Why The Real Story will never publish Random Mug Shots or,
from a Temple of the Dog lyric, “I Don’t Mind Stealing Bread from the Mouths of Decadence”
It is common practice among our local media to parade the less fortunate in front of the public eye, in handcuffs, shamed and humiliated. It must be a sure-fire way to sell a paper or increase the numbers watching a newscast. But, have you ever stopped to think, “at what cost?” What does it do to a community, especially one trying to move ahead, to have every petty crime exposed, photographed and detailed?
Since the beginning of time, humanity has been fascinated by the suffering of others and the public humiliation of those who defy social norms. A law-breaker shunned in the public spotlight of shame suffers the punishment of being out of line with society.
The unfair part of this is that this spotlight usually shines on the less fortunate, the suffering, and the disenfranchised. The poor and the powerless are the ones most exposed. The people who have no control over their fate or status and the people whose impact on the community is slight usually come in for the closest scrutiny.
In fairness, when Mayor Robert Smith and Councilmen Kabir Kareem got into a “Brawl at City Hall”, it was front page news–as it should have been. But, what has been forgotten and buried now is that after all the expense and humiliation they caused the City and the County, the only real punishment they got was having to say they were sorry, and giving each other a public hug.
I am sure that all the city employees who have been given 20 or 30 day suspensions would have loved to have had the same punishment. Yet, everyday these two brawlers sit on “the golden seat of judgment” and deliver punishment to employees and tell the community what makes a good police department.
News flash to all involved: just because someone has been arrested doesn’t make them the best person to speak about law enforcement matters. Rather, it is quite the opposite. For the citizens of our community who actually care, it simply makes the process more frightening.
Unfortunately, that’s not all. While the media are parading the street criminals across their pages, the powerful just grow more complacent. They sit at city council meetings, participate in hearings to sanction owners of an overgrown lot, while at the same time they benefit from owning slum property themselves. Everyone on the council, everyone in the media and a good number of the community know it. And what do the council and the media say about it? Nothing! It’s just business as usual.
Meanwhile the community they are expected to serve suffers. It is time that those who are called to serve their community face the facts. If you’re scared to stand up for what is right, say you’re scared. And, if you’re scared, quit, because you are of no help to the community. Any elected official or member of the Fourth Estate who will not tackle the real issues of the community is not in the right job. A free society needs people who will take a stand on justice and fair dealings.
The media does a great job flushing out the petty criminal while the powerful and the well-connected can sleep peacefully at night, secure in the knowledge that the press is never going to look in their direction unless they give them a really big story and, even then, it is soon forgotten. If you wait long enough, you may even read in the paper that the most powerful media person in northeast Mississippi has great respect for you. Why would anyone in power worry?
As The Real Story moves forward in transition to becoming a print publication, the community can expect coverage of the hard stories. We will write about things others will not. So, if you are an elected official and own slum property, it would be respectful to fix it up now for the sake of your tenants and for the benefit of the community. You might also want to resist the temptation to kill draft ordinances that would make it harder for slum lords to prevail. These are the sort of stories that will be covered.
During the CLOPAC meeting on October 25, 2011, District 5 candidate, Roger Larson, stated that the County needed to understand that for the County to prosper, the City of Columbus had to prosper. This is so true. However, before the City can prosper, the citizens have to come first and be dealt with fairly and honestly.
This starts with the Mayor and the Council. Every department head in Columbus understands that if they cross the mayor, they will be pulled into to his office and berated. This will happen even if what they said was true. Because everybody needs their job, they just remain silent after they are mentally beaten down. So, the truth is often never told.
The saddest part of this scenario is that every councilman knows this but says nothing. Why would they? Out of fear; they are simply scared. Many have been cowed to the point that they have dropped their own moral convictions and their responsibilities to their Wards. It is sad but true.
The Real Story will speak out as the real voice of the people. As time progresses, we will identify and report on every slum property owned by an elected official. We will report every racist rant on the radio from an elected official, and what is more, we will do it in the spirit of real journalism. Never will we ‘get into bed’ with the very government officials that we have sworn to watch. We take pride in being your watchdogs.
Our commitment may trouble the status quo. Those with a vested interest in ‘business as usual’ will try to discredit us, of course. When it comes to the Status Quo, we will gladly be the “Bad Guys”. We will stand our ground and we will oppose those who profit from neglect and decay. We will “steal the bread from the mouths of decadence.”
Joseph B. St. John
“The Bad Guy”
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