Letter: Local Media Missed Ball on Council Races
To the Editor-
(I’m submitting this late in the day April 7, so that readers know the election results haven’t colored my observations.)
Stevens Point’s local newspapers have not served their readers well in the spring City Council elections. Districts 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 had contested races. These races were virtually ignored in all three of our local papers.
No paper reported on the aldermanic part of the League of Women Voters primary forum. There were only the sketchiest articles in the Portage County Gazette or City Times about the primary races.
The Stevens Point Journal did “quick and dirty” interviews with the aldermanic primary candidates. Published only the day before the primary, these rough transcripts gave the public little time to ponder the information or do further research.
After the primary, reporting continued to be marginal. The League held another forum, but the city council candidates’ responses were not reported. Same with The Central Wisconsin Grassroots Forum event. The Journal mentioned three candidates in an editorial.
Residents provided the only detailed coverage in the press of the council candidates. Supporters’ or candidates’ letters were published in The City Times and the Journal. The Gazette published only supporters’ letters, saying candidates’ letters would amount to “political advertising.”
There were forums, and various videos could be found. But residents who didn’t or couldn’t attend a forum, or who aren’t online or on cable were out of luck if they wanted aldermanic race information.
Stevens Point is no longer small enough so that we all know everyone. How can those who put themselves out there to run have their voices heard? Without press coverage, how can voters find out about candidates? Newspapers play a vital role in democracy; our local papers let us down.
“For a society to be responsible and powerful, it must be informed. Our free press, protected by the first constitutional amendment, plays a critical role in ensuring that every American has constant access to important and trustworthy news,” said Caroline Little of the Newspaper Association of America. (http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/speak-up/article1955056.html#storylink=cpy0)
If our three local newspapers don’t cover local affairs, who will?
Mary McComb, District 9 Councilwoman-elect