Local News: Shilling for the GOP

Rick-Snyder-1-The threat of our first big snow storm of the season had me tuning in to our local news at 10 pm last night.  While there was certainly some of that “I love a snow day” stuff that all students, administrators, and teachers feel when the barometric pressure over Kansas starts falling, I am also responsible for deciding if/when my school closes due to weather.  So being prepared for what’s coming is always prudent.

In between the normal stories about meth labs, house fires, car crashes, and lost dogs which populate local news broadcasts on a nightly basis, was wedged this “good news” story about business in Northern Michigan.  On its surface, the story seemed like a fitting counter punch to all the misery the local news apparently believes we want to hear about.  About half way through the story, however, I sat up in bed and paid very close attention to the story because I was very interested to find out exactly when they were going to stop running the advertisement for the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce, and start giving me some real information.

Alas, the story ended when they were done praising Governor Snyder’s enlightened tax policies and the Pure Michigan campaign.  I tried to find a link to the story as it was presented on TV because I’d like to walk through it to prove how little information was being presented.  The only thing I could find online was this written summary which covers some of the highlights of the piece, but fails to adequately capture the spirit of the propaganda evident in the video.

Is the economy in Northern Michigan really booming?  Are people really abandoning online shopping and trips to the mall to fill the stores in downtown Traverse City?  Is Snyder’s new corporate tax plan, enacted only one year ago, really reaping all these benefits already?  Did corporations across America really decide in less than a year to pull up stakes and move to Michigan because of a simplified tax system?  Is the Pure Michigan campaign so effective that we’re seeing more tourists than ever up north?

If you believe the story presented on 9&10 News, then the answers are: Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes!  At this point I should have simply turned off the TV and fallen peacefully asleep knowing that all is well with our state’s economy.  And I would have.  Really.  If the story presented one shred of evidence to support its claims.   Having the president of the local Chamber of Commerce say that business is great and that pro-business Governor Snyder is doing a great job is not really news.  Having two or three store owners say business is up because of Pure Michigan is not really news either.

How about some data?  How about an explanation about why everyone was just sitting around for eight years under Governor Granholm, waiting for another governor to simplify the tax structure and create some pretty ads with a soft-voiced narrator and syrupy music before they would spend money in our state?

When the news story claims that people are abandoning the malls to return downtown and shop locally, how about some evidence?  In the wake of real data that online shopping is at an all-time high with FedEx setting single day delivery records all season, there sure seems to be evidence that local businesses are still losing a lot of sales to out-of-state companies.  But I guess I should take the word of a reporter standing in front of a shop with the streets nearly empty of pedestrian traffic as evidence.

Is Pure Michigan and a simpler tax system better for Michigan?  Maybe.  The evidence is surely still out about what our economy is doing and why it’s happening.  What if I want to give President Obama credit for turning the economy around?  Can I just film a story and say new confidence in the federal government in the wake of President Obama’s landslide victory in November has people spending, spending, spending?  I could, but it would have no more credibility than the propaganda that 9&10 News aired on Tuesday night.

We all should be hopeful that the actions of the President and the Governor will eventually work in the favor of all of us.  We’d like to see the tax policies and tax structures which currently favor the rich eventually create real jobs that support the flourishing of a genuine middle class.  If union bashing and dismantling public education really leads to better jobs and a more informed and competitive electorate, then I’m all for it.  But it’s going to take a lot more than the president of Traverse City’s Chamber of Commerce smiling for the camera to tell me we’re on the right track.

It’s important to point out that I don’t begrudge President Obama or Governor Snyder for making claims about how well their programs are working.  That’s expected of any politician.  When something is going well, each side takes the credit, and when something is falling apart, it’s the other guy’s fault.  That’s the essence of politics, despite our hopes for a more informed dialogue.

The problem here is with the local news.  The “free” press that is guaranteed under our First Amendment was granted that status so it could be a watchdog on the government, not a shill for it.  When the government accomplishes something positive that can be proven, then it should be praised in the paper.  Until that proof is there, however, the press should stay out of the PR business and do their job in informing the electorate.

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