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The downtown conundrum

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

So here s my quandary " one of many, actually: I receive great news releases from Sgt. John Delaney of the Springfield Police Department about recent arrests, but if I use them on a regular basis am I contributing to the impression that Springfield isn t a safe town?
Now I have used some of his releases for news stories, but I ve resisted running as much of the material I could. While I believe the releases show not only the challenges the Springfield police face, but also how they overcome those challenges; I m afraid that too many people would spin it a different way.
While I m a realist about my hometown, I m also a booster and I don t want to contribute to the legions of naysayers.
It would be easy enough to run a Springfield police beat section in several of our editions, but would that be seen as just lazy " Delaney does a good job of writing the stories " and exploitive?
Over the years, the suggestion has been made to me by various folks here high up in the Buendos Organization for World Domination that I run a police log column in our various editions because people love to read which family called the cops on what issue.
I ve artfully dodged that ball by truthfully explaining just how much work is involved in preparing police logs for communities such as Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Westfield, Agawam and West Springfield. The suburban towns would be a bit easier " there are not as many incident reports for them.
The issue would be how to edit these things. What crimes go in? Which ones do not? Would readers think we re picking on certain towns or making some sort of racist statement by what reports are chosen for publication? Which advertiser or elected official do I insult when I publish his or her kid was found driving drunk, let s say, through Hampden? The only fair way is to print everything, which is of course impossible.
What a mess...and amazingly I ve avoided it so far.
This line of thinking came about with the Springfield City Council meeting I attended at which a number of people who operate businesses complained about the negative news coverage of downtown Springfield.
Here s the situation. There are a number of people in this business who believe that people really want the bad news instead of the good news. I d argue, based on the response to the type of stories we routinely publish, that people are looking for balanced local coverage. As a weekly we try to do just that.
No community is perfect, but I think we can t move forward as a region if people in the media such as myself tend to put more emphasis on the negative.
Just the same, keep the reports coming, John.

***
Recently, talk show host Glenn Beck laid out a number of principles and told his listeners, If you believe in at least seven of them, then we have something in common.
Okay Glenn, I think you re nuttier than the fruitcake mama used to make, but let me take the test.
1. America is good. Define good. Our system of government can t be corrupted? Our corporations act responsibly? Our record on human and civil rights can t be impugned?
How about this instead: The United States is the most noble and perhaps most successful experiment in a democratic form of government, but like any experiment the results haven t always been positive.
2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life. I do believe in God. We re two for two, sort of.
3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday. Yes, I try to be honest. Three for three.
4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government. The ultimate authority on what? Curfews? Teen drinking? Sex? Laundry? Hair style? Not sure here.
5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it. I agree, but does that apply to Limbaugh and his drug use, Glenn? Four for five.
6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results. Yes, sure, but this ideal shouldn t make me feel superior to people who may have not as good luck as me. And it explains why you have a TV show and I don t. Five for six. I m getting scared here that Glenn and I will be soul mates.
7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable. Did I miss the memo? When did the government tell me I had to give to a charity? How can I agree to this misformed rhetoric?
8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion. No, of course not, but do you defend the free speech of people with whom you disagree? I suppose six for eight.
9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me. So are we a nation of laws or not, Glenn? What the hell does this mean?
Well, I m afraid I can only muster a six. What was your score? I must be one of those terrible socialists that Beck raves about. Although it s difficult to agree or disagree with these incomplete concepts that are clearly designed to support a support a particular point of view.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to mdobbs@thereminder.com or to 280 N. Main St., E. Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.


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