Ok, Let's get real folks. There come a point when generally lackadaisical local coverage degenerates into something less wholesome. As a loyal reader of LPF you know that Lafayette's fiber fight has been making national news. Perhaps the most significant event in last week's recent train of encouraging news (1,2, 3,4) is the endorsement of Lafayette's position by the nation's largest circulation newspaper: USAToday.
National endorsement of a small city's local issue is, my friends, NEWS. It is even more NEWS if part and parcel of that endorsement is an analysis that of one of the nation's largest megacorps is trying to reassert monopoly power across a range of activities and that its abuse of power in Lafayette is simply the clearest indication of its national intent.
Trust me, this is a BIG DEAL. When was the last time you saw a media outlet condemn a major advertiser (excuse me, I meant corporation) on the grounds of economic misconduct--actually when did we last hear a megacorp condemned for anything in major media outlets? Bhopal? Halliburton? (Halliburton, hmmn, what was that local connection again?) It takes a lot to get today's media, almost uniformly owned by megacorps to condemn one.
Long windup, I know, but here is the pitch:
That's all. The ultimate keep it quiet, non-offensive, he said, she said, enough-so-that-nobody can-say-we-ignored-it non-coverage.
"Tuesday, USA Today published an editorial supporting Lafayette's fiber plan and a counter view by BellSouth Louisiana president William Oliver."
This would be more nearly understandable, if no less inexcusable, if they were toeing some corporate line. But, The Advertiser is a Gannett newspaper. USAToday is the chain's flagship; the crown jewel of the empire. No, the Advertiser could reprint the editorial (and even give a little appropriate background about the rarity of the action and the article that it references) without any fear of blowback from corporate central.
Neither can they claim that posting an "outside" editorial would somehow compromise their distinctively local nature. Recall the obscene little advertorial that they published not all that long ago on the op ed page of the paper Which cheerfully sold all sorts of falsehoods about municipal broadband networks. That author wrote under the colors of one of the nations most notorious right-wing research-for-hire groups, the Heartland Institute; so an editor wary about outside influences might have chosen not to air the product of such a partisan institution. Even more incredible, a quick google of the author's name pulls up the fact that he owns "Expert Editorial," a company which produces editorials for hire. Hello? Any Connection? Who paid for this 'expert editorial?' Did it occur to anyone that an editorial with such dubious antecedents might be, well, dishonest? And printing it unwise?
However we interpret that affair, it is clear that the editorial staff is not adverse to running outside opinions on this flash-point issue. It is also clear that Gannett headquarters would have no objection. Finally, hell, this is actual NEWS.
Why haven't we seen better coverage of this important story? The people of Lafayette should be able to read this critical document in their own newspaper. I'd not even mind if the Advertiser felt it necessary to run BellSouth's (non)rebuttal at its side.
The coverage problem has reached the point of denying the people of Lafayette access to a major story on our situation. That needs to stop.