The October 19th Park Record had a front page article, "Campaign lacks its Treasure trove" and a letter written by Alison Childs, "Where's the beef?" In both, the writers complain about the lack of debate and inquiry about substantive topics in our City elections. Alison asks where the public discourse and investigative journalism. Jay Hamburger wonders why there is no public inquiry into the closed-door discussions regarding the Treasure Hill project.
I agree with both writers' queries but I ask, "Why is this case?" It would be easy to blame citizen apathy, but being an informed citizen takes a lot of time -- you must attend meetings, read reports and ask questions of our elected officials and even then you do not get the whole story unless you are "plugged in." We rely on our press for in-depth and investigative reports. I believe my only two local news sources are not delivering as they used to.
Why not? Perhaps, in part, it is what we are witnessing all over our country: the brutal competition for ad dollars and the desire not to alienate advertisers. In addition, there is another chilling factor, well described by Robert McChesney in the Oct. 17 issue of City Weekly: "Even worse than kowtowing to advertisers, it is the false objectivity the media tries to achieve by neutering its news to stay 'neutral' on a topic. This handcuffs journalists into not drawing any conclusions, even when they are well-supported by the facts. In order to report a story, they rely on the words of others to make claims, limiting what they can report. McChesney (an author, longtime media-reform advocate, professor at the University of Illinois and host of Media Matters from 2000-2012) further states, "You allow people in power to set the range of legitimate debate, and you report on it." That's not journalism.
In this election, there is no shortage of tough issues. Yet I don't know all I need to about past decisions and future challenges. The public might inquire into issues like Treasure Hill, but we don't know the questions to ask -- we don't know what we don't know! I would like our local press to begin serious long-term investigative journalism. In investigative journalism, reporters deeply investigate important issues they don't just report the news.
I'd like our local news to really dig into for starters:
You may have seen these topics in the news, may have heard those involved interviewed on the radio. But do you know the background, the subtleties, the conflict, and who's involved behind the scenes? Last week's story about Treasure Hill was the first we've heard about the project in weeks or months, but contained little news. Where is the dogged follow-up of on-going news stories?
Is the press a mirror reflecting our apathy or is it failing to inform us? I believe the press has become a victim of sitting back and just "reporting" the news. Doesn't Park City deserve better? Shouldn't Park City demand better?