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Monkey Business

The Almighty Media

A recent article in the Colorado Springs’ alternative newspaper, the Independent, caused a great deal of fury about animal control issues in Colorado Springs. It was not the media’s finest hour.But who am I to criticize another reporter’s work? I am not a journalist by trade. I have a degree in sociology and psychology, and my career has spanned a global market, from social work to bartending (same thing) to public relations to animal rescue to the executive director of a chamber of commerce to, finally, writer (humble writer at best). My work experience is as diverse as a Mardi Gras crowd.One of the good things about eluding a focused career track for many years is the acquisition of that “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none syndrome.”I know a little about a lot, and I am certain that we are oftentimes getting the wool pulled over our eyes by the media. Take the aforementioned Independent article written by Rich Tosches, former Gazette columnist. Tosches wrote an article on the “battle” (his word – it’s an assumption) between the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region and the Colorado Humane Society – both agencies are housed in the same facility on the southwest side of Colorado Springs. (The city of Colorado Springs dogged its 53-year contract with the Pikes Peak Humane Society in December and tossed the bone for animal control services to Englewood-based Colorado Humane Society.)Tosches reported on the emotional sides of the “battle,” ignoring what I consider a reporter’s creed: unbiased, factual articles that do not align with one side or another. If the reader adopts an opinion because of an article, it should be based on facts.Because of my varied background, I occasionally have the inside scoop regarding an issue. Animal rescue was one of those trades I was involved in for about five years. Although it was not my forte (I would be in prison if I had to intercept another person who gave up her cat because it no longer matched the carpet), I learned a lot about people, especially people involved in a cause. Impassioned people often walk a fine line between sanity and insanity.Emotions run high, no matter the cause. And it seems the media loves to capitalize on those emotions by sensationalizing news stories and playing them over and over again. For example, the media thrives on the term “breaking news.” As news reporter John Stossel would say, “Give me a break.” All of the news stations simultaneously promoted “breaking news stories” when Reagan died and Kerry announced Edwards as his vice-presidential candidate. By 9 a.m., the breaking news was old hat, even though the scroll lines still read “breaking news.”Okay, but this is my biggest pet peeve with the industry. Every newspaper and some of the television news broadcasts have special sections referred to in the business as “op eds” or opinion editorials. It’s okay – a newspaper can be a great avenue for expression, but a newscast is not an avenue for personal biases and opinions. The print media is guilty of slanting articles, and I have heard a television news anchor use the words “give me a break” in reference to news stories too many times. And the weather forecasters: Watch the local news in the morning, and the weather guys inevitably say something like, “You are not going to like the rainy forecast today,” or “It’s going to be too hot for you out there, folks.” Wait a minute: Maybe I like rain, and maybe I love the heat.Why does the media always report on the negative? For example, did you read the Gazette’s article on the Falcon debate between county commissioner candidates Douglas Bruce and Margaret Radford? The article centered on the mudslinging, and the reporter used words throughout the story like confrontation, accused, attacks and quarreled, all in reference to the “he said, she said,” instead of the issues at hand. (Please read the NFH’s account of the forum and the Up Close and Personal interviews with Bruce and Radford – it’s about educating you to the issues, not the bull.)Publishers and reporters have a tremendous responsibility to the reader. Should newspapers attempt to persuade by endorsing candidates? The NFH came out in support of Jim Day for county commissioner because he lived out east (and Day is a great guy), and we felt he represented the best interests of Falcon, which is our focus. Truthfully, I think it’s a bit pompous on our part to think we can influence the masses. I’d much rather be about educating them.Alternative newspapers are known for leaning left or right, but I think the hometown daily, weekly or monthly should, in the end, inform only. Again, editorial columns, like this one, are okay, but take from it what you want and toss out the rest. However, when you are reading a newspaper to be informed about the issues, you should not have to read between the lines and toss out what is not important. And that’s my opinion.E-mail at mlmon@att.net.

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