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Letters 7/20/09

- July 20th, 2009
Letters 7/20/09

The myth of ‘good news‘
I read the story on Eric Wotila’s Local Edition broadcast (“Sunny Side Up,“ 7/6) with a groan, as I do whenever I hear people, especially those in broadcasting, spread the misconception that there is some kind of under-reported stepchild out there called “positive” or “good” news.
“Positive community news” already has a name: Features. And the Northern Michigan media market is saturated with features. Every single media outlet in the area does features. In fact, the Bay Area Times and the Grand Traverse Insider are two publications that spring to mind immediately, which write nothing but this so-called “positive community news,” or however you’d like to brand it.
This disingenuous branding perpetuates the myth that editors and reporters don’t care about anything besides the big, sexy story because that’s going to sell more newspapers or draw more viewers. In reality, the features and entertainment fare, not the hard news, are what draws in more advertising. Soft news has a wider audience and advertisers know this.
Throwing hard news reporting under the bus, however, undermines the watchdog efforts of daily newspapers, which are struggling not because their editorial staffs aren’t up to snuff, but rather because their corporate owners were lax to pioneer alternative revenue streams when the emerging Internet began draining advertising dollars.
To hear Wotila quote the clichéd “if it bleeds, it leads” straw man argument from the bygone days of yellow journalism just makes me think the real reason he’s beating the “good news” drum is because features is all he knows how to do. Actual hard news reporting takes a lot of time and effort to learn, and costs a lot to produce. That’s why so few media outlets offer it. Most reporters attend university and/or spend years training on minor news and features. Wotila, as noted, is self-taught and only 20.
I don’t want to take away from Wotila’s monumental efforts in overcoming Asperger Syndrome and getting the program on the air. But to have real, lasting success in journalism, Wotila ought to consider that trust is the relationship backbone between news media and their audience. There’s nothing wrong with only covering features, just be up front about it.
Still, I was going to wish Wotila success with his Local Edition broadcast, but it appears that funding problems have shut the show down already, according a statement on their web site.

Garret M. Ellison • Grand Rapids

The writer is a former Traverse City resident and a West Michigan reporter.

Rothbury shocker
I have to say I was absolutely shocked at the so-called “Rothbury Report“ (7/13). Is this Kristi Kates a normal festival-attender? I have attended several festivals with Rothbury leaving me in awe, only behind Jam Cruise. They do such a great job at giving concertgoers exactly what they want. Nature, music, art, and a weekend of freedom.
For Kristi to say the worst thing about Rothbury was the concertgoers, is unbelievable to me and many I’ve spoken with about this. For four days I was surrounded by the most polite and fun-loving crowd possible. I never once bumped into or ran across anyone rude in any manner.
Did she even go to Rothbury? It was an amazing weekend filled with a huge eclectic list of musicians, a forest dressed to make Alice’s Wonderland a joke, and a crowd of the happiest people on earth because they were there.
She obviously isn’t too big of a fan of jam-band music seeing as she regarded The Dead as The Grateful Dead, who are no longer a band since the death of Jerry Garcia. She also seemed to be impressed with Flogging Molly, and who the heck is that?

Autumn Sleder • via email

Camp‘s non-plan
I once overheard a woman telling a health care advocate that her family didn’t need to worry because her husband works for General Motors. Congressman Dave Camp (R-Midland) doesn’t need to worry because his needs are covered by taxpayers and insurance industry contributions. The industry collects exorbitant premiums then pays millions to CEOs and bureaucrats while buying off politicians so that when a catastrophic event strikes, we might be given a thin spaghetti dinner while Dave gets the “fat Cadillac” care.
Camp dishes out the old s’mores: tax deductions instead of health insurance; paranoid “socialism” fears; and other misrepresentations from a “republiCan’t” representing health industry wants over family needs.
Comedy Central’s parody is credible: “Most people who can’t afford health insurance also are too poor to owe taxes, but if you give them a deduction from the taxes they don’t owe, they can use the money they’re not getting back from what they haven’t given to buy health care they can’t afford.”
Stay well.

Joyce Walter • Suttons Bay

High-five for Jackson
I recently wasted my time reading an article regarding Michael Jackson that was written by Ross Boissoneau... where did you find this guy, Dummies R Us? (Re: “The King is Dead -- Get Used to It,“ 7/6“.)
It is blatantly obvious that Ross has no knowledge of the music industry. To compare Michael Jackson to Todd Rundgren is laughable. While I enjoy Todd’s music, being more of a “Wizard a True Star” lover than “Something Anything,” Todd is nowhere near the talent that Jackson was -- that is similar to comparing a Pinto to a Porsche.
Boissoneau complains that Michael Jackson did not play an instrument so his career will be eclipsed by Prince and Steve Winwood. Perhaps Ross did not realize that Michael Jackson SINGS, DANCES, AND PERFORMS while on stage, so it is a bit difficult to play a piano and moonwalk at the same time.
Another stupid comment in Boissoneau’s article asks the question... “Will Jackson’s music still be played in 20 or 30 or 50 years?” I would be happy to send him a calendar since he is apparently unable to tell time correctly. It has been over 40 years since Michael started his career as the lead singer of the Jackson 5, and Thriller recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, still receiving airplay on the radio and selling records. So I would think it is safe to say that his music has stood the test of time. My guess is Boissoneau is not old enough to own a vinyl collection of Jackson or has any love of Motown and its place in musical history.
The reality is this: everyone has a different opinion of Michael Jackson; it is like discussing religion or politics. Regardless of what you think of this man personally, his music and enormous talent made a huge impact upon the world and for some freelance writer to state otherwise is simply ridiculous and untrue. I, for one, am not a big Elvis fan, but I will certainly acknowledge this man’s contribution to the music industry, and I suggest Boissoneau do the same for Michael Jackson.
Please do not waste perfectly good space in your magazine to print any future false ramblings from hack writers -- life is too short to read crap when there are so many gifted writers out there.
I believe in free speech and the right to voice an opinion, however, just get the FACTS straight.
I wrote this letter in memory of Michael Jackson, I “Never Can Say Goodbye,” as he was “Gone to Soon.”

Marg Hanlin • via email

Jackson article a thriller
This is in response to the “Northern View” article by Ross Boissoneau, “The King is Dead -- Get Used to It.“ This is one of the best articles you have ever run!
Michael Jackson was a talented personality and very tortured, sad human being. I hope in death he has found peace and love.
The “overkill” of peoples‘ opinions and outpouring is just ridiculous; what a pathetic nation we have become! Every news station covered his memorial/funeral. I find this kind of sensationalism nothing more than “gossip, gawking and idolatry.”
With all the coverage the media was, in a sense, holding us “hostage” with what they deem important. Unless there is a national emergency and our country has been attacked, we should not have this kind of coverage pushed on us.
I did not know Michael Jackson. He was not a part of my life, nor in my circle of family and friends I am here to help, teach, befriend or protect. I choose not to participate in our media’s constant “idolatry” and wish they would take a giant step back and review through the years what has been newsworthy, necessary and important.

Lisa Mai Shoemaker • Empire

Not just a duck
Last Thursday I took my daughter down to the Union Street bridge and Hannah park for our fifth duck race. This has become annual tradition for us, as well as many others. The countdown came 3- 2 - 1... the ducks dropped. This was where the fun began, the chase. We’d follow along the river as long as we could then cut through the trees, emerge on Wadsworth and get to the next bridge for an overhead chance to find the duck with the sparkly bikini and huge purple Z on its back.
We made it to the bridge but no luck on the duck. This is how it goes every year, and its good. To the finish line. Like last year and the year before we’d wait, congratulate the winners and take Bikini Z home and place it with the others.
But not this year. We were abruptly, and I must add rudely informed we would NOT be able to have the duck we spent an hour decorating together. It was “too much of a hassle” for the people working the event. We were told last year it was a total mess so this year we could just take a duck, any duck, but not our duck. It would take too much time.
I watched as the kids began gathering with parents clamoring for a way to explain this to six, five and three-year-olds. The crying became infectious and rightly so. It was like a scene from Nazi Germany.
I marched over to the winners table and demanded to see the person in charge. He turned and smugly asked “Yeah?” I asked him why they were doing this, and tell my daughter why she couldn’t have her duck. He responded: “Company policy.”
That was our last duck race. I won’t subject my daughter to random, inexplicable disappointment to “help raise money.” This organization needs to learn how to do this without making children cry.
Moreover, children are people with hopes, dreams, real wants and needs. We are the stewards of their happiness. This takes understanding and tons of patience. If you don’t have that kind of time and energy, don’t volunteer for a public fund-raising event that is based on making kids happy. There is plenty of opportunity for actual disappointment later in life; let‘s not get our children too used to it. It‘s not just a duck.

Timothy Hall • TC

Manufacturing meltdown
What is happening to the economy of Michigan and this country has nothing to do with Jennifer Granholm or Barack Obama and everything to do with that “giant sucking sound from the south” that Ross Perot warned us about in 1996. As long as we continue to export manufacturing jobs and purchase cheap imports from Mexico, China, India, etc., our problems will worsen.
The Grand Rapids Press printed an article, “Manufacturing will make it work,” on July 5, which reported on a speech given to the Detroit Economic Club by General Electric Chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt.
I quote: “Immelt warned the U.S. must reverse its industrial decline soon or watch China leave us in the dust.” Immelt said the Chinese “know where the money is and they aim to get there first. America has to get back in that game.” He said China is “growing fast because they invest in technology and they make things. They have no intention of letting up in manufacturing in order to evolve into a service economy.”
Immelt said manufacturing jobs need to total 20 percent or more of our total employment. Finally, a leader in industry has said what the common people have known for a long time... the jobs that have been outsourced to foreign countries must come back or we are on a path to disaster!
Like it or not, every time we purchase a cheaper imported product, we drive another nail into the coffin of American jobs and the U.S. economy. Read labels. Write, phone, and email your congressman.
And a suggestion to an enterprising entrepreneur: help us buy American by starting a chain of stores that carry only products “Made in the USA.”

Barbara Bernier • Manistee

Hospice needs help
Recently, more than 3,500 members of the hospice community sent a letter to President Obama asking for his immediate action to stop the Medicare rate cuts enacted by the Bush administration.
Hospice offers a dignified and compassionate way for a patient to spend precious time at home surrounded by loved-ones at the end of life. Last year, more than 1.4 million Americans chose hospice; but access to this high quality end-of-life care is being threatened by funding cuts set to begin in a matter of weeks.
With hospice being a proven Medicare cost-saver, these cuts will actually cost taxpayers more money than what the cuts were intended to save. A study by Duke University found that hospice reduces Medicare costs by more than $2,300 per patient, amounting to more than $2 billion in savings each year.
If action is not taken by the Obama administration, hospice programs nationwide will be forced to scale back services or even close their doors permanently.
Congress issued a moratorium on these cuts earlier this year, but it expires on September 30. That’s why action to permanently eliminate the funding cuts needs to be taken now.
In a time when policy makers are looking for models of high-quality and cost-efficient health care, they need to look no further than hospice. But, to ensure that this compassionate and high quality end-of-life care is available for future generations, we need to raise our voices and protest impending cut in services.
Please speak up for those who can’t by urging the Obama administration to stop the hospice funding cuts. The White House Comment Line number is 202-456-1111.

Gwen Drews • Clinical Supervisor of Social Services, Hospice of Little Traverse Bay

Well done
Friends of the Jordan are pleased that the Supreme Court has denied CMS / Beeland a stay on the injunction that temporarily prevents the construction of an industrial waste well at Alba.
If the stay had been granted, CMS / Beeland could have proceeded with construction of the Class I Injection well. The well was proposed to accept one million gallons of leachate a week, transferred from the luxury resort at Bay Harbor and East Park in Petoskey.
The recent public relations campaign by CMS for East Park gives the impression that the problems at Bay Harbor and the park have been solved. This is far from fact.
Friends of the Jordan respectfully ask CMS / Bay Harbor to clean up their site without contaminating or endangering Michigan’s inland rivers and lakes.

Jo Anne Beemon • Charlevoix

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