Thursday, December 14, 2006

Asymmetrical Reporting

I've meant to follow up on an earlier post about Nagin's ability to work the refs for almost two weeks now. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked by the election and the appointment of a recovery czar, er Katrina Kaiser. I won't write much on the subject tonight, just want to commit myself to it before I get sidetracked.

When I use the term asymmetrical reporting, I'm not making any reference to asymmetrical warfare. I suppose that you could that the Picayune has been so...intimidated by charges of "bias" that it's afraid to hold the mayor to the same standards that it holds the governor. Or the mayor of Slidell. Or local judges. Or the assessors offices or courts. What I mean is that the paper's coverage of the mayor and other local officials has been, in some ways, asymmetrical.

Compare yesterday's front page story about proposed state pay raises with this October story about city pay raises. The Picayune reported it when the mayor gave misleading figure when he proposed pay increases for city workers and it reported it when the governor engaged in similar behavior. So where's the asymmetry? Well, the story about the governor's page was on the front page and the story about the mayor was in section B. The story about the governor was also accompanied by an editorial and a front page graphic about average state pay in 2000 and today. Though Bruce Eggler's reporting on city finances has been close to excellent, we were never given any meaningful figures about city pay. Of course, if the Picayune had asked, it would have been with a demand for an FOIA request that would have been ignored. The city pay raises are no longer a personal issue to me*, but I do feel compelled to ask one question. Considering what a farce the budget hearings turned out to be, does anybody doubt that the city council budget committee should have used the meetings over the proposed pay raises to get some accurate information from the mayor? I suppose a second question would be about whether the Picayune should have given more prominent placement to its stories about the mayor's misleading cost estimates. The budget hearings did occur before we found out that we had "no choice" but to accept the sanitation contracts. It's late, like I said, I just wanted to get back on the subject before getting sidetracked again.

*For the most part. With so many people laid off, it 's unbelievable that nobody questioned whether the money could better used to rehire some laid off workers. In addition to the practical questions about resource allocation, there is the fact that layoff and rehiring decisions weren't made according to normal civil service rules -- in some cases they were highly subjective. 3,000 people can express quite a bit of sour grapes about the city, even if they are scattered. In my case, nobody would call it petty, but that would involve discussing something I no longer discuss publicly.

new orleans does not care about new orleans

If it had been a concert at the High Noon Tuesday evening it would have been a sold out show. Four hundred ninety supporters of Madison's Air America affiliate, the Mic, packed into the venue with more spilling out onto the patio and into the parking lot. Multiple speakers, including politicians and Mic advertisers, took to the stage to express their concerns and frustration over the decision by Clear Channel to dump the progressive talk format and replace it with FOX Sports. But those speakers, while they all brought important messages, weren't the most striking part of the evening. What struck a chord in me was the casual conversation after the event from unsuspecting folks who sounded like they were snapped in the ass with a towel. They were saying things like, "Clear Channel doesn't care about Madison," "why does Clear Channel get to make our decisions," "Clear Channel owns too much."

It struck a nerve because it has been a long time since there has been casual talk like that in a public space.
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