Riff Raff: What kind of monsters are we?

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 1,197 views 

A new Pew Research Center survey suggests that 68% of us have “news fatigue.” It’s 77% with Republicans and 61% with Democrats. The survey results are great news for Republicans, not so much for the republic. Who do you have to bribe to get some of that medical marijuana? Oh, wait …

• Speaking of news fatigue, there’s the Arkansas Press Association. The APA, which unsuccessfully lobbied the Arkansas Department of Education to retain journalism as a required course, continues its head-in-the-sand policy with respect to today’s world of journalism. Essentially, a media company must own a press to be a full member of the APA. For those born after the mid- to late-1990s, a “press” is something that prints a newspaper. A newspaper was once the only way to get in-depth national, state and local news. One watched the local TV news for weather, robberies, arrests and house fires.

APA officials will argue owning a press is not a requirement, but not having a press makes it difficult to meet their primary full membership rule: “Newspaper publishing must be the principal enterprise of the company.” In other words, a media company can be a full member if their operations are stuck in November 2006 – the date of the latest APA bylaws update. That’s about seven months before the first iPhone was unveiled. It’s about 11 months before Microsoft took an almost 2% ownership in the upstart company, Facebook; and almost six years before Facebook went public. It was about a year after Google began to explode.

The APA bylaws also note newspaper-publishing eligible means a company “must maintain at least a 40% news to 60% non-news ratio average for each calendar year.” How does one measure the aforementioned percentages on digital formats?

If you are in any way a modern media outlet with a website, video platform, podcast, television show, radio show AND maybe a newspaper, it’s not likely the majority of your revenue or net income will come from said “principal enterprise.” It’s also not likely a majority of your expense budget will be devoted to newspapering.

The APA bylaws are a collection of pre-Internet anachronisms; perfect if for a group known as the Arkansas Newspaper Association. So when you lobby state officials about the “importance of journalism education in Arkansas,” please know some will doubt your leadership on this issue when your association’s governance structure is either unwilling or unable to recognize how technology has diversified the news landscape.

• One could remain somewhat calm, cool and contained – as they say – about tariffs. Or election meddling by Russians. And with alleged collusion with Russians. Or even alienating allies. Also calm with potential federal election law violations to keep mistresses quiet. More difficult, but even so in ambiguity in addressing violence incited by white nationalists.

But am fresh out of calm and cool. Can’t deal with what we – you and I, as a nation – are doing to these infants, toddlers, and other innocent children who, most likely in the midst of leaving a horrible hometown existence, now find their little world absent a parent – the only anchor in their fragile, upside-down world.

What kind of monsters are we?

And don’t with the Fox News talking points about we’re just following the law. Or that the parents are to blame for trying to cross the border illegally. Or that kids were also separated during the Barack Obama administration. It’s not the law if they are seeking asylum. At most it’s a misdemeanor if they attempt to illegally enter, and last I checked we’re not separating children from parents who get speeding tickets.

While there are a small number of human trafficking incidents, most of these mothers and fathers are fleeing horrific living conditions courtesy of the numerous deadly realities to basic existence borne of lawlessness. They didn’t leave their home with nothing just to see Disneyland. And yes, the Obama administration to a much lesser extent, we have learned, separated families. It wasn’t right then, and it’s not now.

And don’t use your religion to justify separation of families. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is yet another historic and sad example in which people do horrible things to other people using the boundless allowances of scripture interpreted by “holy men” of wholly unscrupulous intent. Some of you are angry because your religion is used to justify this inhumane treatment, while others are angry that religion is still around to be an enabler.

One more thing. This is a marker for Arkansas’ Congressional delegation.

President Trump’s attempt to barter his inhumane treatment of children for border wall funding or DACA revisions or whatever else should be a non-starter for anyone with a conscience. Quit traumatizing children, and then we’ll talk. If U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, and U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, fail to unequivocally call out the Trump Administration for this treatment of children, then it becomes certain politics are more important than character.

If our delegation fails to rebuff Trump on this immoral action before discussing other border politics, then we will know that our delegation is without statesmen; that compassion and empathy are secondary to campaign cash and elections.

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