Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Reporting Live from Munchkin Land

by Kyle Michaelis
Three days later...the Omaha World-Herald again mentioned Nebraska's being declared 2004's "Stagnation National Champion," this time in an editorial. Again, though, they dismiss and discredit the news rather than reporting it.

Here's more of the same white-washing by the World-Herald, this time verging on the poetic:
An early-summer automobile trip across the Cornhusker State gives an impression different from realities depicted by the midterm census - and in a recent bleak report on the state's economic growth.

Nebraska looks good right now. Very good indeed. Spring rains have replenished drought-lowered rivers and lakes. Golden waves of wheat in the Panhandle await the combines. Sleek yearlings, Angus and Hereford and exotic mixes, graze beside sparkling Sand Hills lakes. Bales and rolls of hay, and farther east the cornfields and feedlots, stand in indisputable testimony to the importance of agriculture in this state, now and in the future.

The towns are decked out in summer finery. Green lawns and floral plantings do a lot to suggest prosperity and fun. Add the results of spring painting and residential touch-ups, and the banners and posters advertising community rodeos and county fairs, and you have an overall picture of a place where it's summertime and the livin' is easy.

It is easy to travel through the emerald countryside at a time like this and believe that the recent health of the state's revenue picture reflects a solid turnabout. People across the state are upbeat about their lives and prospects. Roads are being upgraded. New bridges are materializing over the Loup and Platte Rivers.

But last week came a midterm census estimate showing that Nebraska has sustained population declines in the majority of its 93 counties since 2000 and we now have reached the point where more than half of all Nebraskans - and, in due time, presumably, half the Legislature - reside in Douglas, Sarpy or Lancaster County.

And several days before that, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that Nebraska's economic output grew less than 1 percent last year, making this the slowest-growing of all the states, economically speaking.

One conclusion is that appearances can be deceiving. Another is that the statistics and their analysis are wrong. But how about a third way of understanding all this: The positive and the negative can comfortably coexist. And in Nebraska in 2005, they do coexist.

Weighed against disturbing population shifts and slow economic growth:

• The population has reached a new milestone - 1.75 million.

• Recent surges in tax revenues suggest that a general economic upturn may have accelerated after the 2004 results were in.

• Sources from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority attest that tourism and entertainment have been exceptionally active in recent months.

Somewhere there is balance enough to prevent a beautiful summer season from being ruined by downbeat statistics.

I neither expect nor desire doom and gloom from the local newspaper, but actual reporting isn't asking too much either. The above editorial makes the World-Herald sound like Dorothy prancing happily around Munchkin Land, as if hard economic data were the work of the Wicked Witch trying to spoil all the fun. This isn't some fairy tale, though, bad news about the Nebraska economy can't be wished away by clicking the heels of your ruby red slippers...even in this reddest of red states.

The way they're depicting Nebraska here, you'd think there wasn't one hungry person in the entire state - let alone potholes or unpaid medical bills. How high up must they be floating in the clouds to really believe that? The only things they forgot to mention are that Nebraska's football team is still #1 throughout the land and J.J. Exon has risen from the grave.

This isn't writing with one eye closed - this is a dispatch from a world that does not exist. The World-Herald should leave the poetry to Ted Kooser and start reporting from reality. That doesn't mean never-ending pessimism, but it certainly doesn't mean the world is all cupcakes and unicorns like this editorial suggests.

The World-Herald is like a confused Chicken Little declaring, "the sky isn't falling, we're just rising up into the heavens." Wishing don't make it so, though. How many anguished cries must we deafen ourselves to before we even admit that people are suffering? Each of these statistics they dismiss represents hundreds of families in crisis - families for whom the livin' is NOT easy and whose prospects most definitely do NOT leave them upbeat.

Look around you. Ask a recent college graduate. That grass sure is green (for now), but all is not as well as our self-appointed handlers in the press would have us believe. Why, then, would they have us believe a lie? Who does it serve? That, dear friends, IS the question.

So, there is your ticket up the rabbit hole, Nebraska. Welcome to the reality-based community.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While we're on the ever-present subject of the World-Herald's suckyness, I just have to grouse about the way they keep neutering my Public Pulse letters, while letting many a ranting right-wing nutjob have his say. Of course, it's possible that they are being toned down too, but that doesn't seem too likely when the editors happily print things like this: "The liberals in this country are doing far more damage to America than are the terrorists"(Wes Hager, July 6) Letters longer than mine appear all the time, so I have to assume my work was edited for content, not length.

Here's what I wrote:

White House advisor Karl Rove, in a speech on June 22nd, said that "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." According to Cal Thomas' June 29th column, the outrage expressed by Democrats toward this speech was out of line. "Rove didn't mention Democrats," Thomas wrote.

Rove cited two prominent Democrats, Senate minority whip Richard Durbin and DNC chairman Howard Dean, as prime examples of terrorist-appeasing liberals. Regarding his feeling of a need for military action after 9/11, Rove said this: "MoveOn.Org, Michael Moore and Howard Dean may not have agreed with this, but the American people did." Both Durbin and Dean supported the invasion of Afghanistan, as did most Democrats, even liberals like myself. Rove was not only talking about Democrats, he was lying about them.

Either Mr. Thomas did not read Rove's full speech, or he is also a liar. My guess would be the latter. Deception, not persuasion, is the hallmark of the right wing editorialist. One has to wonder how many lies right wingers like Thomas can stack up before their legions of trusting "dittoheads" take note.

And here's what they printed:

White House adviser Karl Rove, in a speech on June 22, said, "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

But according to columnist Cal Thomas on the June 29 More Commentary page, the outrage expressed by Democrats was out of line.

Rove didn't mention Democrats, Thomas wrote. But Rove cited two prominent Democrats, Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, as prime examples of terrorist-appeasing liberals.

Regarding the need to brandish steel after 9/11, Rove said this: "MoveOn.org, Michael Moore and Howard Dean may not have agreed with this, but the American people did."

Both Durbin and Dean supported the invasion of Afghanistan, as did most Democrats, even liberals like myself. Apparently Mr. Thomas did not read Mr. Rove's entire remarks.


So it's over the top to call someone who is obviously lying a liar, while comments like this...
"One might think that radical terrorists are the only threat to our nation. But our American way of life, our form of government and our freedoms are under siege from political terrorists in our own society and government...We see their names in the headlines everyday - familiar names like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and the maniacal Howard Dean."(David Getzscgman, July 1)
...are perfectly OK?


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