FREE WHITEWATER

Daily Bread for 9.8.22: On Immigrants and Community Relations

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be sunny with high of 82. Sunrise is 6:28 AM and sunset 7:16 PM for 12h 48m 12s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 94.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1966, the landmark American science fiction television series Star Trek premieres with its first-aired episode, “The Man Trap.


 At Fort Atkinson Online, the only creditable and credible news source in our area, there’s a story about a Whitewater Common Council discussion of new immigrants: newcomers who are mostly living in a large apartment complex within the city. See Police Chief Expresses Concerns with ‘Ongoing Influx of New Community Members’.

Our area is now a news desert. The APG newspapers have withered and retreated behind a paywall, the Register has slipped into an irreversible coma, and the Banner does not have a professional journalist. There is nothing journalistically worthy in the area except Fort Atkinson Online.

(Needless to say, FREE WHITEWATER is the work of a libertarian blogger, not a journalist. This steadfast blog is, however, the work of someone raised in a newspaper-loving family, long before the internet, where there were newspapers, magazines, journals, and books all about the house. A literate person can and should be able to tell the difference between good journalism, good commentary, and everything else.)

Fort Atkinson Online is good journalism.  

And so, and so, what to make of the headline and story on Whitewater Police Chief Dan Meyer’s discussion before the council on challenges near Fox Meadows?

I’ve watched his remarks and the Whitewater Common Council’s discussion three times, and Meyer speaks in an even, neutral, and professional tone with carefully chosen words. There is nothing in that presentation from which one could infer of him, or attribute to him, a contempt for immigrants. His presentation was business standard, so to speak (as it should be).

As much as we live in a community where some immigrants struggle to adjust, we live in a community where some native-born residents bitterly decry newcomers. 

Meyer’s remarks were always going to be those of a man speaking as though he walked through a mine field. That’s the time in which we live. 

On policing, there’s a view that libertarians naturally dislike the police. It’s false. (I don’t, for example, believe in ‘defunding’ the police. Local government should not budget by particular departments but holistically. In any event, Whitewater was never a community where defunding was gong to happen, and anyone who thought so is deluded.)

Former chiefs Coan and Otterbacher deserved dogged criticism for their mistakes, and of Raap this website mostly offered links to news accounts published elsewhere. 

About Raap, I will say this: more than once I have remarked that community policing is a matter of what happens at a distance of fifteen feet (where we live), not fifteen miles (where he lived). As it turned out, ironically, Raap’s employment challenges were both at a distance of fifteen feet where he lived and fifteen feet where we live. There was no way to see that outcome in advance. For it all, I’m genuinely disappointed about how his career ended in Whitewater: the city handled the matter secretively and unprofessionally. One truly hopes the best for Raap and his family. 

About the 9.6.22 council session: a headline that reads Police Chief Expresses Concerns with ‘Ongoing Influx of New Community Members’ is journalistically accurate and fair, but — most likely — is not the headline that Whitewater’s responsible government, in the city or school district, would have wanted. City officials, however, do not and must not get to pick.

(Funny story, about blogging in Whitewater: years ago, a woman who once lived in Whitewater mentioned to me that it might be a good idea if I showed my posts to the city manager at the time, before publishing them. Of course, my answer was no: if government should not by law exercise a prior restraint or editorial control over publishing, then publishers shouldn’t voluntarily accept one. I’m happily still here, publishing freely; the woman moved away, and the city manager’s long gone, too.) 

It’s not a libertarian’s calling to advise government, and one wouldn’t expect the advice to be taken in any event. Still, a sincere offering, as a matter of advocacy: in cases where officials speak on sensitive topics, the beginning and end of those remarks should include a plain, clear statement of principle that inoculates the official against particular remarks that others may latch upon. It should be expressed in a simple, conversational, congenial way (nothing stifled or stuffy). Then, against particular, selected quotations, the speaker or interviewee can plainly state: but most important of all is how I began and ended. If the speaker or interviewee does not begin with a conversational statement of inoculating principle, then that responsive opportunity is lost when a story hits the web. 

In the discussion from Tuesday, a nativist resident calling in latched onto remarks about particular domestic violence to make general, exaggerated cultural claims. These nativists love those opportunities, to exaggerate the particular into the generally derogatory. They wind up soiling others with their own muck.

As for any interviews, they should also be recorded. The official being interviewed should politely ask to record the full call, or make sure a meeting is recorded, and then begin and end with a general (and conversationally-expressed) statement. A professional reporter will often also record an interview, and will respect a request like this. Calm, relaxed, friendly, only a few sentences in the beginning and end are needed: ‘Thanks for this opportunity. I’d just like to say that we believe…’)

Whitewater is better off — much — for having a professional journalist (a reporter-editor) who covers our community. Officials who shy from the press do a disservice to the community. For officials, it’s stand and deliver or walk away. The Fort Atkinson Online tagline states that the publication is “[y]our local news source serving Fort Atkinson, Whitewater and surrounding areas.” Yes, it is. 

We are a factionalized city, however, and we’ve only recently acquired good journalism from this nearby website (years having passed since the Gazette was a solid publication).

Our current condition requires craft, for all of us, to make ourselves plain. 

We’ll be better off for it.


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2 months ago

Thanks! We appreciate the support.