Monday, June 6, 2011

Thanks, Mayor Plusquellic!

And Warner Mendenhall. And Paul Hlynsky. And Mike Williams. And Kelley Williams-Bolar. And LeBron James.

We've been blessed here at the Rubber City radio ranch to have forward-thinking and community focused leadership that not only allows but encourages us to practice broadcast "old school" news coverage. We still think the basics, such as issues before city and county councils or school boards. This type of news matters, even when it isn't sexy.

We see the fruit of our labors annually when journalism groups -- such as Ohio's Associated Press Broadcasters -- recognize those in our profession. This past weekend, the news department of, WAKR-AM, WONE-FM and WQMX-FM were honored with awards (Marcy Pappafava and Joe Jastrzemski, at left) for Outstanding News and Sports Operations, Best Continuing Coverage (for following the City Hall-FOP year-long drama in 2010) and Best Reporter and Anchor kudos to Joe Jastrzemski.

These awards reflect a lengthy string of recognition for building a website -- and rebuilding a broadcast news outlet -- that will question authority, ask questions and work to present alternate views on public issues. It's what citizens should expect from the media, even during economic downturns and the tumult coming with the media transition seen when institutions (such as the press) are forced to respond more to the demands, or neglect, from their audience.

That said, we couldn't have done it without our readers and listeners. We couldn't have done it without the rich editorial content Akron seems to provide, either.

Whether it was the ongoing battle between City Hall and Akron's police union (2010), the recall fight between the Mayor Plusquellic and Change Akron Now critics (2009), or even going back to Tina Kaufmann's national-award winning investigative work on Akron's Hot Spots (2009) or coverage of the 2008 Elections, 2007 storms and flooding, even the 2003 Great Blackout, the news tapestry depended on many larger-than-life figures and events. Including larger-than-life egos and agendas.

Akron deserves vigorous debate on public issues; it's citizens deserve more than perfunctory coverage often provided by news organizations who don't call this place home. It deserves the next generation of talk show hosts, reporters, editors and news anchors who understand our audience isn't the person behind the podium but the person in front of the screen who reads, watches and listens to their world around them.

Last week, the Mayor took on bloggers who, as "total freaking idiots" post to the web "sitting in their underwear, in the mom's basement.". He was careful to note he wasn't painting that mental picture in our minds, just repeating what others have said. He was responding to critics when announcing new jobs for Akron. It was meant to be dismissive, but in point of fact it shows just how powerful the First Amendment can be.

Just as the Mayor is free to express his opinion using the bully pulpit of his public office, anyone -- sitting in their underwear or wearing a tie at their desk -- has the same right.

So thanks to Don, Warner, Paul, Mike, LeBron and the rest of the gang for award-winning times last year. Here's to Kelley and Edward -- Don, Mike and LeBron again this year, too -- for getting us off to such a good start in 2011. Thanks Governor John and Ohio Democrat boss Chris for keeping the wildfires burning in Columbus. Many thanks, President Barack and Speaker John, for keeping hope and debate alive in Washington.

At times it's soap opera, but it's always real. Your passion keeps our keyboards busy. The media would have a hard time staying relevant, topical and entertaining without you. I suspect you would have a hard time, too, without the stage set for the roles you play in the public drama.

Our uniquely American penchant to speak freely without fear of stormtroopers kicking down our doors couldn't have done it without you.

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