money, but what is problematic is when accuracy falls victim to sensationalizing the story, and personal attacks take on an obsessive, mean-spiritedness. (The editors then wonder why more people don’t run for office.) LiL has a recent, snub-nosed post about some nastiness from The Sun after the 2007 election, and here is my response to that long ago taunt. Yesterday, The Sun Column was at it again, and although I was not a direct target this time, I couldn’t help but twinge in discomfort over the cruel ridicule bestowed on others. These are people with families who are members of our community, who put their names on the ballot, and who risk very public failure to run for an elected position that pays little and demands much. Regardless of their shortcomings or the final tally of votes, don’t they at least deserve a modicum of decency in how it’s covered? (Don’t we all?) In my family, we learned early that it takes courage to risk failure and work for your goals, and that equally important to being a good loser is being a graceful winner. The hateful words are unnecessary and harmful, not only to the individuals named, but to our entire community.

There are currently 3 responses to “Mean for meanness sake”

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  1. 1 On November 17th, 2009, C R Krieger said:

    I think I would distinguish between the “Fairness Doctrine” and common courtesy.  Most of the problems listed can’t be cured by bringing back the inhibiting “Fairness Doctrine.”  They might be cured by competition, or the perception of competition.  Or, too much competition might drive various outlets to greater extremes.

    My experience from the two times I ran for office in Lowell is that I did so poorly that no one paid attention to be after the race.  A blessing in disguise.

    I think you point about encouraging people to run for office is spot on.  I also think that we would benefit if The Sun, or WCAP, or City Life, or all three, took a day or two and devoted it to the losers and praised them for running and asked them what they thought and what they learned.  All the also-rans, from Regina to James Wojas, not that they represent the bookends of this group of people.

    One of my disappointments of this recent election is that neither the MSM nor MLF nor FVL was able to turn out five thousand more voters.  I am not sure what it will take—and I was challenged on this last night.  I went with torchlight parades and bands marching through the city with candidates accompanying. The parades would stop on street corners and the candidates would be asked to address questions provided by the MSM, Blogs and regular citizens.

    My fallback is that The Sun, WCAP and City Life could do something to encourage people to run by giving some support to the losers.

    As for the “Fairness Doctrine,” it is a step in the wrong direction and if the Federal Government takes that step they may eventually go for the blogs themselves.  Remember that line from Pastor Martin Niemöller (sometimes attributed to Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer)?  The one that goes, “First they came for the …”.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  2. 2 On November 17th, 2009, Jackie said:

    I don’t know that much about the Fairness Doctrine but I see it as a version of equal time for all views, and something we used to have that seemed to work well. You’re right, though, it’s a stretch connecting it to common courtesy, but when I saw that point in the Globe op-ed, I jumped on it because I had been feeling my own frustration with the incredible lack of decency in public interaction, particularly locally where it is so much more personal. Perhaps people are brutal, cruel and rude everywhere, but that doesn’t make it right or helpful–that’s my ultimate point.

  3. 3 On November 17th, 2009, C R Krieger said:

    Roger that!

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