As is common knowledge, both Lamar and Daniel also work for the City of Alexandria, in addition to writing for this blog and working on their other projects. Well, I don’t. Although I work hard as an individual to support development within our community, I have no direct ties the city, nor do I have any predisposed loyalties. I do, however, feel a responsibility to point out what I feel is a destructive abuse of the journalistic process by The Town Talk that may have, in the past, cost our community development opportunities, often politicizes governmental processes, and continues to detract from the work being done by developers and government officials alike.
For being an organization that generally refuses to use any sort of investigative journalism when covering a story that might run the slightest risk of upsetting their advertisers or certain local religious groups, The Town Talk has suddenly whole-heartedly adopted the public records request. This has mostly been in issues involving the Alexandria Mayor and City Council. Of course, rarely has anything come of these requests. Usually the request involves some simple procedural aspect of government. And, of course, as in their recent set of articles culminating with todays story here, The Town Talk generally uses its pages to run several articles talking about how there should be a records request, how they plan to file a records request, how they have filed a records request, an additional story on what a records request is, a story on how the target of their ‘investigation’ has thus far refused their request, and finally an article about some government official giving in to their triumphant records request — usually with no story to actually be reported.
This works great for The Town Talk — they get 4 to 5 days of fill-articles out of usually nothing. But that’s generally where it stops working for Cenla. I personally find it rather convenient that so many of The Town Talk‘s exploits in the arena seem to center around Mayor Jacques Roy, whom, if you will remember, was basically the progenitor of local governmental transparency. He actually ran his campaign based on this, on getting people involved, on developing the city with the city in mind, of moving us away from a long tradition of good ole boy politics and backroom deals.
The fact is, The Town Talk has yet to report much of value as the result of these great newspaper epics. What they have done, however, is run the risk of derailing important development projects. One of the worst things that can happen with any project, whether it be a personal effort, a government plan, or the work of private business is for word to get out too soon — for people to see an unfinished plan or to be told of something that is undecided or hasn’t gotten all of the kinks worked out yet.
Letting the cat out of the bag can sometimes lead to interested parties pulling out, or concerned citizens making a stink because they’ve been given false or incomplete information. And for businesses this can lead to attacks from competitors, unfair speculation from those wishing to make an extra buck, and any number of other scenarios.
Is that to say the local newspaper should not report on the goings on of government? Hardly — we want them involved. But when that reporting is detrimental to the development of a struggling economy it goes quickly from journalistic integrity to journalistic speculation — to making an advertising buck while costing out area jobs and opportunity — usually opportunities that don’t come this way very often or very easily.
The recent rant about Mayor Roy’s SPARC presentation calling for joint development and planning efforts between Alexandria and Pineville is one such situation where The Town Talk is creating a problem where there is none. In fact, this is one area in which any efforts to merge the planning of the two cities is a good thing. Any move, no matter how small or trivial to move us toward some semblance of metropolitan government can only help the entire region. We are the only metro area in the state that does not benefit from the existence of a common shared planning and marketing division, of the shared resources and cost-cutting of unified services. Not to mention that, the presentation — even in its working ‘idea’ form was clearly and openly shared with the public at a meeting which the Town Talk attended and reported on.
They were allowed to see a preliminary plan, so were the other attendees. They were able to discuss it and be let in on this exciting development opportunity. However instead of reporting on the possibilities such cooperative efforts hold for Cenla, or by reporting on the successes of other metro area in the state, The Town Talk chose to make this non-issue their issue of the week.
Now, before it’s even off the rough-draft phase, this promising idea of combining the skills, efforts, and attributes of our various municipalities to support a planned regional development effort is in jeopardy. There are already black marks in the public eye against a plan that hasn’t even been fully born yet, and suspicion is being cast on city leaders on both sides of the river with no basis whatsoever.
Thanks Town Talk.