Friday, May 25, 2007

Family House Donations More Newsworthy

The Journal Star leadership sometimes wonders why many people take a dim view of their newspaper. The JS has a weird sense of putting titles on letters to the editor and titles to articles written by their own reporters. Sometimes they will lead off with front page articles showing an adult demonstrating the use of what we called in my day were “rubbers”. Another time they front page “so and so dumped from board”. In prominent places they will keep a tally of those killed in Iraq as if those are the only people being killed in this country that averages over 150 vehicular deaths a day.

On 5/22/07, the JS editor decided to put the Family House fundraising efforts on the back page of section B. In an article titled “Family House nears fundraising goal” it stated that OSF donated $500,000.00, Caterpillar donated $400,000.00, Gerald and Helens Stephens donated $100,000.00, Family Houses Board of Directors donated $83,000.00 and William and Theresa Heidrich donated $50,000.00. (Note that the Stephens, the Heidrich’s and the Board of Directors members donated their own money.)

The majority of the community believes that the wealthy should make the major contributions to community benefiting organizations such as Family House and be the major contributions to facilities that they personally are pursuing such as the expanded zoo, the RiverPlex and Museums. These contributions they should be very newsworthy and should not be buried in the lower left hand corner of Section B.

Good grief!

I find it interesting that when a couple of ex-mayors donated five figure amounts to the zoo, their donations were worthy of front page news.

What’s the difference? The current zoo which for the last three years has lost a combined total of $1,100,000.00 with all indications that the expanded zoo will lose over $2,000,000.00 a year meaning the taxpayer and zoo users like the schools will be making up the losses.

Give the most credit to the Stephens, the Heidrich’s and the board, who donated their own money. Put articles of community interest like this at least in Section A.

When publicly held companies like Ameren and Caterpillar donate; (Personal contributors like Glen and Polly Barton donate their own money to causes they believe in.) they are donating stockholders money. Entities like hospitals are donating users (patients) money and the contributions are made up in users costs..


AdamB said...

Hi Merle-

While I usually enjoy your blog very much, I'm sorry to say I disagree with you one this one:

In prominent places they will keep a tally of those killed in Iraq as if those are the only people being killed in this country

Those killed in Iraq aren't killed in this country, by definition. People dying in car crashes often aren't "being killed", either.

Aside from those, hasn't it historically been a generally accepted practice for newspapers to publish the names and numbers of those killed in service to their country? Are you suggesting that these facts should be less prominently displayed?

Do wealthy donors deserve notice and praise? Certainly. But how much more, then, do dead soldiers deserve? We all owe a debt of gratitude to those killed in our name, and should feel partially responsible for their deaths. At least that's one thing the JS gets right.

Merle Widmer said...

Hi adamb,

Thanks for your correct comment. However, not all deaths are equal. The equality comes as once you are dead, you are dead, no matter by what cause. The death of a person engaged in harms way for the good of their country, their comrades, their relatives and of others they never met, is certainly not the same as deaths involving drug dealers. (Or drunk drivers)

By keeping score of deaths overseas and displaying these numbers in prominent places in the newspaper looks like signs of weakness in the U.S. to the radical extremists. We do not like the daily "scorekeeping" not because it is factual but because it sways people to make decisions; decisions based often on not the true facts.

By listing the names of service people killed and injured and writing stories about their lives should be front page or at least Section A. They should never be forgotten. The name of my only relative, Richard Witzig of Goodfield, KIA in WW2 along with the name of his Mother and Dad will be listed on the War Memorial with opening service for that honor roll at 10:00 A.M. tomorrow.

These are volunteers, whether they thought they might be killed or injured at the time they volunteered is not a question.That danger is listed in the contract they sign. They hoped as all of us hoped that they would never be put in danger in other countries.

All true supporters of the United States of America do not want these volunteers harmed in any way. By "keeping score" in the newspaper, does not, in my opinion, show support to our service people and those who support them.

In my opinion, and in the opinion of most of my friends, this almost daily counting, makes a weak stomached United States weaker in the eyes of the people who would kill all of us if given an opportunity.

AdamB said...

Thanks for responding, Merle.
I can accept your argument that there are two competing interests at play here.

One is that some radical insurgents might read the Journal Star and may misinterpret a publication of the number of those killed in Iraq as a sign of weakness. Certainly sounds like an unlikely scenario, but it's possible.

The other is that the publication of these numbers gives us pause to reflect on the obligation that we as citizens incur when we ask soldiers to put themselves in harm's way for us.

While I can see how others might disagree here, I think the second consideration far outwieghs the greater, and that by obscuring these numbers we obscure the costs borne by military personnel and families. These numbers don't just reflect insurgent activity--they also reflect the outcomes of public decisions. The public has a right and an obligation to remain aware of how many soldiers have died in Iraq.

You have argued forcefully in the past for public disclosure of the costs of government policy in the past, so I'm sure that you understand my point here. To me, it's like saying that publishing expenses of Park Board programs only undermines the authority of the Board and emboldens those who would seek to destroy it. I just don't buy that type of argument, especially given that the JS isn't published in Baghdad and most jihadists do not read English.

Thanks again for responding. It's always good to hear a different point of view.

merle widmer said...

I'll close with these comments. The JS is only mimicking most news media in the U.S.with their bold headline body count.

In WW2, the running tabulations would have been about 40,000,000,000 county all involved. Maybe the media should run comparisons

At no time did I ever set out to "destroy" the Park Board. The radical extremists want us destroyed.

I want the Park Board to give us parks, not monuments to themselves and that the parks be affordable to all.

Does anyone want to speculate what the costs of zoo admissions will be after $32 million is spent? How about speculating how much bonded indebtedness the park will have in 2012? The community property holders are going to be paying and paying because maintenance of the RiverPlex and zoo have not and were not taken into the financial planning. The bonds were sold and are being sold to build, not maintain and replace someday.

AdamB said...

Whoops! Sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything about you and the Park Board--I only meant to illustrate the importance of public disclosure of public costs.

Just wanted to clear that up.