I have often questioned why I decided to become a lawyer. But until April 14, 2013, I never asked myself why I first chose to become a journalist. Today, Sunday, on every imaginable level, the Sun, the only daily in town, failed me, failed its readers, and failed the public.
It was not any one item or report. Two days before a tense election runoff for mayor, three years after a comparable run-off resulted in a legally contested victory of less than 50 votes for the first gay mayor in the City, this newspaper chose to ignore the current contest entirely, except for inclusion on an inside page in the middle of a column of a recap of the last meeting between the two candidates and some letter sniffles.
No mention was made on any relevant page, e.g., the front page, or section, that is, state and local, or the opinion pages, about the issues in the mayor’s race, the personalities, the actions of two odd men. The new editorial page editor once again examined his navel and how life might have been different if his mother had not taken a certain medication. He did leave me wondering where human subjects come from for research.
The old editorial page editor decided the day was the day to declare himself to be on the side of pedestrians and bicycles, and to applaud Mothers Against Drunk Driving, without mention of connection to the two candidates for office or to the irony of a DUI arrest and conviction of a local former MADD chapter leader. At one point, I believed no matter what else the old editor was he was a Gainesville fan. Now I am not so sure.
The one and only real editorial considered a recent transportation summit, and concluded: “The summit helped show that there are more areas of agreement that disagreement on transportation. Community leaders must keep working to develop a united front to ensure that the next transportation tax doesn’t suffer the same fate as past measures. Being stuck on the transportation issue is getting old, especially when it means being stuck on damaged and congested roads.” Usually editorials are anonymous, so that the comments seem to be the voice of the publisher. Certainly that is not the case here. No one I know would want to take credit for a yawner like this one.
The front page was filled with large photos from1982 here and at present from Los Angeles of a man who is on trial for murder and likely is a serial killer. Neither there nor in the full-blown stories filling up inside pages did the newspaper mention the race of the individual or any of the victims or witnesses. Surely no one would notice that those who were shown were black. Reader, if you think that page was racist, you know that must be you, not the great liberal newspaper which only Saturday ran some great story about the success of teaching black males without any of that pretense about the need for whites in the classroom for the good of both races. The message is clear: the sooner blacks unite and stick to themselves, whites no longer have to be interested in that population at all.
The local and state section did let us know that under the current Republican governor, it was harder than in the past for former felons to get restoration of their right to vote. Again, blacks should not take that personally. It is their God-given duty to get out to vote for the incumbent mayor who believes the need for affirmative action in hiring is just retaliation for his hiring of his campaign manager by the City Clerk. Just when I thought the mayoral assistant could take over in his absence, the mayor insisted he would take care of his duties himself, although he seems to do the only thing he can do by law so ineptly that even Democrats are loathe to be in the same room with him.
Despite this silence about the local election, the Sun can be expected to shake its corporate head in dismay about the low voter turnout and why more people in Gainesville did not vote when both parties ran extreme candidates in a non-partisan race for mayor. I do hope they have barf bags at the poll this time. Be forewarned: I will kick you know where to anyone trying to get me to take an “I voted” sticker.
Ironically, the paper did play up the appearance of a Jewish journalist Carl Bernstein speaking to a mostly Jewish audience primarily about Israel. Who is Mr. Bernstein? The Gainesville Sun described him succinctly: The journalist won a Pulitzer Prize at the Washington Post for uncovering the Watergate scandal. Of course, we all know what “Watergate” is, and when the scandal took place, even if most readers older than 40 are hardly likely to have experienced any of the related events. A reminder: the scandal led to the resignation of the late President Richard Nixon, because of dirty tricks committed by Republicans on the national scene during and after the 1972 presidential election.
For great journalists like Carl Bernstein, his colleague Bob Woodward, and muckrakers like Lincoln Steffens, I wish to apologize for what print outlets have become in this age of social media. As for me, I will do what I can as a new age/world blogger to expose the deterioration of local politics and the local image now that the mighty Gainesville Sun has struck out.