Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday Whirl

Here's one of this summer's best bits of crop art so far, shot by Steve Alexander.

Editorial: Those found guilty of DUI should pay rent

Here's another example of big-picture thinking in the Courier editorial suite, where a 3x5" snapshot is considered big.

In a one-day holiday sweep, backed by critical underfunding and lack of manpower, our lawnforcement agencies nabbed almost a thousand people on our roads threatening our lives. Given the majority that they had to have missed, and how many more they let get by every day, this ought to be hair-raising. All the unnamed Courier editor can think of in response is more fines for the perps.

These figures speak of a massive unaddressed social problem, combining our established culture of lawlessness with our most commonly abused addictive drug.

Treating alcoholism with punitive fines is a lot like trying to treat diabetes with whippings. It's stupid. Addicts don't have a choice about whether to drink, and it necessarily clouds their judgment about what they're doing. Ask Mayor Simmons. The possible penalties just don't enter the picture when it matters.

The only thing additional fines can accomplish is a little bit of state revenue enhancement, more impoverishment (and need for public services, eating that revenue) for the perps, and a lot of public revenge. This may be enough for the editor, but it's not enough for me. Has he noticed how our drug and alcohol treatment programs have lost funding and staff? Has he noticed that there are maybe two DPS officers working the highways of Yavapai County at any given time? Has he thought about how those factors might contribute to this danger? I sure don't see it in this piece.

Amster: Cable show lets all voices be heard

Randall uses today's column to promote a show on Access13, which all sounds very nice. The paper should have noted that he is a board director of the nonprofit that operates 13 and 15, and has been for years.

And when did he get the demotion from regular columnist to "Guest Column"?

The readers are laughing

Editor Ben Hansen has posted one of his occasional columns on his pseudoblog page, in which he describes himself as "a pit bull about spelling, grammar and usage" whose "staff often accuses me of being too manic about grammar and usage." Pity he can't even seem to proof his own column successfully. Perhaps that explains why the paper is daily so riddled with errors.

It's always good to start a speech with a joke, it gets the audience in the mood. He probably learned that at Toastmasters.

What he really wants to tell us is that the commenters on the paper are a bunch of ungrammatical, spelling-challenged boobs, and that he's a hero for getting it right on their behalf. He describes how he edits "an average of 200 online comments every day," "And, thanks to some recent changes in media law governing the web, we have the option of editing for spelling and grammar."

I don't know what Ben could be reading in law that allows him to imagine such extraordinary license, but just for the record, no. Just as it is unethical to alter a quote in print, it is unethical to edit a letter or comment posted by anyone who did not specifically submit it for editing. If it has a person's name on it, the reader should be able to trust that it's what the person wrote.

Rather than attending to his real responsibilities for coverage and quality of the paper, Ben is frittering away his time managing reader comments, a job that should go no higher than an editorial intern. For Ben this is the fun work, and it's really about power. In it he is exercising his long-held claim that he can change anything that comes to the paper in any way that suits him, and he gets to exert control over his critics in the bargain. In the past this has gone as far as altering the substance of columns by nationally syndicated writers to say the opposite of what the writer intended. That sort of practice and attitude, centered on controlling the message for political and personal reasons, is one of the primary reasons for this blog and at the heart of what's most wrong with our local daily.

The ordinary reader sees the spelling and grammatical errors that plague every page, left there by this "pit bull about spelling, grammar and usage." The subtler and more serious problem is control of the message and spin on the events that he stentoriously claims as his right, and it's for this that Sam Steiger long ago dubbed our paper The Daily Disappointment.

Update, 2:30pm: The column is no longer available under his blog title. How odd. The link above still works.

Update, Thursday 3:30pm: The piece is reposted in the proper place. I've relinked it above. I wonder whether my prodding had anything to do with it.