Making the case for newspapers

by lestro

Today, the Seattle Times reaffirms exactly why newspapers are important and necessary with an in-depth, investigative report of the city’s response to the snowpacalypse.

West Seattle, home to the mayor and transportation chief Grace Crunican, received an inordinate amount of attention right before Christmas, records show. Ten employees spent a total of 76 hours over two days clearing sidewalks, landings and bus stops in West Seattle, with the largest crew dispatched to the Admiral district where Mayor Greg Nickels and Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis live.

No such emphasis was accorded other neighborhoods, although special attention was given to the private Lakeside School in Northeast Seattle, where a truck sprayed de-icer around the grounds, and a loop of streets in Laurelhurst that were plowed even though they’re not among the city’s list of priorities for snow cleaning, according to department records…

Transportation crews described confusion and delays in dispatching plows when the snow first began falling, making it harder to stay on top of the game. Meanwhile, the records show trucks hopscotching around the city, attending to special requests or remaining idle while the city announced it was plowing “aggressively” and clearing main routes that residents swore had yet to see a plow.

The story is fantastic and complete and a serious indictment of the wastes, excesses and abuses of government that only a newspaper can provide.  Reporters reviewed more than 2,000 documents in order to put together this piece. Let’s see a blogger or TV station pull that off.

In previous storms, plow drivers had discretion over how best to clear their assigned routes, said plow driver Chris Stuker. City drivers would traverse main routes in tandem, allowing main roads to be cleared and plows to clear feeder streets as they were able to, Stuker and three other drivers said.

But that system was replaced by top-down decision-making that resulted in trucks being pulled from major streets for special assignments and to help less-experienced drivers, most of them working in the south end of the city, according to two drivers who asked to remain anonymous out of a concern for their jobs.

“Nobody knew what was going on, and everyone was calling for help left and right,” said Stuker, who has been with the department for 10 years. He said he knew things were breaking down when, around Christmas, he barely could make it home to Beacon Hill after a 12-hour shift because the roads hadn’t been cleared.

One of – if not the – primary purposes of a newspaper is to keep the government in line, to provide checks on power and lay bare for the people exactly what their representatives are doing with their money.  Without independent checks from a free press, governments slide into secrecy and tyranny.

Or in this case, the government gets used as the personal snowplow fleet of those in power.   Communists and the Bush Administration do that sort of thing, not democracies.

Which is why only countries with a free press are truly free.

It is nice to see that in a week that saw the 15th-largest metropolitan area in the country become a one-newspaper town, that one newspaper is at least doing the type of work that make newspapers a vital link in our freedom.

Kudos to Susan Kelleher and the Seattle Times.

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Related Posts:

Newspapers are not dead yet, they have just forgotten how to be newspapers

Soldiers are not the only ones dying for your freedom

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2 Responses to Making the case for newspapers

  1. On the Money says:

    Agreed. If we end up with nothing but bloggers as “citizen journalists” there may be no cohesive and coherent platform on which to highlight such issues.

  2. carlae says:

    The unfortunate thing is Seattle also lost one if it’s newspapers this week. The Seattle PI is online only. I didn’t see any plow trucks outside my door the first day or so, but I actually didn’t mind.

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