Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November 9: Trying To Figure Things Out

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend "The Truth About Florida: What We Really Should Know About Planning, Land Use and the Environment," presented by Florida Atlantic University's School of Urban & Regional Planning and the Scripps Howard Institute On the Environment.

It was a room full of intelligent people - municipal and state planners, teachers, students and a few journalists. The planners and teachers communicated the reality of what Florida faces: Continued population growth. Continued tough decisions on planning issues. Continued problems with rising waters due to climate change and lousy land-use decisions in the past.

And the big one: Continued concerns about the decisions of elected officials in both parties.

The most telling quote of the day came from Zhong-Ren Peng, chair of the University of Florida's Department of Urban and Regional Planning. He said, "We are planning for the next 50 to 100 years, unlike a politician who's thinking about the next election."

And usually unlike media who think about the next story.

This week - in this reporter's estimation, probably the worst week for ethical journalism in some time - provided some more things to think about.

Our job got harder for two reasons.

One involves the Florida governor's race, where a bare plurarity of voters elected Rick Scott, whose Florida ties are very new and whose legal past and future are unclear - despite the endorsements by Florida newspaper editorial boards of Alex Sink, a candidate with longer state ties and much stronger ethics.

Another reason involves MSNBC's slipshod handling of Keith Olbermann, first suspending him for donating to political candidates, then letting him off the hook when his supporters complained.

At a time when doing the right (that's "correct" right, not political right) thing is imperative, it seems fewer people are. Worse, it seems to matter less to many people.

Certainly it matters less to media companies who have laid off thousands of hard-working journalists with integrity while paying millions to egotistical blowhards whose partisan voices are as loud as their intelligence level and sense of honor and dignity are low.

That means those of us who believe in ethical journalism and commentary have to work a lot harder at it, and get a lot better at it.

There's a reason we respect Edward R. Murrow and Woodward & Bernstein, and the many journalists who covered the civil rights movement. At the toughest times, they stood their ground for what the press is supposed to do, not for what's fashionable or profitable or favored by the majority.

I'm going to spend the next few weeks trying to figure out how to do so with this blog, and probably incorporate some of the "newer" new media - Twitter, for one - in that effort. So I'll be in and out until January, posting on major topics when necessary.

And always trying to do so with integrity, and without fear or favor to anyone or anything, except the truth. That's what I owe you. That's what everyone deserves.

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