Sunday, July 15, 2007

What's Wrong With the Fifth:

One of the interesting/appalling things about the Fifth Congressional Race - no matter what horse you back - is the fact that it's getting very little attention and coverage. So far, many of the people who actually know that there's even going to be a special election see Niki Tsongas as either impossible to defeat or doubt she's going to screw up on the job. These people know that she's not going to support the war or mess with social security, so what does anything else matter in the grand scheme of things anyway? Consequently, the average voter's quest for knowledge hasn't even gone as far as the distance to the nearest Dunkin Donuts. People don't know if they want a ice coffee with sugar or the Iced Caramel Swirl Latte. There's a big difference here, folks.

We're talking about a seat of particular national importance: not only will whoever wins the general election vote on issues that impact the entire nation, but Democratic Party members have a chance to elect from myriad choices representing a diversity of ideas and expertise. It's not like we're going to see a spirited race here after the primary. Want a social conservative? Vote Meceli. Want someone with tons of local experience? There's Donoghue. Want Fallon Health Care for All? Pick Tsongas. Want a true progressive? Turn the lever for Eldridge. However, for too many, ignorance is bliss.

Part of the reason few are in tune is because of the way things have changed. I recently watched an episode of Greater Boston on WGBH that featured Natalie Jacobson. She's on her way out as a local TV anchor and had some words that tangently related to the race. One of the things she complained about is how the media has changed and become obsessed with the celebrity - all age groups. It's easy, cheesy "news" where you get to see how the stars live (and screw up). Part soap opera, part vicariously living through others, people's eyes are transfixed on the quickly-moving images on the screen, just like our long-lost ancestors paid instant attention to the rustling of trees: it was to avoid lions, tigers and bears. Now, with media's new-found expertise into how minds work, it's to tune into Paris Hilton, K-Fed and Hillary's love life. Oh my. Genetically speaking (as Al Gore points out in his new book), we're fused to pay attention to quick-paced, meaningless stories - not important news that has more than one or two angles. So the Greater Boston media is skipping the race.

Obviously, this trend is bad for the country - and the Fifth Congressional District in particular. So, how do we combat this nonsense? The written media is mainly unhelpful. Some of the local papers have done a decent job, but generally the best coverage has come from the Bay State blogosphere - which maybe 1% of 5th Congressional District voters read to begin with. Bloggers and readers alike have questioned how to get relevant themes from blogs into the public sphere. Without the time and resources to create any new, sweeping tool to help in that quest, the best thing we can do is talk about the race. We must keep bringing it up to our friends, neighbors and (most importantly) people we know in the Fifth until they realize that this race is, in fact, even more interesting than Lindsay Lohan's rehab rest and potential sapphic tendencies.

So, people who care, keep on trucking. Write a Letter to the Editor. Go door to door. Talk to your co-workers. Complain to your local news desk. I don't have any better advice. Do what you can do to be, as many great people have said before me, the change we want. Issues like single-payer health care are of paramount importance to the nation. It's time people know about the candidates who either support or don't support what will impact our lives every day for the better. It's the only way this Democratic system works, especially in the Fifth Congressional District.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ryan, I agree with your lament, which may be suprising, because I support Niki Tsongas. But the fact that the Boston Globe has done just one serious article on the race, failed to cover the debates, or followed the candidates regularly is a disgrace - and a scary one at that. I grew up reading the NY Times. I remember I could read it for 15 minutes or hours.

I live in the Fifth District and in Lowell. The Lowell Sun has some of the better coverage, but still minimal and frequently biased. The Lawrence Eagle Tribune didn't even cover the announcements!

I am ashamed of what the media has become. Do a search for a serious issue vs. a search for Paris Hilton - wow.

Unfortunately, I think it will only get worse and people will become even less informed. Tom Jefferson would be rolling in his grave in Monticello.

Keep up the coverage!

Grizzled Veteran

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