Sunday, March 8, 2015

Progress & Punditry …

It’s been a while since I have put pen to paper or digit to keyboard if you will. It has certainly not been for lack of substance to write about, the early pace of this council term has in fact been quite brisk. Workloads are certainly substantial and our council group is going through the natural process of getting to know each other and how we each work as budget season provides us our first test of collective will. I am happy to report that the budgeting process is going very well. Council is working collaboratively together on common priorities to establish spending levels and this will be further reviewed at our strategic planning session set for mid-March. A common goal was agreed upon to keep any annual taxation lift in line with inflation and so far this seems imminently doable, although final figures are still a few months out.  Council decisions are being released after each meeting in a summarized format via Facebook and the City’s website which seems to be quite popular with the public and the pundits alike.

On that note, a few words about punditry and context. For the most part we have a typical media presence in our little valley with all distribution channels represented; TV, radio, online journals and of course print. We are quite lucky to still have a daily paper in our area I might add, as many other communities our size does not. Each of these media outlets works with different deadlines, formats and goals. The prime objective for all of them would have to be to accurately report the news as they see it and to also report it in a timely fashion. This is where things can get a bit tricky. The constant battle for column inches, air time and the sheer volume of information available to report necessitates that the omission of information must happen in order to make deadlines and get the “scoop” published and into the hands of the people. This is no small feat and I have nothing but admiration for those who make up the essential function of the fifth estate. They are the check and the balance against the misuse of power. The power to question - is ultimately yours, but stewarded and cared for by the press. It informs the process and enables our democracy. I would argue that today we have a reasonably balanced and respectful core of media in our region. The editorial page however is a different thing.
 To my larger point. The editorial pages as we all know exist for the expression of public opinion. There is no worse a feeling as a citizen than to have your well thought out and carefully worded masterpiece edited down to a mere shadow of its former heft. This also must happen due to space constraints. The one thing however that the editorial section does provide  -is an opportunity to respond. What matters most is that the opportunity to rebut always remains. Albeit a few days after the fact. An alternate viewpoint or some corrected information still matters. The challenge with this though is that sometimes the damage is done by the time the counter-point makes it to the reader. This is why I prefer blogging; I am my own writer, editor and publisher. Column inches are digital. I can make more, as long as you care to take the time to read them, hence my typical 3 paragraph format. Present edition notwithstanding.

It is important to remember this; you will never have ALL of the information you wish to have, or perfect circumstances under which to form your opinion.Circumstances change rapidly and information moves almost instantly in a digital world. So the one final thought I wish to leave you with is this. Facts matter... a lot. Recognize opinion for what it is, someone else’s understanding of the version of the facts available to them at the time and informed by their own beliefs and attitudes. 
The late 4 term Senator from New York, Patrick Moynihan (D) described this idea quite well when he said,"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts". And of course we all know what Mark Twain had to say about them, -
"Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable".
 
Kevin Jolly
Councillor