If you will endulge me. All the fuss and feathers about how the media made a swamp-dwelling xenophobe into the Most Dangerous Man in the World for a few days fired a circuit chip in my brain. The following is an editorial I wrote for The Salt Lake Tribune of August 6, 2004. It was kind of controversial around town for a few hours. Even some folks in the newsroom thought I'd stepped over the line. But it remains one of my favorite pieces. I think it speaks for itself. With a couple of links dropped in for background.
Go Away Police have determined that a young woman reported missing a couple of weeks ago was murdered. They say her husband did it. Even the suspect's family says he has confessed. He is in jail. Hundreds of volunteers who were scouring the foothills and putting up posters have been thanked and sent home. Police are left to dig through the local landfill. Incessant national media attention no longer serves any purpose. Unlike the Elizabeth Smart case, there is no reason to hope that Lori Hacking will be spotted at a truck stop in North Platte, or a trailer park in Yakima, no point in spreading the all-points bulletin to everyone with a television set and a cell phone. So, with all due respect and thanks, we have a simple message to the national media paratroops who have parachuted into Salt Lake City for another juicy story on a missing white woman: Go away. This is a local story, involving the pain of local people, investigated and prosecuted by local officials and thoroughly covered by the local media. Further reporting of this story for any other audience, beyond short updates, is a waste of videotape, ink and, most of all, time. When this story is all over it might, in the hands of a perceptive writer, make a good magazine article. But it really appears no different than the sad tales of hundreds of other women who, each year, are killed by those they trusted the most. For Fox News, MSNBC and, most disappointing of all, CNN -- the Network of Record -- to be spending so much time hashing, rehashing and, most of all, speculating on the gory details of this single case is an excellent example of what's wrong with the mass media today. Every minute spent by Larry King or Fox News on Lori Hacking or Laci Peterson is a minute they don't spend on health care, education, environmental quality, national security, the economy or other real issues that should be the center of public attention, especially in an election year. A nation full of people who know more about Scott Peterson's defense strategy than they do about Donald Rumsfeld's is not a nation that shows much ability to govern itself. Local folks have a right and a duty to look over the shoulder of their criminal justice system as it does its job. Reporters from other media outlets can and should be available to backstop the locals whenever there is reason to believe that those closest to the story were seduced into joining either a lynch mob or a whitewash. But for so much of the talent, time and resources of our worldwide media to be spent on a story of strictly local importance displays no courage and little imagination. Instead, it is a symptom of a perverse laziness on the part of both the media and its audience. So it's time for the circus to pack up and leave town. Don't worry. If anything happens, we'll let you know.
The editorial mavens in The Buffalo News Opinion section want more cow bell Canal Side:
- Old treasures, new uses - Buffalo News Editorial Two things are true about the historic DL&W train shed at the foot of Main Street. One, this unique and cavernous riverfront structure needs to play a prominent role in planning for the Canal Side projects. It is too well-located, too useful and too distinctive a building to ignore. Two, while it is premature to eliminate other options, the idea of devoting the shed to museum space is both intriguing and attractive. [Terminal trains keen eye on future - Buffalo News, 8/10/10] The possibility should be carefully investigated, both for existing museums and also for the proposed Great Lakes museum that was once to be part of a Bass Pro development. The goal should be to ensure that the site will incorporate a visitor attraction worthy of the building, and not just provide random cultural institutions with a home.
- What you can do to get in the debate . . . Learn: Visit the Canal Side Web site, www.eriecanalharbor.com, to view documents, drawings and maps. Search The Buffalo News online at www.buffalonews.comfor Canal Side stories, commentary and coverage, or to view a computer-generated “Buffalo’s Waterfront Reimagined” video by UB’s Center for Computational Research. Buffalo Harbor Bridge studies are online at www.buffaloharborbridge.com. Voice your opinion: Comment via the newest channel, Mayor Byron W. Brown’s Citizen Waterfront Forum. Click on the forum’s Canal Side button on the city’s Web site, city-buffalo.com or wwww.ci.buffalo.ny.us/Home, or call the city’s 311 information center. Comments will be included in the mayor’s report to Canal Side leaders in mid-September. Write: Join the issues discussion by posting a comment on this topic in our Matters of Opinion blog at www.buffalonews.comor at the end of the Web version of this editorial, or write a letter of up to 300 words to the editor for possible publication on our op-ed page (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org mail to Everybody’s Column, The Buffalo News, P. O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY, 14240).
Mental Health Break - Andrew Sullivan/The Atlantic It's such an intelligent sci-fi show - not least because of its love of history and irony and a certain British decency which courses through the Doctor's inhuman veins. He is the anti-Jack Bauer, in a way, proving that humaneness and humor is as effective as violence and evil, even when deployed by those who think they are doing good.
- More action, better words - Buffalo News Editorial ... Some observers have lamented that Obama has not blown his preternatural cool and gotten angry over the environmental disaster. But we probably wouldn't like it if he did, either. For one thing, grown men spitting in anger are seldom inspiring sights. For another, some of that anger would have to be directed, not at BP and its contractors, but at the American people for being so devoted to their unsustainably filthy habit of consuming energy like there was no tomorrow and expecting the government to somehow clean up the mess. - BP—Blah Performance - Daniel Gross/Slate President Obama's Oval Office speech about the Gulf oil spill was almost enough to make you miss President George W. Bush. Maybe not the actual presidency of George W. Bush, but at least the platonic ideal of the presidency of George W. Bush—the MBA president, the chief executive as CEO. -The Boring Speech Policy - Gail Collins/The New York Times I was hoping for a call to arms, a national mission as great as the environmental disaster that inspired it. After the terrorist attack, George W. Bush could have called the country to a grand, important new undertaking in which everyone sacrificed personal or regional advantage for the common good. The fact that he only told us to go shopping was the one unforgivable sin of his administration. -Floating Above the Chaos - Tina Brown/The Daily Beast Obama seized the crisis, all right. But he praised people we've already lost confidence in -- and proved anew that the president doesn't know much about management. - Democrats should show a little pride and purpose - E.J. Dionne/The Washington Post Why does it so often seem that Republicans are full of passionate intensity while Democrats lack all conviction?
O.K. Here's a sampling of speeches about bad stuff that happened. Anger? Resolve? [At least they didn't wait 57 days.]
In fact, sometimes it works better if you do it with some humor: