Mike Fetzer | Jul 03, 2019
While NF mayor Ron Higgins’ recent letter to the the Frontenac News editor (“Working in the Dark”) may represent an expression of his free speech, it is disturbing that an elected official might undertake either privately or publicly to persuade, cajole or pressure the news media to tailor its reporting to conform with the politician’s view of what are appropriate presentations for readers. Perhaps I misunderstood his letter. Higgins emphasizes that politicians are establishing their own news networks to combat “fake news”, “inaccurate news reporting”, and news focused on “trivial items”, as well as news not appropriately focused on issues and in language preferred by the politicians. He does not allege that the Frontenac News has published false information, but seems concerned that the news reporting is not presented in the understandable manner he prefers. It seems that politicians, but not news reporters, may offer opinion. Higgins is concerned that the paper’s readers “will not understand” the newspaper’s reporting, and will fail to recognize what he believes to be the “great stuff” done by the township council. Perhaps the Frontenac News should present drafts of its future reporting to the mayor for approval before publication.
The mayor’s apparent interest in reframing the free and open reporting of the press should slightly alarm his constituents. Recall that Higgins earlier played a key role in sanctioning another councilor who expressed opposition to actions by the council, even seeming to advocate the appointment of an ethics officer to ostensibly control rogue councilors who do not tow the line. At least that is how it appeared to some.
In the United States, a prominent national politician (masquerading as a leader) is notorious for his cries and claims of “fake news” and inaccurate news reporting, and whines that his great accomplishments are not covered by the mainstream media. Truth is not his hallmark. He works hard to get alternative media to serve as his public relations advocate under the guise of journalism, ready to report “alternate facts”. This politician prefers pivot-and-spin, rarely giving straight, complete or even truthful answers. He has called for censure and other punishment for reporters who confront him with direct questions or press for specific answers, or who report in a manner not to his liking. His is not a model for good government in a free and open democracy. No one should condone even modest moves toward political control of the media.
While the mayor’s concerns should be duly noted, perhaps it is best that he continue to allow the local press to do its job and accurately publish comments and actions by the mayor and councilors as the news staff deem appropriate. The mayor and councilors are free to tailor their own speech in open forum, and to offer their own clarifications about what the mayor has characterized as their “sarcastic” and “trivial” comments, as well as the “great stuff” they do. They have a public website and opine as they travel the township. This openness will facilitate trust and the most favorable impression by prospective business and other investors and stakeholders, as well as by constituents and visitors. Let the people decide who are the masters of fake news, lies or truth, and what constitutes a great accomplishment. They are smart enough to understand and evaluate even without the mayor’s guidance...