Sunday, May 13, 2012

On This Unnecessary Quarrel About Merger Comments

Posted By on Sun, May 13, 2012 at 8:23 PM

First_Amendment.jpg
And I thought the Grizzlies-Clippers game, to which in a hopeful mood I took three of my adult offspring on Sunday, was something dismaying.

But that doesn’t touch this whole development regarding comments appended to articles, and people wanting to ban each other’s comments and bugging Flyer editor Bruce van Wyngarden about it and his reacting in ways that I think, upon reflection, he’ll have second thoughts about – nay, seems to acknowledge already having second thoughts about, if I read him right.

But perhaps not. I will leave such second thoughts, if there be any, to him. The one thing I won’t do is second-guess him or any other colleague, any more than I would appreciate being second-guessed in my turn.

But one thing I want to reiterate as strongly as I possibly can. The issue of school merger in Shelby County is now, as it was at the end of 2010 when it came out of nowhere, the most significant circumstance facing those of us who live in this larger community. As such, it is still the biggest news item going.

How could it not be? It involves politics, education, commerce, society at large – all in very large ways. And to turn one’s back on it, either as newsperson or as citizen, would be irresponsible in the extreme.Yes, I too get annoyed at some of the turns taken by commenters -- to Flyer items, to CA items, to TV stories,to each other, whatever.

But I understand their passion, even their exhibitionism. From time to time one of the commenters even comes up with a real nugget of insight or information.

Two things I can assure you of.

One is, I don’t write news items or analytical pieces about the merger issue or any other subject –nor does John Branston or any other colleague or news competitor — in order to throw these folks any red meat. It’s rhe subject itself that arouses them, for good reasons, bad reasons and everything in between. Tired of it all? Blame the subject, and the never-ending incidents and major developments – many, many of them crucially important – that accrue to the subject.

Believe me, if we in the news business didn’t make an effort to try to keep up with this story, and to separate the wheat from the chaff, the essential from the inessential, the reality from the deceits, etc., etc., we – the whole community – would really be up a creek. I appreciate the compliments paid me and John, but all we’re doing is doing our job.

Parenthetically, Bruce, I do know this for a fact (and no, I’m not guessing): If we at the Flyer flagged even slightly in our coverage, our friends on Union Avenue, who also are doing their conscientious best to stay up with the story (and, yes, with us, as we with them) would shout hallelujahs and light cigars.

The other thing is I’m certain of is this: There is no law nor coercive power that can make anyone read a line of a news article in the Flyer or CA or anywhere else, nor can anyone be forced to read a jot or a tittle composed by any commenter.

We have articles on all kinds of subjects, thanks be to God (as well as to the First Amendment), and people are free to comment on any and all of them. Or to disregard them. At no offense to me, I can assure you.

It’s a free country.

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