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Archive for October 27th, 2011

Snapshot of my former life

I just now caught up with Scott Yost’s Rhino column celebrating his nine years as Guilford County beat reporter.

As Scott’s fellow reporter at the now-defunct Triad Business News, I noted with interest his description of our former employer:

I’ve been about 30 times happier at The Rhino than I ever was at that sad place that, to this day, reminds me of some sort of twisted combination of the work place in Office Space and the office Tom Hanks works in at the start of Joe Versus the Volcano.

OK, it wasn’t the New York Times, and Scott was certainly witness to a fair amount of my frustration over various working conditions, which —considering today’s state of the economy—seems somewhat immature and petty. What can I say—- I wasn’t quite as thankful just to have a job in those days.

Bottom line, however, is Triad Business News was an important stepping stone to where I am today. On that note, a word of gratitude is in order for the man who hired me— Tom Russell, then editor of TBN and frequent target of frustration.

I would also be remiss not to send a shout-out to JLF —-president John Hood, CJ publisher Jon Ham, former CJ editor Richard Wagner and current editor Rick Henderson —- for keeping me gainfully employed. And I don’t have to wear a tie, and I don’t have to be in my cubicle.

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Political advocacy on public access television

CJ’s Donna Martinez reports on the City of Durham’s public affairs TV show advocating for Durham County’s proposed half-cent sales tax increase, which would fund public transportation initiatives including —- you guessed it — a light rail system.

A Durham resident has filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections over an installment of City Life, which cites traffic congestion, high gas prices, and the growing population before introducing guests advocating transportation projects that would benefit from the sales tax increase. CJ reports no opposing points of view were presented, which might state that a light rail system would be a money pit that would do little to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.

The N&R’s Doug Clark draws a parallel between the situation in Durham the one here in Guilford County, where a member of a political action committee showed a video advocating for conservative candidates in the upcoming City Council election— including incumbent council members and Mayor Bill Knight —- during the public speaking portion of last Thursday’s county commissioners’ meeting.

The issue —as it is in Durham —is whether or not public access television should broadcast political endorsements. Clark draws the distinction between a citizen speaking at a public meeting and government advocacy:

Here in Guilford, it wasn’t the government but an individual representing a political action committee, Conservatives for Guilford County, who triggered similar concerns.

…..After checking on legalities, the city of Greensboro, which operates the public-access Channel 13 system, decided it was OK to rebroadcast the segment.

Now both Durham and Greensboro take the position that it isn’t illegal to air political advocacy programming on public-access TV.

Whether it’s good policy is another question. And it most definitely is not good policy.

I also understand —as Clark pointed out in an earlier post— that conservatives —myself included —would howl if a video advocating for liberal candidates like Robbie Perkins and Yvonne Johnson were shown during a public meeting.

But there’s still a huge difference between an individual speaking at a public meeting and government-orchestrated advocacy. Commissioners had no control over what a speaker says during the public comment period. And some commissioners wondered what the difference is between showing a video and simply speaking the words.

The other point is candidates for City Council routinely speak during council meetings. They don’t identify themselves as candidates or urge the public to vote for them; yet when they speak about a particular issue, they’re letting citizens know how they would vote on that particular issue should it come before council.

With all this in mind, I have to come down on the side of a citizen exercising his right to free speech.

Below is the aforementioned video, first posted over at Guarino’s.

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Edwards: ‘Washed-up capitalist’

John Edwards appeared in federal court here in Greensboro yesterday, seeking dismissal of charges that he violated campaign finance law in his effort to conceal his extramarital affair.

The N&R reports Edwards’ court appearance “drew few spectators to the daylong proceedings focused on technicalities of campaign-finance law.” However, Edwards did encounter some Occupation Greensboro protesters as he was leaving the courthouse:

Clad in a dark suit and red tie, former U.S. Sen. Edwards declined to comment after the hearing. But as he left the courthouse later, he attracted notice from a group of Occupy Greensboro protesters marching across the street. One man with a bullhorn called the former candidate, who made his fortune as a personal injury lawyer, a “washed-up capitalist.”

“I’m not a washed-up anything,” Edwards said.

Whether or not Edwards is a washed-up capitalist is an issue for debate, as is whether or not he is a washed-up anything.

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