Monday, April 16, 2007

News Rack Flap Forces Media to Heed Neighborhoods and Public Interest

Just as many neighborhoods are on their way to realizing the idea of becoming walkable, the mainstream print media dares clog paths with their money-making racks. And in this morning's Nashville City Paper, the editors stick to the corporate media's worn-out talking points, arguing that Mike Jameson's bill (up for Metro Council's third reading tomorrow) is a diversion that takes focus away from "rank-and-file" concerns like crime and roads.

But we have to look between the lines: the editors are in mossbacked overdrive because they and their media brethren and sistren have failed to lift a finger on behalf of neighborhoods that are tired of the news rack free-for-all. It has taken some council members acting as public servants and actually representing public interest to throw the media into such reaction. The print-shop boys and girls had ample chance to work with neighborhoods toward some balance between commerce and clutter-free sidewalks, but they dropped the ball and ignored community concerns.

But confusing commerce with free speech and confounding the news racks with the news itself amounts itself to specious argument that misleads the public into the misperception that the corporate media is absolutely free to disregard public interest. If the CP editors don't understand that "rank-and-file" taxpayers have been adversely affected by the sidewalk clutter and the endless, vision-clouding streams of racks, then they have not been listening to or reading the debate in neighborhood groups like the Urban Residents Association, even as the ink-jerkers chirp to be more in tune with neighborhoods.

Mike Jameson's bill is about competing views of what the quality of life of neighborhoods should include. On one side is the vision of neighborhoods that the residents determine themselves; that vision supports a media that either takes responsible care of its racks or pays Metro to contain blight for them. On the other side is the vision of the corporate media, in which they can cram any number of money-garnering mechanisms into neighborhood thoroughfares and guise it under the smokescreen of free speech, when what they really mean is "freedom to clutter and obstruct without paying for any care." That is not a constitutional issue, and neither is Mr. Jameson's bill, which deserves our support.

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