3rd District Seeks New Lows, adds Media

The gloves are definitely off in the 3rd District Congressional Race between Decmocratic challenger John Yarmuth ande Republican incumbent Anne Northup. The only thing that can stop these two campaigns from coming to blows is, well, the election Nov. 7.

Northup’s campaign, determined to take attention away from issues by attacking Yarmuth, has latched on to this silly minimum wage debate over Yarmuth’s ownership of southern BBQ restaurants. After running an attack ad on the topic for a week, Northup updated the ad to include the labeling of a WHAS-TV report as wrong, and saying that WAVE-TV and the Courier-Journal had it right. Yarmuth topped that with an ad that included a portion of a WHAS-TV report, a move that infuriated WHAS-TV management.

Both sides are wrong here, but like our attraction to reality TV and professional wrestling, the public apparently can’t turn away. Yarmuth, who introduced Bill Clinton at a Dem rally Tuesday night, should be using his TV time to promote that relationship, not defending his opponent’s attacks on this intergrity.

Northup’s tactics, unfortunately, are tried and true. If she can paint Yarmuth as a hypocrite, voters leaning his way will either vote for her or stay away from the polls. That her logic — he’s a hypocrite because he advocates raising the minimum wage while getting rich from employing minimum wage workers at his restaurants — might work is disturbing. What about her stance on the issue — she’s still against raising the wage, and that’s the bottom-line issue.

Voters who consider the minimum wage issue important should be looking at both candidates’ stances on the issue, and they’re pretty well documented to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, and make their decision based on that. Northup’s ad, at best, distorts the truth about Yarmuth’s restaurant holdings, but at worst presents a false view and diverts attention away from a position she’s apparently not proud of holding.

Stereotyping Voters

I just completed an assignment for LEO in which I talked with folks from different parts of town. I found few surprises.viljennifer

I wasn’t surprised that Norman Simpson, an African-American who owns a business on West Broadway, knows a lot about political issues and knows exactly one Republican. I wasn’t surprised that 20-year-old Clint Cecil, working in a Chili’s in Hillview, credits his Baptist upbringing for stances against abortion and gay marriage. Nor was I surprised that Fern Creek single mom Linda Cobb was active in the Democratic Party and wanted an end to the war. And I could have done the piece on East End investment banker Tom Raque’s views without even talking to him.

But Jennifer Stevens surprised me. Working the bar at Harper’s on Hurstbourne Lane, she had real Democratic views on every issue. But to her, the election is not that big a deal, and she said she might not even vote. Of course, she is a blond, and a bartender, and the first political issue she mentioned was that she hoped John Yarmuth would be able to get the drinking age lowered. But she had some insightful thoughts as well, including a view that we need to get out of Iraq.

For someone who claimed she didn’t pay a whole lot of attention, she really knew a lot about what’s important.
I think what the Democratic Party needs to do to win, especially in the Yarmuth race, is to figure out how to get the Jennifers of the world into a voting booth.

Dems Rally at Union Hall

yarmuth1011061.jpgAt the Oct. 11 Democratic Rally at the UAW Union Hall on Fern Valley Road, party officials showed they’re fired up for the 11/7 election, and that they had a sense of humor.  There was video of a series of George W. Bush gaffes, video of the Barack Obama speech at Slugger Field (oddly, the only video available was from HillbillyReport.com), a clip of a political rant by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, the hilarious Al Gore skit from Saturday Night Live (showing what the U.S. would be like if he had been elected in 2000) and singing from a makeshift Democratic chorus.

Col. Mike Weaver, trying to unseat Ron Lewis in the 2nd District, loosened up with an off-color joke (PUNCH Line: I don’t know, what was her maiden name?). There was a video introduction of John Yarmuth by Ben Chandler. Yarmuth, in a brief speech, called Anne Northup’s comment on raising the minimum wage (“Everyone should have the opportunity to start at the bottom and work your way up.”) a “condescending bit of crap.”

But Jerry Abramson grabbed top billing, saying “it’s time for Democrats to win this fall” because “we’re on the correct side of the issues.”

Seeing Abramson at a Democratic pep rally was a bit of a surprise, and indicates that the “Mayor for Life” may be moving closer to the party’s heart.

He Is Sexy, but CJ’s Fenton Needs a Calendar

Robert EggerToday’s Courier-Journal “The Buzz” column leads with an intriguing item — Robert Egger, one of the Oprah’s “16 Sexiest Men In America” — is supposed to speak to a gathering of the Center for Non-Profit Excellence. Egger, who lives in Washington, D.C., has ties to Louisville and a sister, Fenton points out, who is looking forward to her brother’s appearance today at New Albany’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help school, where Margaret Shain is a teacher.

The problem with the piece — it happened yesterday, Oct. 11. I know, I was there to see it, and here’s a photo of the sexy speaker to prove it.

Fenton got the item right, she just published it on the wrong day.

Egger was a genuinely engaging speaker, and happy to joke about the Oprah notoriety. He’s a force in the non-profit sector, and has written a book, “Begging for Change.” He started the D.C. Central Kitchen, which feeds up to 4,000 people per day in the nation’s capital.

Trespassing at Schools Ignites Catfight

Here’s a sure bet — Jefferson County school authorities will not hesitate to prosecute the WHAS-TV employee charged with criminal trespassing on school grounds Oct. 4.

When a spate of school violence brought the issue into the forefront of national media, WHAS-TV got the idea to test the security at Atherton High School. It sent an employee on campus to see if he could get in. He knocked on a door, and a student opened it. Once inside, the story of what happened depends on who you believe. Ultimately, police were called, the employee was cited, and WHAS-TV played the event as a major news story.

WAVE-TV covered the story as well, taking the opportunity to criticize WHAS-TV in a lengthy story of its own.

But here’s the bottom line — is it the responsibility of the media to test the security of the schools? And if so, does that responsibility extend to other public institutions that are protected by security — should banks, hospitals, airports, public buildings — be subject to surprise illegal inspections by TV stations?

I think not. First, if entering a public school without good reason is considered criminal trespassing, and that’s a crime, then the station is exposing employees to undue risk. But the bigger issue is whether breaking the law for the sake of a news story is acceptable.

School officials don’t think so. Atherton principal John Hudson said the employee, 28-year-old Alexander Elder, lied about the reason for his visit. He told WAVE that WHAS was putting kids in danger and pulling staff away from regular duties, in addition to causing alarm among students and some parents.

WHAS-TV defended its action, claiming it does have responsibility for holding the school system’s security system accountable.  General manager Bob Klingle, according to WAVE, had an acrimonious visit with school superintendant Stephen Daeschner, a meeting Daeschner said he wouldn’t call “pleasant.”

WHAS-TV’s report on school safety, by reporter Mark Hebert, did a good job of communicating the safety policy of the school system. It could have been done just as effectively, however, without breaking the law.

Categories TV

Starting at Zero

Day One: Why would anyone start a blog on media in Louisville?

It’s not just because no one else is doing it. And it’s not just because, as the media critic for LEO, there’s not enough space in the weekly paper for all the media-related news and, OK, gossip that’s available.

 And it’s not because I have some need to critique the way the fine people who serve up media around here are doing their job.

It’s a little bit of all those things.

Today, my blog stats are zero visitors, zero comments, and then there’s this — 1 post. All those numbers, I hope, will be sprouting soon.