Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Citizen Watchdogs - coming soon to a town near you

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
This quote from Edmund Burke has always been one of my favorites because it clearly explains that it is the responsibility of each of us to do what we can to stop bad things from happening.  Whether it's being involved in a Block Watch program, helping to mentor youth or speaking out when something wrong is occurring, it is our actions and our willingness to do 'something' that will make a difference.

In today's world, that concept is even more important as one of the most critical aspects of our government check-and-balance system has abdicated its responsibility to watch our government officials.

For the most part, the main street media (often referred to as lame street media) no longer serves as the watchdog reporting objectively on the actions, decisions and spending of our various levels of government.  Too often, reporters and editors are promoting the agenda of a political party or political philosophy while claiming to be presenting only the facts.

There is certainly a place for opinions from our media, but only if they are properly identified as such.  Sadly, our own local paper has so many instances of bias that I resorted to just numbering my posts about it.  Whether it's in the adjectives they choose to identify groups and individuals, the way they cover a mayoral race, or the way they attempt to justify their blatant bias, the result is that they are no longer just reporting the news and both sides of the story.  They are actually pushing an agenda and manipulating public opinion.

I believe this is the reason newspaper subscriptions and readership around the nation are in decline and why network news channels don't have the ratings they desire.

But what is a person to do?  It's not like the average citizen can start up a newspaper and compete with someone who is already buying ink by the barrel.  The costs for air broadcast are prohibitive as well.  And even if you had the funds for something small, how would you go about it?

Fortunately, there's now a solution.

The Internet has opened a new world to people hungry for facts as well as alternative opinions to what seems to be a liberal echo chamber.  This blog is an example, but I'm just one person and I certainly cannot cover all the things going on in Toledo government, much less in the county and state.

Thankfully, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity has recognized this need and is providing training and tools to create Citizen Watchdogs.  They are conducting day-long educational sessions across the country and they'd like you to join them Saturday, May 12, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Westerville Conference Center in Columbus to learn how you can get involved and hold our elected officials accountable.

As their Citizen Watchdog web page explains:

An engaged, citizen-driven media was one of the driving forces behind the birth of American democracy. The preservation of our republic is incumbent upon the continued participation of our public in observing, reporting, and holding our government accountable at all levels.Today, we face an abundance of challenges and opportunities. Challenges because the decline of the establishment media has been occurring at an alarming rate, with tens of thousands of journalists losing their jobs over the last few years. Opportunities because the public now has access to more tools that allow them to actively participate in government, and to make their voice heard to the public at large, than at any time before in our history.

The greatest threats to our freedom and prosperity occur when citizens lack information and government officials escape without accountability. It’s at the school board and city council meetings where no reporters are present to cover their activities, and no members of the public present to observe their conduct.

Franklin Center is dedicated to preserving and strengthening democracy through promoting citizen journalism and engaging the stakeholders of America’s future to serve as watchdogs at the local, state, and federal level.
There is a $10 fee for the training session, but the information you'll receive is priceless - especially in terms of keeping our elected officials accountable to 'we the people.'

You can register here - and I hope to see you there.  Let's not sit idly by and 'do nothing.'

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