Monday, March 16, 2009

Catching up

Now that I've caught up on the news and activities of the last two week, here are some thoughts on what I found....

* Reg Henry had an op-ed piece in the paper, advocating the value of newspapers. He's right that we do need the media and that includes newspapers. However, he misses the point as to why there is a decline in readership and, therefore, profitability. It's not because of partisanship - it's because many of the 'watchdogs' have stopped their watching - or watch only those with whom they disagree.

Newspapers used to be objective when it came to the news, but many no longer even pretend - whether in the bias about labels (using 'conservative' to describe right-leaning think tanks, but not using the term 'liberal' for the left-leaning ones), the use of adjectives and adverbs designed to promote negative connotations, or the more subtle elimination of certain facts or comments that put a story in a different light.

The newspaper business is in decline for several reasons, including the new competition available through the Internet. But a big reason is because they no longer do the things Henry claims they're known for. And when you have such obviously poor reporting as what happened at Maumee Valley Country Day School, it should come as no surprise that people will eventually become aware of this and stop their subscriptions.

* I've read several media and blog reports about Connecting Point and the financial troubles that caused the closing of that facility. Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop was a board member of the agency, leaving that position in June 2008. Each time Konop has commented on the problems, he's said pretty much the same thing: "the agency was guilty only of trying to serve more needy youth than for whom it had resources." (source)

Isn't this a typical response? Don't blame us for the fiscal problems, we were just trying to help ... never mind our financial failure, it was our intent that was important.

I get so tired of hearing this type of excuse: that intentions are more important than outcomes or results. And when the outcomes or results indicate failure of the program, we shouldn't 'blame' the people who were just trying to help.

The fact is, it doesn't 'help' people to set up an organization without proper fiscal controls and oversight and then, when it fails, to leave clients without service. Some might actually say it hurts them more to do this than if they went without service in the first place.

* I love art. I have plenty of it on my walls and around my house. My tastes lean toward the nautical and shades of blue. I have John Mecray, Ben Richmond and various Rosenfeld Collection prints throughout...

But all these are 'art' pieces I purchased because I liked them. And these are successful 'artists' because their work appealed to enough people that they've been able to support themselves with their art. It's this point that appears to be missing from a letter to the editor on March 10, 'For many, art is their sole income'

In regard to the letter writer who criticized Rep. Marcy Kaptur for getting federal money set aside to support local artists:

For shame? With all due respect, for some local artists, funding is their only income source. Their job is to be an artist, just as yours may be to be a plumber, office worker, or retail salesman. Not everyone has the talent, skill, or resources to do noncreative jobs. Some are gifted only with creative talents, and they need to eat and pay the rent too.

Without the arts, Toledo would be just another gritty factory town. Art brings in culture, inspires minds, documents history, and provides relief from the mundanity of "normal" life. Children who participate in artistic pursuits do better in math and science than those who do not.

Art is involved in almost everything around us, though some people may only associate it with "frivolous activities" such as those of painters and sculptors. Quite the contrary. Graphic designers, textile designers, fashion designers, product designers, engineers, authors, musicians, actors - all of these fall under the loose category of "artist."

Without art, there would be no photographs, television shows, gift wrapping paper, greeting cards, corporate letterheads or business cards, technology (because all technology begins with a design, which is a form of art), product containers, team sports logos, paint for your walls, upholstery for your couch, sheets, towels, clothing, books, or music to listen to. Have I made my point yet?

You believe that funding for the arts is an absurd move. For shame.
Jeanne Berry
Bowling Green

What Ms. Berry fails to recognize is that just because you are an artist, it doesn't mean you get to live at the expense of others. And if you have a profession that doesn't support you and your family, it's not 'fair' to expect others to support you just so you can continue to do something you enjoy - especially while those others are foregoing such luxuries in order to afford their necessities - like the taxes that are being re-distributed to support these 'artists.'

Furthermore, perhaps Ms. Berry should actually read the Constitution and let all of us know where it gives the federal government the authority to tax everyone in order to give money to artists...

* There were several reports about how much three public agency chiefs are paid - and all the hand wringing over the fact that they got raises in these tough economic times. First of all, compensation for a director should be based upon many factors, including their performance and the ability of the agency to support such a wage. The concern about the pay increases this year seems to be because so many local people are suffering economically.

The condition of local residents is NOT a valid factor to consider when determining compensation. However, the ability of local residents to pay a property tax during difficult economic times is.

The hypocrisy is when all these elected officials and complainers bemoan the pay now when they supported the increase in the taxes all these agencies requested at the ballot box. Now that the money is being collected in taxes, the funding is clearly there to provide pay increases - and some might even say that the directors' success at getting the tax levy increases is deserving of a pay increase.

Again we're back to intentions and emotions rather than facts and logic. It doesn't 'feel' right for public servants to get pay increases when the populace is facing layoffs. And that may be true - but 'feelings' are not valid when determining compensation for employees. Do you want your pay determined by whether or not your neighbor has a job?

Personally, I haven't reviewed the pay scale for these positions since I was in office. I know I did, and continue to, take exception to car allowances for such employees - especially when many of them get such a large amount ($600/month) in addition to mileage. But the entire discussion relating to the pay revolved around the empathy we're supposed to feel for those who've lost jobs while ignoring the true basis of compensation decisions and the complicity of the complainers in the real burden which was the tax levies previously passed.

I also object to The Blade editorial position that 'people won't understand.' Of course not - not if you play upon their emotions rather than inform them as newspapers are supposed to do. (see above)

Also - did you note that the Commissioners didn't feel the same way about their own pay increases?

* Did anyone else think it was absolutely ridiculous for an attorney to ask an elected official to ignore a court order? Again, here we are with the emotion - the Sheriff shouldn't kick people out of their homes - despite the fact that the houses have been sold and the new owners would like to move in. That Comm. Ben Konop thinks this is a good idea goes back to the feelings of the situation while ignoring, again, the logic, common sense, and due process already granted to the individuals so affected.

But it got some nice headlines and Konop can go around claiming 'I tried to help' even though he, as an attorney, should be perfectly aware of the inability of the Sheriff to ignore court orders.

* Finally, there was this letter to the editor about the Dog Warden, in which the author asks for an apology by The Blade:

As an elected official in Ottawa Hills, which is served ably and well by the Lucas County Dog Warden, I believe that the editorial board should begin reading their own newspaper. They should then apologize to the readers of the editorial page for not having based their opinion on facts but, rather, on a personal attack ostensibly mounted only because of Mr. Skeldon's family lineage.

This time, it's facts and logic rather than emotion - how refreshing!


navyvet said...

Reg Henry....

When I read his column, I was blind could he be??? They just don't get it!

Why has the Daily Local achieved the size of my PDA...that would be a pocket calendar made from trees??

The answer is:

People that don't read newspapers are uninformed.

People that DO read newspapers are


Mad Jack said...

From M. Thurber: However, he misses the point as to why there is a decline in readership and, therefore, profitability. It's not because of partisanship - it's because many of the 'watchdogs' have stopped their watching - or watch only those with whom they disagree.

Newspapers used to be objective when it came to the news

Were they now?

Since 1975, two-thirds of independent newspaper owners have disappeared. Today less than 275 of the nation's 1,500 daily newspapers remain independently owned, and more than half of all U.S. markets are dominated by one paper.

Do you suppose any of these corporations might have a few publishing guidelines in common? I'm thinking something outside The Elements Of Style.

Then there's the founder of yellow journalism, William Randolph Hearst his own self. Hearst never had a hidden agenda, did he? Old Billy's newspapers would never print anything but the unbiased truth. Check a few links:

As to the closure of the Connecting Point, it was overdue. The place was living on borrowed time and everyone with anything on the ball at all knew it. Too bad it closed, too bad it didn't have all the money in the world, too bad for the workers who didn't get their cut of whatever was left. It isn't that the Connecting Point did not provide needed services. It did, and it continued to provide those services until the money ran out. Now the ex-employees of the Connecting Point fully understand what happens when a business fails.

Then there's this catfish: Without art, there would be no photographs, television shows, gift wrapping paper, greeting cards, corporate letterheads etc., et al, ad nauseum. What he really fails to realize is that there would, in fact, be all those things. Get rid of the artists and one way or another new artists will take their place. Imagine a constipated CEO somewhere screaming that "We don't have a trademark or a letter head! All the other fat CEOs at the club are laughing at me and as a result our stock is down three points!" So the assistant to the CEO's personal secretary calls her sister in law... and who, after negotiations are completed three weeks later, deposits a nice cheque in her brand new business account, and the company has a nice new trademark and letterhead.

See how that works? See how easy that is?

Speaking of pay, Do you want your pay determined by whether or not your neighbor has a job?

It depends on who my neighbor is, now doesn't it? Your point is well taken, Maggie, but I don't think I'm amiss here.

Finally, I'll cut to this silly SOB in Ottawa Hills and his letter to the editor: Rather, the editors apparently decided that the man at the head of the agency has to be fired because his deputy did what any reasonable person would do, and because Mr. Skeldon did nothing to show sorrow or concern over the unfortunate but necessary death of a loose, unlicensed dog other than a perfunctory admission of regret. What else could he do? - John L. Straub

Baby Doc Skeldon's jack booted thug did not do what a reasonable person would do and killing the dog was not necessary. The Ton Ton Macoute did what Baby Doc wanted her to do: she killed a dog. Baby Doc and the Ton Ton Macoute like to kill dogs. It's for their own protection.

Skeldon landed his job because of nepotism, and he keeps it for the same reason. If the Lucas county commissioners had any sense at all, they'd have fired him years ago. They should fire his staff, too.

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