It takes time and concentration to cover The Red Scam

December 2, 2014

Dear Zenith News:

I want to thank you, somewhat belatedly, for your excellent article entitled “Devil in the Details” [August 19, 2014]. Once again, your paper showed much more journalistic moxie than all the mainstream media outlets in Duluth. Independent School District 709, particularly the Red Plan, is difficult terrain to cover. Coverage from the mainstream has been substandard, to put it mildly.

I’ve written two books about the Red Plan. One is fictional; the other is a non-fictional memoir. In the memoir, which I’m still adding chapters to, I wrote: “The average age of the people sent into the boardroom of ISD 709 by television stations appeared to be about twenty-four. Stations assigned a different person nearly every month, if they sent anyone at all. These cub reporters had almost no idea what was going on, very little context to comprehend a capital project that, with bond interest, would reach a price tag of nearly half a billion dollars. I used to watch these youngsters gather around the district’s CFO after the meetings, looking for quotes from his talking points and spin. They reminded me of helpless baby birds with their beaks open, waiting to be fed.”

A while back, I exchanged some banter with a television station employee in the City Council chamber. I said, “The problem with you guys is that you kept trying to fit the massive Red Scam into ten-second sound bytes.” His response: “Ten seconds? You were lucky to get three or four, at best six!”

“News is what’s hidden; everything else is publicity,” Bill Moyers recently said in a Progressive Magazine interview. Once again, the Zenith proved itself to be a feisty little watchdog, probing under the surface and asking real questions. Your paper is filling a gap in news coverage, and I hope the people of Duluth continue to read and support you. If we are going to cope effectively with the challenges of the future, we cannot let ourselves be witless consumers of saccharine pap fed to us in three, four—or at best, six—second sound bytes.

Loren Martell

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