Free Press Needs to Inform not Influence

Gazette Contributor Vera Wright

May 8, 2018-It’s business as usual. Candidates in northwest  Indiana elections are  barely mentioned in State news agencies, especially primaries. Then there is  the usual business of the NWI times editorials: little coverage  on  first time candidates but continual coverage on a select few , especially if in favor of imagined benefits of redevelopment. The amount of challengers in the primary  is encouraging when you consider their community involvement,  experience that will benefit all areas, and accomplishments- but articles were hard to come by.

“We all should put would-be elected officials on notice that substance — not frivolous distractions or underhanded politics — rules the day.” Thats from a NWI Times editorial March 12th of this year. Yet their editorials were often filled with distractions.

Legal actions  of candidates cannot be ignored but journalistic ethics demands accuracy.  Omitting public records  on certain candidates borders ignorance- they are public for a reason. It is one thing to endorse a candidate on their record of service and community responsibility . It is another to incessantly include an elected official’s court record  as the measuring stick for all endorsements.

Thankfully social media and  citizen journalism has taken up the responsibility to keep the community informed. Live streaming  of public meetings encourages discussion in real time- Facebook pages dedicated to NWI News,  Real Deal, Citizens Groups  all fill  a void.

Editorials can describe a proposed landfill as pristine and clean and  golly maybe a great place to hold a wedding, while ignoring the fact Rep. Earl Harris HB1318 sole purpose was to remove the 1/2 mile setback between landfills and dwellings only for Gary. He was against the amendment to make it all of  Lake County as that would cause too much outrage from other legislators and their constituents.  (A similar bill was in 2017  would remove setback only for East Chicago-  but Harris wrote amendment to remove East Chicago. His constituents are in Gary and East Chicago .)

Yet when Eldon Strong raised concerns as demolition debris from contaminated East Chicago Housing Complex went to Lowell, this was dismissed as crying wolf. Strong was dismissed for endorsement because  he voted against removing Councilman Washington during allegations and possible court cases.

James Nowacki   embraces opportunity for public comment at Lake County Council Meetings, Gary Common Council and RDA (when they actually have meetings).  NWI headlines him as a scofflaw, little else.

LaVetta Sparks Wade’s  public record in  Gary Common Council  speaks for itself. Her due diligence on  public contracts, knowledge of city and county ordinances, and her presence throughout the county in community endeavors is encouraging.  Male editors need to sit down and not speculate on her personal life.

Challenger Rosa Rodriquez  for years has  advocated throughout the Region  on Jobs, Unions, Stopping For Profit Prisons, Immigration Rights. In most communities  if a candidate was not invited to Political Party’s  public forum that would  merit at  least a mention in editorial’s recap. Twice  she was left off of candidate lists and denied opportunity to address voters.  Subsequent articles  continued the omission.

Other odd  Times endorsements?  Yancy over Elsie Franklin. Yancy has merit no doubt- but seriously  Times these are your reasons against Franklin?  “In recent years, Franklin has missed more than a year’s worth of council meetings because of health concerns. She also seems to lack any sophisticated grasp of county finance”.

Speaking of a sophisticated grasp-  the glowing column on Sheriff Martinez choice of Michael Zenk  as new warden Lake County jail failed to include his years of employment in  management  positions of Private Prison Industry and pending litigation.

The responsibility of the press is to inform the community. Bias can never be eliminated, but it cannot be the standard.

As you cast your vote make  it an informed  decision. Will the candidate work to enhance our community,  will they publicly invite dialog and discussion,  and  will they consider all their constituents?








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