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Friday, May 6, 2016

Lost in a 24-48 Hour News Cycle

A news cycle is a news cycle. For argument sake, let's say we're looking at 24-48 hours of reporting. A lot can happen in those 24-48 hours. Let's take a quick look, just off the top of my head (meaning no google research, here).

Bobby Knight supports Trump
Trump wins in Indiana
Cruz bows out
Carly Fiorena has shortest veep role in history
Cruz elbows his wife, twice.
Bernie Sanders wins in Indiana
Hillary Clinton doesn't win
John McCain issues a non-supportive, vague backing of Trump, then flip-flopped
Presidents Bush (41) and (43) extend distance from Trump, no GOP convention
President Obama visits Flint, Michigan, drinks the water
Kasich bows out
Trump has a taco salad, while insulting every Hispanic on earth
Speaker Ryan distances himself from Trump

That was about everything, right?

In the year 2016, it's the pictures that tell the story and decide the "real" value of the news, correct?

If some YouTube video is getting views, even if it's a continent away, it's worthy news for WBZ-TV as long as the Kardashian-Jay-Z/Beyonce-Adele fans tune-in and later fall for the click bait online. News directors in 2016 are simply air traffic controllers, mixing in some local information between the more alluring "trending" stories vetted by Facebook, Twitter and the other associate producers who've elbowed their way past the receptionists and right into the decision-makers den, the so-called "room where it happens."

While we were watching Carly fall, Cruz elbow and all the politicians running for office in 2016 embarrass themselves (and our country) once again, there was an interesting speech delivered in Flint, Michigan, right where those Cronkite-Huntley-Brinkley-loving media cameras focused on nothing but a sip of H2O.

Right there, right in front of their eyes and cameras, the following was said:

... "And as is true when disasters strike in other ways, people pitch in, they come together.  Because they imagine, “All right, that could have been me.”  That’s the good news.
The bad news is that this should not have happened in the first place.  (Applause.) 

And even though the scope of the response looks sort of like the efforts we’re used to seeing after a natural disaster, that’s not what this was.  This was a manmade disaster.  This was avoidable.  This was preventable.

Now, I’m not here to go through the full history of what happened.  Like a lot of manufacturing towns, Flint’s economy has been taking hits for decades now -- plants closing, jobs moving away.  Manufacturing has shrunk.  And that’s made it harder for the city to maintain city services.  And let’s face it, government officials at every level weren’t attentive to potential problems the way they should have been.  So they start getting short-staffed, they start getting a shrinking tax base, more demand for services.  Things start getting strained, and there’s not enough help from the outside.  And then when Flint’s finances collapsed, an emergency manager was put in place whose mandate was primarily to cut at all costs.  And then some very poor decisions were made.  All these things contributed to this crisis.  Many of you know the story.

Now, I do not believe that anybody consciously wanted to hurt the people in Flint.  And this is not the place to sort out every screw-up that resulted in contaminated water.  But I do think there is a larger issue that we have to acknowledge, because I do think that part of what contributed to this crisis was a broader mindset, a bigger attitude, a corrosive attitude that exists in our politics and exists in too many levels of our government.  (Applause.) 

And it’s a mindset that believes that less government is the highest good no matter what.  It’s a mindset that says environmental rules designed to keep your water clean or your air clean are optional, or not that important, or unnecessarily burden businesses or taxpayers.  It’s an ideology that undervalues the common good, says we’re all on our own and what’s in it for me, and how do I do well, but I’m not going to invest in what we need as a community.  And, as a consequence, you end up seeing an underinvestment in the things that we all share that make us safe, that make us whole, that give us the ability to pursue our own individual dreams.  So we underinvest in pipes underground.  We underinvest in bridges that we drive on, and the roads that connect us, and the schools that move us forward.  (Applause.)

And this is part of the attitude, this is part of the mindset:  We especially underinvest when the communities that are put at risk are poor, or don't have a lot of political clout -- (applause) -- and so are not as often heard in the corridors of power. 

And this kind of thinking -- this myth that government is always the enemy; that forgets that our government is us -- it’s us; that it’s an extension of us, ourselves -- that attitude is as corrosive to our democracy as the stuff that resulted in lead in your water.  Because what happens is it leads to systematic neglect.  It leads to carelessness and callousness.  (Applause.)  It leads to a lot of hidden disasters that you don't always read about and aren’t as flashy, but that over time diminish the life of a community and make it harder for our young people to succeed.

In one of the roundtables, I was listening to somebody -- I think it was a pastor who told me, you know, it made us feel like we didn't count.  And you can't have a democracy where people feel like they don't count, where people feel like they're not heard.

And that attitude ignores how this country was built, our entire history -- which is based on the idea that we're all connected and that what happens in a community like Flint matters everybody, and that there are things that we can only do together, as a nation, as a people, as a state, as a city that no man is an island.

We've been debating this since the Republic began:  What are our individual responsibilities and what are our collective responsibilities.  And that's a good debate.  But I’ve always believed what the first Republican President, a guy named Abraham Lincoln, said.  He said we should do individually those things that we do best by ourselves.  But through our government, we should do together what we can't do as well for ourselves.  (Applause.)

So it doesn't matter how hard you work, how responsible you are, or how well you raise your kids -- you can't set up a whole water system for a city.  That's not something you do by yourself.  You do it with other people.  You can't hire your own fire department, or your own police force, or your own army.  There are things we have to do together -- basic things that we all benefit from.  And that’s how we invested in a rail system and a highway system.  That's how we invested in public schools.  That's how we invested in science and research. (These) ... how we invested in community colleges and land grant colleges like Michigan State.  (Applause.)

"Can I get some water?  (Applause.)  Come on up here.  Give me some water.  I want a glass of water.  I want a glass of water.  Sit down.  I’m all right.  I’m going to get a glass of water right here.  Let’s make sure we find one.  It will be filtered.  Hold on, I’m going to talk about that in a second.  Settle down, everybody.

Where was I?  We invested in our communities and our cities.  And by making those investments in the common good, we invested in ourselves.  That's the platform we create that allows each of us independently to succeed.  That’s what made America great.

So the people in Flint, and across Michigan, and around the country -- individuals and church groups and non-for-profits and community organizations -- you've proven that the American people will step up when required.  And our volunteers, our non-for-profits, they're the lifeblood of our communities.  We so appreciate what you do.  (Applause.) 

But volunteers don’t build county water systems and keep lead from leaching into our drinking glasses.  We can’t rely on faith groups to reinforce bridges and repave runways at the airport.  We can’t ask second-graders, even ones as patriotic as Isiah Britt who raised all that money, to raise enough money to keep our kids healthy.

You hear a lot about government overreach, how Obama -- he’s for big government.  Listen, it’s not government over-reach to say that our government is responsible for making sure you can wash your hands in your own sink, or shower in your own home, or cook for your family.  (Applause.)  These are the most basic services.  There is no more basic element sustaining human life than water.  It’s not too much to expect for all Americans that their water is going to be safe."

Toss that into the 24-48 hour news cycle and there was barely an American - whether a person truly in-the-know or one that binges on Fox News - that was exposed to those important words and mindset because the actual important news was buried between the trendy viral tidbits that drive ratings or online impressions. If it were to be truly reported, sadly no one would spend the time to listen.

With that in mind, I'm not writing to bash the media and I'm not, oh so idealistic to state that I expect everyone to stop, read, watch, print-out transcripts, delve deeper than their regular sources of news and information, seek the truth or some (biased or not) opinions of the truth and/or facts reported to them. I'm not that naive.

I simply wonder what happened.

Why was the speech over-looked?

Don't the ideals of our President's speech deserve mention and then some discussion on the bigger issue he laid-out for us? (Calling Scott Pelley, here).

I don't know why. Do you?

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