Monday, November 03, 2008


Why is there no “truth in advertising” law that regulates information elected office or referendums? It seems like anything goes. A journalist friend of mine says there isn’t one for politics and he’s not sure there should be because there is too much gray area. I see his point.

But that leaves voters particularly defenseless at a time when the local news media is struggling through some significant business challenges and just doesn’t have the time or resources to commit to investigative reporting. Much of it now seems like a newsletter. People can say anything and there doesn’t even seem to be a follow-up question.

The Herald Sun and Independent both wrote very thoughtful editorials endorsing the prepared meals tax last week. On Sunday, the Herald Sun wrote an excellent recap of the pro and con positions on the issue. Those are great for thorough readers.

But that isn’t how people take in news now. They are skimmers…more worrisome, many get their news just form headlines and photos. That Herald Sun article for example proclaimed in Dewey Beats Truman size type that people are split over the tax…true if you call nearly 29 groups supporting and two against. Then it features a huge picture of the people objecting…only problem is he doesn’t live or work in Durham and he’s using Raleigh channeled funds to tell Durham voters what to do…and his information is deliberately misleading.

But you think anyone would grasp that from the article? The Raleigh paper is worse, often neglecting to mention that Raleigh has had the same tax for 15 years…and also levied it during a recession but without even a referendum…where was this Raleigh group opposing Durham’s tax then? Truth…actually helping it get passed.

On national issues we have NPR which has several shows that unwrap the campaign rhetoric and negative ads. They even do a postmortem on comments made in debates. And when one VP candidate was repeating something not in context…they began inserting a clarification anytime it was reported…guess what…the candidate dropped that crap.

For the most part though, 24-hour news shows on TV are part of the problem…endlessly repeating the same thing…parroting one another and at the same time sucking the life out of other news media.

We also have Saturday Night Live and the Jon Steward show attempting with humor to unveil truth…but believe me, where I come from, a lot of people wouldn’t get the point.

I don’t have an answer, but all I know is that elections are too important to leave voters unprotected from untruths…innuendos…out of contents claims…

And I just don’t see why the FTC can’t put the same standard to political advertising and protect voters, the way it protects consumers from business advertising.

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