Proving a point

For those who believe society influences the media, and not vice versa, the last 10 months have provided a foundation they can build their case upon. And proving their point once again this week is a man from Windham arrested for driving drunk and recklessly through the town of Norway.

This man, originally thought to have been driving with a suspended license, drew all sorts of attention after media figured out that he had something like 19 prior driving violations and was driving after suspension. Would this man have garnered so much media attention had it not been for the operating after suspension charge?

A year ago, would this have caused alarm or the attention of the newspapers and TV stations? It’s doubtful. But with the governor’s declaration of war against suspended drivers last summer after the tragic accident killing Tina Turcotte, driving under suspension has drawn the ire of politicians and public safety officials as well as the news media.

It’s been fascinating to watch this issue develop. News is definitely a changing beast. What’s news one day isn’t news the next and, as demonstrated in this case, driving after suspension is now a hot item and people with multiple convictions will now be treated much differently than before.

But news isn’t the only dynamic entity. Society changes as well, and it can do so very quickly, as we’ve seen here. Society does influence the media’s behavior. Newspapers and TV media address topics the public wants to know about. The upsurge of interest in reckless driving is just one example of how society shapes its media. And, because of this phenomenon, operating after suspension is a serious issue now, and it’s appropriate that it has finally garnered the focus it’s always deserved.

When voices go silent

Last week was National Sunshine Week. This week, while it may not be the week that national, state and local media focus attention on the public’s right to know, it is yet another chance to see how public officials can get in trouble by not being open with the public.

Nancy Daley, the teacher recently put on administrative leave at Lake Region High School and alleges that her principal forced her out because she didn’t “fit in,” is causing quite a stir in Naples. Unfortunately for the public’s right to know, the administration is keeping silent out of fear of saying something they shouldn’t and getting sued.

Their fear is understandable, but it’s not forgivable.

The SAD 61 community deserves to hear something, anything, from their school officials, and saying nothing leads to more confusion and skepticism.

Administrators in SAD 61 should take a tip from today’s modern politicians. Think of something to say to the people and say it. It’s certainly better than saying “no comment.”

People want to hear more than, “It’s a personnel matter and I can’t talk about it,” from their leaders when there are disturbing and serious allegations surfacing from the school community. The school is a place where kids are formed, and parents, not to mention taxpayers, want to know everything that’s going on within school walls.

The administration should issue a statement or talk to reporters about what is going on. The reporter’s job is to ask questions the public wants to know answers to. The sooner we can do that, the better off the community will be in this situation.

And we may just get to hear “the other side of the story,” which we’re sure would be very enlightening.

-John Balentine, editor


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