Sunday, December 9, 2012

Media Misinformation Harms the Public

The first few paragraphs of last week’s front page Daily Times article advances a position in a way that is better suited to an opinion page than a news story. The newspaper is already on record from its op-ed pages in July as agreeing with the Mayor’s frequent misleading assertions about the City Council. Numerous other op-eds and news articles indicate the newspaper’s bias.

The first issue that should be questioned is whether or not the City should be run based on the Mayor’s priorities alone. Our government is set up by Charter with the Council as the policymakers, just as it is in municipalities of various forms of government across the nation. The Mayor can recommend policy, but it is the Council – five people also elected by the voters – who actually make it.

Once that policy is made, it is the Mayor’s responsibility to direct staff to see that it is faithfully executed. The Daily Times has – for years – contributed to and supported the myth that the City Council’s role is to sit quietly as a rubber stamp for Mayor-advanced initiatives. It even went so far as to declare passage of a budget as “arguably the only" responsibility of the Council.

This type of misinformation to the public about how government works is not healthy for our City. As an illustration of how the government should work and how your current Council is making an effort to work with the Mayor, one need only look at the Onley-Bateman intersection debate.

For whatever reason, the previous Council leadership found it easier to stop at “no” on this issue, while the current Council worked hard to get to “yes.” Initially, the current Council was repeatedly berated by the Daily Times. However, through hard work, your Council not only got to “yes” on the intersection, its position resulted in improved public safety, a substantial savings to the taxpayer, a design incorporating bike lanes and a quality partnership between the City and Salisbury University.

During the process, the newspaper generated a lot of unproductive, adversarial discussion. This detracted from the public’s understanding of what officials needed to consider and generated a lot of unnecessary public upset.

In a recent editorial, the Daily Times said that media focus on scandals like General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell was due to the media simply giving the public what it wants. People tell me that they don’t want the political pot-stirring the Daily Times dishes out. I hope the public will join me in encouraging the Daily Times to be a positive asset for our community by focusing on the real news of an issue instead of feelings and politics.