Last month, this site linked to media critic Margaret Sullivan’s observation that The media feel safest in the middle lane. Just ask Jeff Flake, John Kasich and Howard Schultz:
Who is the media’s middle-lane approach actually good for?
Not the public, certainly, since readers and viewers would benefit from strong viewpoints across the full spectrum of political thought, not just minor variations of the same old stuff.
In small towns like Whitewater, that middle lane is one of bad writing and bad policy.
Consider, for example, a press-release-pretending-to-be-a-news-story about a local business league’s annual meeting. In State transportation chief keynotes Greater Whitewater gathering, one reads that
The GWC is an action-oriented group committed to working with citizens, elected officials and policymakers to identify, craft and implement a pro-business agenda. The agenda advances the economic, education and social policies required to energize and secure the Whitewater area’s economic future, as well as protect Whitewater’s quality of life.
Honest to goodness that paragraph reads like a press release because it is, in fact, from a press release!
It’s also laughably grandiose: no normal person could believe that the agenda of a few local conservative businessmen fulfills the what’s required for the community’s economy, schools, and society to energize and secure Whitewater’s future and quality of life. Didn’t someone who wrote these lines think, for even a moment, that it was all a bit much?
One wonders – truly – whether anyone at the local paper (Welch the reporter, Spangler the editor) can tell the difference between a news story and a press release, or would even ponder the topic. This local paper’s default position isn’t reporting and thoughtful journalism: it’s whatever approximation of English words they can string together to fill the space between advertisements.
It’s the default position of a declining class of entitled men in places like Whitewater that public money should be used to fund their pet business projects despite ample evidence that economic and social conditions have grown worse over time. Their control and manipulation of ‘community development’ hasn’t developed individual or household incomes. See A Candid Admission from the Whitewater CDA, Reported Family Poverty in Whitewater Increased Over the Last Decade, and Private Businesses Craving Public Money.
A central planning czar could order a new truck factory to be built, and a business league can divert public money for their favored projects, but without improvement in individual or household prosperity there is no meaningful community development.
What’s occupied the default or middle position in these communities is a relationship in which a small number of pro-government businessmen, pressuring a small number of officials (or acting as officials simultaneously), with the cheering of a few sycophantic publishers, direct public money to their own goals while receiving empty praise from those officials and publishers.
This leaves the middle position as the worst lane to travel: a dirt road to decay.