The other day I opened up the Yahoo front page only to find this news headline...
Space Shuttle Screeching Toward Earth
Holy Hard Hat, Batman! Believing that my family, and possibly Mother Earth herself could be in imminent danger, I clicked on the headline to read the rest of the article...
...only to learn that all was well. The Shuttle had apparently screeched toward earth as part of an orderly, controlled landing, and put down with the same ease as your basic 747. And so, as it turned out, no jagged burning space shrapnel was screeching it's way through the atmosphere on it's way to Bridgewater after all.
But the key point here is that the headline made me look.
I’ve been involved in the casino issue for over a year now, and along the way have seen more than my share of “The Sky is Falling” headlines. They warn of the imminent appearance of that glass casino tower rising out of the Middleboro forest, of sovereign nations on the move, and of the gambling industry's dire and inevitable encroachment into our lives, as if it were some sort of unstoppable flesh eating bacteria.
But those flesh eating bacteria stories – they make you look, don’t they? And making you look, getting you to change the channel or buy a newspaper or click on a sponsored link, is starting to seem more important these days than the truth. Which is why, I’m pretty sure, that casino inevitability bushwah always seems to snag the headline and at least the first paragraph.
But it didn't always seem that way. Back when I was a kid, I was always writing something. And so one day, my mom suggested that I become a reporter when I grew up. And I remember thinking about that, turning the possibility over in my head for about a week. To me, reporters were Woodwards and Bernsteins. They asked the hard questions and did the real research. They pulled the shining scepter of truth from layers of muck and deception. And their words – their words could collapse a corrupt empire, pave the way for change and even save lives.
And me? I just liked to make people laugh. Hard questions seemed... well... hard. And so, suffice it to say Gladys did not pursue a career in journalism.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and all those casino Chicken Little stories compelled me to begin writing this blog (which, yes, I do still sometimes use to make people laugh.)
But I mean, someone had to start telling the truth about casinos. And that task appears to be falling on the shoulders of bloggers - which is why, more and more, people searching for the whole story are wandering over to the blogs for their daily dose of reality. (Even if it sometimes does include a Yorkie with a cell phone.)
And yet, despite my amateur status with the muck and the hard questions, I've still faced pressure, at times, from a few elected officials who'd like me to change my blogging ways. A politically savvy friend I made in the course of this battle once told me that politicians often try to control the media for their own purposes. Which totally ticked me off.
So I wondered… does it tick off the traditional media that our Governor and the Tribe’s investors and spokespeople are capitalizing on their quest for sensational headlines to sell casinos to the people of the Commonwealth?
Because it should.
Yesterday I’m out having dinner with my Dad when he tells me he’s heard the casino is coming. He even provides a date. Heard it on the news, he says.
I explain that it’s not and why. But still he insists – it was on the news….
It's not the truth, I continue to explain to Dad. It's just more of ‘the sky is falling.’
I know I’m not alone in my disappointment at the coverage this issue has received. From the failure of much of the media to report on Article 3, to the perpetuation of the inevitabilty myth, to the wholesale under-reporting about what's involved in taking land-into-trust, to the continued insistence that the Tribe and the Governor are sitting down to sign a compact at any moment.
Not unlike reading that the space shuttle is screeching toward the Earth, this subject is very stressful for many of us - and one hyped-up headline after another is the last thing we need. There are many people whose lives will likely be personally impacted by a casino due to it's proximity to their home or business. And some of these people have gratefully expressed their relief when learning, from one of our blogs, that the sky isn't actually falling, after the media has once again reported that it is.
Because let's face it, most people still think they're getting the whole truth with their news. And so, I really wish the traditional media would not only look deeper at this issue, but also actually report on it. Yeah, I realize that telling people that the sky isn't falling may not sound very exciting. But that’s where the real story is.
For instance, why is our Governor continuing to push casinos and so seemingly willing to sacrifice his own State's sovereignty when he doesn’t have to - despite raising the almost universal ire of his supporters? And why are some people lying to the public about the inevitability of legalized gambling in Massachusetts, or that a casino can be build on any Federally recognized land - when there is ample proof that it isn't? What's motivating this deception? And why was the Intergovernmental Agreement with the Tribe rushed so quickly? And what's up with that Section 22 B, anyway? And why weren't educational forums about potential casino impacts held for Middleboro residents? And while we're at it, why did the Middleboro Board of Selectmen spend more time considering dog complaints than a researching whether a casino was really a done deal (like some of us.) Those things and about a million more little things that don’t add up.
Look, I don't think anyone expects Woodward or Bernstein anymore... but c'mon, no one deserves Chicken Little, either.