POST-MORTEM: A READER ON THE LOTTERY VOTE 

POST-MORTEM: A READER ON THE LOTTERY VOTE

Dear Ms. Hall, Your analysis of the lottery debate (Jenn Hall, "Translation: Memphis -- Looking at the Lottery") was insightful and probably true. However, as both a religious leader and a liberal democrat, I would want to argue that the lack of substantive debate was less the fault of the pro and anti lottery camps, and more due to the inability of the news media to deal with topics in a substantive way. As an anti-lottery supporter, I spoke in many churches presenting an in-depth analysis of the economic and social implications of the lottery, as well as theological and moral grounds for opposition. The pro-lottery camp likewise shared (primarily through their web site) data which countered the claims of the opposition camp. I personally distributed thousands of "issues guides" produced by the anti-lottery coalition which provided in-depth commentary on the lottery issue. However, as I reviewed news stories throughout the state, no media outlet ever reported or critiqued the substantive arguments of the debate. Rather, news media continued to define arguments against the lottery through the lens of religion, even when the arguments were based in economics or social concern. Too much time was spent on the mechanics of the battle with almost no concern over the issues being discussed. A further concern is the perception that "moral" arguments somehow carry less weight than statistics. All laws are based in the values (or morals) of a particular society. Consistently the news media wrote off moral arguments as invaluable to the debate. Please trust that I am not a right-wing, anti media zealot who thinks that the liberal media conspiracy was out to derail our work. Rather, our media system, based in profit motive and other concerns has created a system by which there is little or no room for substantive debate. The lottery could not be debated in 600 words or in a three minute news story. The best and most substantive discussions on the lottery occurred in two non-commercial venues: Teddy Bart's Roundtable on radio in Nashville sponsored by the non-profit Public Forum, and a conversation on the lottery on the PBS affiliate in Nashville. What I would give for similar coverage in the commercial media. Thanks for your time, Rev. Jay Voorhees

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