The Sharp Edge
Posted: Friday, October 24, 2008 1:51 pm
Media spin from public relations and governmental companies happen in various and sundry ways that, quite frankly, can be embarrassing. We get somewhere between 300 to 500 press releases a week. Some are just basic, telling the newspaper what’s coming in the near future. Others are documenting what has recently happened, let’s say, what’s going on at UT Martin or Bethel College. Today I want to talk about two kinds of press releases that have become increasingly annoying. Of the political pressers we receive from Washington, I have to say that Sen. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are pretty good about keeping a steady flow of information from Washington coming to us to the point of overflow, although I’m not complaining. Congressman John Tanner’s people are available but many times all we get are very brief wrap-ups. Of all three elected officials, most of the press releases have not answered the question on why $150 billion dollars of pork barrel money was added to the initial bail out (which is now being called a rescue plan) and it has not been addressed. On a statewide level, Rep. Mark Maddox has been very accessible and I have spoken to him repeatedly about much of what’s going on in our county with the trickle down effects of the economic state of this country. It goes back to the communication that I spoke about in last week’s column. Don’t spin us, just tell us what to expect. The community has already lost a ton of money not only from Wall Street but due to the reduction in the work force. As I go back to those people working in economic recruitment in this county, I’m not hearing very much. We have several fine and decent people working in economic development with Dr. Tom Payne of the Reed Center and Ronnie Price of the Weakley County Economic Development Council shooting straight about the slow state of the economy, but we very rarely hear from others about the state of the county unless they need a picture taken or want something in the paper. That’s not how it works, campers. Taxpayer money is paying many of your salaries and we need to know anything, something about how this county is going to readjust due to the loss of countless manufacturing plants. And calling The Press being very negative is not what public relations is all about so keep that in mind. We should work as a partnership. Those jobs have not been replaced and average folks are wondering what’s going on because it impacts them. Seeing a picture of the same people cut a ribbon does not resonate nor inform our readers. Here at The Press, we have done a concerted partnership with the Martin Business Association highlighting local business that has been highly successful with the assistance and determination of Julie Donaldson, who deserves credit for volunteering time and energy in spotlighting success stories in our county. A story of what grants are being pursued even if they don’t come to fruition and how private citizens are going to benefit from possible industrial growth is what people want to know. That’s what they want to hear. Today, you will see the hard work of volunteers working on improvements to Everett-Stewart Airport on the front page of this paper. Those are the stories we believe should be spotlighted. Remember, many social programs are losing much needed funding. Three domestic violence cases were covered on our front page in our last two editions. The Outback Domestic Violence Program needs more than $20,000 by January to keep their doors open the next two quarters of next year. State and federal funding, sometimes but not always, is dependent on the population of the county. How many we have lost? We will know in 2010 during the next census. And, quite frankly, I’m tired of not getting answers from Goodyear about possible temporary shutdowns when employees are saying it’s going to happen. Yet, we receive countless press releases about holes-in-ones, blimp visits or other various items. We call and are forwarded to Akron for answers. Are there going to be shutdowns or not? Northwest Tennesseans need to know what impacts them financially because Christmas is right around the corner. Another note is that Goodyear employees have raised thousands of dollars for impoverished children for years for the Christmas holidays out of their own pockets. If a December shutdown were to occur, associates won’t have disposable money, then those kids living in poverty aren’t going to have a Christmas either. The trickle down effect of local earned wages does, indeed, exist. With that said, to stick our heads in the stand and make everything appear through non-existent pretty rose-colored glasses isn’t going to cut it. Our political leaders at all levels need to get busy and start talking to us. Press releases on winning awards is admirable and we applaud those agencies’ hard work but, the newspaper has also experienced the downside of a declining economy and we may not always have the room in our pages to run a rah-rah piece because we’ve been hit hard too. It’s all relative. What our readers need is the truth or at least an idea of what’s going on. We are paying for that bailout too and we need answers. As we aren’t privy to jump on a jet to Washington or head to Nashville to cover what’s going on, we elected you guys to tell us what’s happening and we don’t want it dumbed down. And you aren’t completing that task very effectively. We are neighbors and friends in Weakley County. We appreciate the work that our local leaders do, but we need realistic information about our future combined with the positive things happening in our county. It has to be a trade-off or it doesn’t hit all the readers, just the select few who aren’t impacted by the real problems of the average man.