Friday, October 14, 2011

Election coverage should have been yesterday's news

Originally published in the Tuscarawas County edition of the Bargain Hunter.
Although the Nov. 8 general election is a little less than a month away, it is now nearly too late for daily newspapers to issue their customary endorsements.

After searching online at several Ohio newspaper sites, I found little evidence of any concerted effort to get the endorsement editorials completed before the start of absentee voting, which now is under way.

Indeed, my wife and I have our ballots in hand and will be casting them this week. We will make our choices devoid of any input from the people who cover the politicos and the issues up front and personal.
It used to be that newspapers would reserve the month of October for their pre-election stories and endorsement editorials. With early voting now in vogue, all of that should be done by Oct. 1. But it appears that the dailies, with their much smaller staffs, are unable or unwilling to change their ways.

One daily, the Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune acknowledged the dilemma in an Oct. 5 editorial.

“The A-T has reported early and often about local candidates and issues on this year's general election ballot,” said the newspaper. “However, our preview articles about library and school levies and some local races for mayor and city council begin in today's edition and will continue through next week.

“Is that soon enough? A referendum on Senate Bill 5 is expected to prompt Ohioans to vote, although there are no races for statewide office this year. We hope voters inspired by state issues to cast ballots this week are not confronted by races and issues with which they are not familiar.”

There’s been a lot of debate over the years about whether newspapers ought to endorse candidates and offer opinions on issues. I’ve always lined up on the side that believes they should because newspapers ought to lead in their communities. Sometimes that means lining up on the losing side. So be it.

I am not so naïve to think that newspapers actually swing elections. But like an endorsement from the local union, or Chamber of Commerce, or city council, it provides a viewpoint for voters to consider. 

Unfortunately, it appears newspapers are shying from the process. Perhaps one reason is because they are afraid of alienating the readers who remain loyal subscribers.

And I think that’s an unfortunate development for not only our community, but for our democracy.

Given my years in the news business, I am not surprised by the dumb things that come out of people’s mouths. If I had the inclination, I could probably designate a “Dumb Comment of the Week” award every week.

So, last week’s award would have had to go to Hank Williams Jr., who up until he said his dumb thing was just the country singer who starred in the “Monday Night Football” lead-in on ESPN.

“Are you ready for some football?” Williams asked/sang/shouted every week.

Williams, touting a CD featuring songs by his late father, was a guest on the “Fox & Friends” show on the Fox News Network and offered that he was extremely disappointed by this summer’s golf summit that featured President Barrack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

When asked why, Williams responded that it was “one of the biggest political mistakes ever.”
Asked to further explain, he responded, "It would be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli leader) Benjamin Netanyahu."

He eventually offered that Obama and Biden are the enemy.
ESPN did what it had to do. It fired Williams.

Williams, it was reported on Monday, has responded by adding a verse to “Keep The Change,” a song he wrote after Obama was elected president. Here it is:
So Fox & Friends
Wanna put me down
Ask for my opinion
Then twist it all around
Supposed to be talkin’ about my father’s new CD
Well, two can play that gotcha game, just wait and see
Don’t tread on me!

This country sure as hell been goin’ down the drain
We know what we need
We know who to blame
United Socialist States Of America
Don’t you just love that name?

Perhaps Williams can find a job as a poster child for narrow-mindedness after he accepts the “Dumb Comment” award.

One would think that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could answer the question: Is hydraulic fracturing – fracking – safe?

Well, no, it can’t. But Ohioans who are concerned about fracking – there seems to be a growing number of them – will be pleased to know that the EPA should be able to answer that question in a couple of years. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

Fracking is the drilling process that goes vertically down into the deep Marcellus shale and then horizontally. It extracts natural gas and oil by injecting millions of gallons of water under high pressure to the rock surrounding the well bore.

The EPA has a lot of verbiage on its website about hydraulic fracturing, but none of it answers that simple question. It is in the midst of an extensive study on the process and does promise some answers down the road.

So, while we could have a definitive source on the issue, we’ll have instead an intense debate featuring science on both sides and horror stories galore.
Nothing seems to be easy in this country.

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Anonymous said...

Fracking has been done in these parts for 40 years I'm told. You would think that the same EPA bureaucrats who would block construction of a flood control dam to protect some rare snails would be all over a drilling procedure that is sure to ruin our water wells. Could it be the people frantic over perceived fracking risks are really frustrated that this unexpected bonanza of a fossil fuel source could derail America's transition to green' energy? No wait, the green energy "industry" has come unglued by the federal subsidies that propped it up. Unless America exploits its own energy sources aggressively we'll remain dependent on energy imported from countries that have few environmental safeguards on oil drilling, pipelines, shipping and refining. Besides, the billions of billions of dollars these deep wells will produce for drillers, energy companies, and SE Ohio property owners will not be denied, even by rare snails.


kyle said...

Melvin is correct....hydraulic fracturing is not new...but horizontal drilling is new...and dangerous. He neglects to mention the air pollution, noise pollution and the infrastructure required to sustain the practice. He also neglects to mention that much of the natural gas found in the shale beneath Tuscarawas County will be sold overseas...slick water horizontal drilling will not assist the US in gaining energy independence.

Anonymous said...

Almost daily we read a printed rant or web site comment that "everybody is suffering" and "nobody can afford..." Of late we've read those statements in any local school levy debate...pick your district. I'll concede that a family that has truly suffered from an employment issue has a basis for making that claim, at least for that household. But when I read this morning that millions of people are lined up to pay hundreds of dollars for the new I-phone...the true picture emerges. I see a picture of a country with almost unlimited discretionary income and a willingness to indulge personal whims for any and every material desire they have. How many people walking around with a $400 smart phone and a $90 a month phone contract also claim they can't afford $20 a month to provide a proper school for their children? Perhaps if you consider they're also in a mortgage for a house they can't afford, maxed out on a wallet full of credit cards, and addicted to their eating out habit...perhaps they can't afford another $20/month. Maybe we should cut the superintendent's salary in half and they wouldn't need that tax levy. And don't get me started on those over-paid, double-dipping leeches working part-time teacher jobs.


Anonymous said...

This pretty well expresses my feelings about things...
The Greatest Generation survived the Depression and won World War II. They also rebuilt Europe and began a successful Cold War versus the Soviet Union.
All of this was possible because these brave American men and women thought of themselves "last."
They were like all Americans before them: humble, religious and thankful for what they had.
Too many people today are rude, arrogant, anti-religious and greedy for what they don’t have.
To these members of the Selfish Generation, everything is seen through their own life, their own wants and desires. No one else matters. "I am first" is their mantra.
If our nation is to again serve as a "Shining City on a Hill" for the entire world to emulate, this Cult of Self must change.
We all need to dedicate ourselves to thinking of our country and others first – and ourselves last.
Melvin notes...good luck with the "ourselves last" thing.


Link to the above statement:

Anonymous said...

Kyle responds state that the cost of drilling is noise, ugly drilling rigs, and pollution. I'm sure aesthetic and environmental issues will need to be addressed. Clearly local state, county, and township roads are going to suffer from very heavy trucks hauling water and drilling materials to well sites. Our bucolic life in and around southeast Ohio is going to change...and maybe not for the better...unless you one of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of property owners who'll receive fortunes to be gained from leases and royalties. Hundreds of others will see new business opportunities that would never have existed without the gas and oil boom. The drilling boom in South Dakota has dropped that state's unemployment rate to 3%. Kyle is also correct that the gas produced from these wells may go elsewhere. That's because we've way slow in converting coal fired electric plants to natural gas. We've pursued hugely expensive electric cars instead of exploiting proven technology to power vehicles with natural gas. If we could switch cars from gasoline and generate electricity with natural gas...then we could use the gas right here.