Monday, February 17, 2014

Delph/Marriage Discrimination Amendment Media Coverage Says A Lot About What's Wrong With The Media Today

I've been asked by a few people why I haven't commented on the battle State Sen. Mike Delph had with opponents of HJR-3 on Twitter and the media reaction by focusing on the fact that he has a gay brother who differs from him on the amendment for obvious reasons. I consider Mike a friend, even though I disagree with him sharply on HJR-3.

What really bothers me is the obsession with this issue to the exclusion of other issues making their way through the legislature that will directly impact the lives of people living in this state. HJR-3 is a bad idea, but it's already state law. It makes absolutely no legal difference whether this same-sex marriage ban is a part of the state's constitution. My guess is that future federal court decisions will prevent the enactment of any state constitutional amendment and likely lead to the striking of the state's current Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional before this issue makes it to voters in 2016. At one time, this was a grassroots debate on both sides of the issue. It's now been hijacked by high-paid lobbyists and consultants who care more about how much money they can make off of debating this issue than any substantive meaning the debate offers.

The fact is that the media in this state is doing a horrible job at discussing other more important issues at the legislature, including mass transit, more state intervention to erode legislative authority at the local level in favor of executive authority, public funding of another stadium, taxation issues, particularly as it relates to the state's businesses, relaxed environmental regulations to reward polluters, and other proposed laws, such as HB 1126, which pretty much guts a current law that allows employees who've been cheated out of their wages to recover those unpaid wages through a civil remedy that acts as a hammer to discourage employers from engaging in this practice in the first instance.

State House reporters have increasingly relied on social media like Twitter to provide extremely short-handed version of actions taking place at the state legislature. Gone are the days when the Indianapolis Star used to have full-page stories covering a variety of issues before the legislature. HJR-3 has seemingly consumed about 90% of the media coverage this session. Most of the reporting has added very little meaningful discussion of the issue other than to report its progress much the way a sports reporter would report on a sporting event, focusing too much on the personalities of key players and which side is doing a better job messaging their viewpoint to lawmakers.

Today, State House reporters are totally enthralled over a press conference that Sen. Delph has called this morning at 10:00 a.m. The weekend has been filled with idle speculation about what Delph's announcement will discuss. Some of have speculated that he's going to leave the Republican caucus over his disapproval with a leadership decision not to allow an amendment to be offered to add back the controversial second sentence stripped from HJR-3 by the House, a suggestion rejected by Delph. Others have suggested he intends to announce his plans to challenge President Pro Tempore David Long for his leadership position. Whatever it is, it's not as important as many of the other issues that will impact the lives of average Hoosiers far more directly than whatever this issue entails. Reporters are either too lazy to study and report on those issues, or they're just spectators at the Coliseum cheering for more blood. Either way, it's not a good reflection on the state of journalism today.

UPDATE: Apparently the purpose of Delph's press conference was to vent over frustration with the Senate Republican leadership's handling of HJR-3. In protest, he's casting a vote against HJR-3 unless the second sentence is restored. Happy President's Day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

200 tweets are designed to generate publicity, so it's awfully hard to fault media for taking the bait. Are there other issues that are in front of the legislature that ought to be discussed? Certainly. More than a few fall under the umbrella of the right's agenda of "gee, we can do whatever we want." For that matter, what on earth good does calling a press conference to discuss your individual vote accomplish?