e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


the big three killed my baby

Local news media here in Detroit have begun to rally with much enthusiasm around the auto industry. But is the job of the media to rally around anything?

Proponents and opponents of particular causes seem to think the press should offer its "support" or "opposition" for those causes. The result is that pundits make odd statements like "The media doesn't support the president." Huh?

I don't kid myself into believing that some idealized version of objectivity can be attained. The media always filters, emphasizes and de-emphasizes, foregrounds and backgrounds, includes and excludes. But that doesn't negate the basic responsibilty of the press: report and inform. Even in a time of war, the press needs to report on what's going on, thereby keeping us informed.

Back to the auto industry. In both op-ed pages and front-page news articles, the local press has not created spaces to question the current moment and consider the complexities and implications of whether the federal government should loan the auto industry $25 billion. It's simply taken for granted that Detroit ought to get these loans.

Those who oppose--or even question--the loans are showing "vitriol" for car companies. They "hate the industry" and "rely on half-truths and lies."

Look, for various reasons I hope that congress acts quickly and makes these loans. Otherwise, the state where I live will likely slip into a massive recession. Otherwise, taxpayers will likely have to pay even more to contend with the unemployment and crime which will result. Let me be clear: I'm in favor of the loans.

But I'm also in favor of reasoned debate. I want to hear multiple points-of-view. I don't think the debate benefits from dismissing opponents of the loan as hateful or uninformed. How do you know that opposition to the loans is necessarily an expression of vitriol? How do you know opposition necessarily results from being misinformed?

I actually think it's better for the auto industry and for workers to make room for multiple perspectives. Let's talk about the business practices that led to the current situation. Let's talk about the American auto industry's lack of committment to hybrids and opposition to environmental regulation. Too many in the local media think the current moment is a moment where we should shut up and "support" the industry. I'm pro-union and pro-Michigan. I'm also pro-information. Don't try to silence the various points-of-view that are floating around out there.

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