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August 08, 2005 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-08-08

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, August 8, 2005

U l e l[ict 'rgttn ttil

tothedaily@michigandaily.com Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
STUDENTS AT THE Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN the majority of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
SINCE 1890 necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

Looking ahead
Following Kang's loss, students need cohesive
strategy to change city government

Bad news
News media should serve for public, not profits

T he narrow defeat of Eugene Kang
in the Ann Arbor City Council
Democratic primary last Tuesday
is disheartening for students who hoped
to finally have a representative in city
government. But the result was far from
decisive - Kang raised nearly five times
more money and came within just 95
votes of toppling the Council-backed
Stephen Rapundalo. It is clear that had
this election been held a month later,
after students returned to campus, Kang
would have won handily. The small
margin of his loss shows that having a
student City Council member is indeed
attainable and that Ann Arbor residents,
like students, are looking for change.
Although Kang's defeat is a disap-
pointment, student leaders and activists
should not be discouraged. Rather, they
should use his campaign and the close
result as a model to be replicated and
improved upon; they should be encour-
aged that, with no support from the
party establishment and in a ward whose
students are mostly dorm residents and
nearly all out of town for the summer, a
student candidate came within 10 per-
centage points of victory.
It has become increasingly apparent
that City Council, as presently struc-
tured, is not an ally to students. Last
summer, the council attempted to ban
couches from porches before students
could return and fight against it. Though
that measure failed, the same dirty tac-
tic was utilized again this year in pass-
ing the anti-student Oxbridge and North
Burns Park parking permit ordinance.
When a student-backed amendment
was proposed in council last Monday
by Kim Groome (D-1st Ward) to allot
more spaces to fraternities hurt by this
measure, it was not even seconded and
never saw a vote. If City Council cared
for the concerns of the 37,500 students
who inhabit Ann Arbor for eight months
each year, it would at least give them
the courtesy of voting down, rather than
simply plugging its ears and ignoring
their requests.
When students agitate for represen-
tation on City Council, their concerns
are often dismissed because they are,
seen as mere "transients" - visitors to
the city rather than residents. But as
Kang pointed out, although individu-
al students will come and go, student
issues remain constant. Students often
feel apathetic or that their voices are
ignored, but it is important for them to
realize that Ann Arbor is their city as
much as anyone else's.
The election results suggest that dis-
connect between City Council and its
constituents is not felt only by students.
Despite his lack of party support and
almost non-existent fundraising, Eric
Lipson lost to incumbent Marcia Hig-

gins (D-4th Ward) by an even narrower
margin than Kang in the Fourth Ward
primary. These close elections suggest
that there are many Democrats in Ann
Arbor who don't identify with the Demo-
cratic establishment in the city. The local
Democratic Party has recently support-
ed former Republicans like Higgins and
Rapundalo over more progressive can-
didates. Liberal residents who are disil-
lusioned with the centrist direction the
party is taking may have provided much
of the support for Kang and Lipson, and
they may share many of the same goals
as students who seek to change the way
City Council is run.
Kang demonstrated that, even with all
the institutional barriers in the city gov-
ernment, it is not outside the realm of
possibility for a student to win a sum-
mer primary; now, the conversation
among students interested in changing
city government should shift to develop-
ing a strategy to make it happen in the
future. A good place to start would be
establishing a strong network of student
neighborhood groups, which could reg-
ister more students to vote on campus,
inform them about the Council members
in their own wards and educate them
about the importance of voting absentee
for summer primaries. In addition, voter
registration drives like Voice Your Vote
should be strengthened, with a renewed
focus on encouraging students to regis-
ter to vote in Ann Arbor rather than in
their hometowns.
Beyond that, there are several possible
options to explore for removing those
barriers and leveling the playing field.
If moving primary elections to the fall
proves unfeasible, for example, students
might consider allying with progressive
residents who are dissatisfied with the
local Democratic Party to reform the
Human Rights Party or something like it;
given the very real possibility that Coun-
cil will soon be monopolized by centrist
and largely anti-student Democrats, vot-
ers may be receptive to a new party that
could provide competition, spark mean-
ingful debate and give representation to
those who feel ignored by today's Council.
Alternatively, students could discuss the
possibility of nonpartisan City Council
elections, or even redrawing Ann Arbor's
gerrymandered ward map. But whichever
option proves most feasible and desir-
able, it will take a concerted effort from
a dedicated and diverse alliance of stu-
dent groups to devise and implement a
strategy for change. Starting now, lead-
ers of student government, student and
local political and activist groups, local
bloggers, Greek system representatives
and other interested parties should pool
their resources, influence and knowledge
toward the goal of a truly representative
city government.

Recent optimism about last week's
sale of Michigan's two larg-
est daily newspapers - with
the Detroit News sold to the smaller
MediaNews Group and the Free Press
snatched up by former News owner Gan-
nett Co. - overlooks the larger problem
of corporate ownership of newspapers.
The deal has been heralded by supporters
as an opportunity for more competition
between the two newsrooms, with the
News becoming a morning newspaper
competing directly with the Free Press.
But the sale is no more than a redistribu-
tion among large media conglomerates
that focus on increasing profit margins
and pleasing stockholders at the expense
of public service and quality journalism.
If the recent history of corporate media
ownership has taught us one lesson, it is
that investigative reporting and foreign
coverage, which provide a far greater
public service than USA Today's brightly
colored drivel, require a greater commit-
ment of resources than corporate money-
mongerers are willing to expend.
Corporate chains already owned 39
percent of the country's newspapers as
of 2002, and Gannett, the largest news
media conglomerate in the United States,
boasts a capitalist's dream come true: It
controls 101 daily newspapers including
USA Today, roughly 750 non-daily pub-
lications and over 20 television stations,
the most widely circulated daily newspa-
per in the country. Financially, Gannett's
tactics pay off - it declared a 2004 vic-
tory of $1.3 billion in profits, largely as
a result of its ruthless cost-cutting. In the
game where everyone wants ownership
of Boardwalk and Park Place, Gannett's
media near-monopoly may be a winning
strategy for the corporation and its stock-
holders, but not for the public.

When corporations and their investors
demand high profit margins, newspapers
must increase ad sales and cut costs on
reporting. One only needs to peruse a
few issues of the News and Free Press
to see how corporations squeeze profits
out of their papers at the expense of
quality, with popular sports columnists
and front-page ads trumping important
news stories.
The New York Times, long the bastion
of American journalism, is a member of
a disappearing species of family-owned
newspapers. The autonomy provided
by its independent ownership enables
the Times to maintain its well-earned
reputation for in-depth and investiga-
tive reporting on breaking news stories,
public and corporate scandals and con-
troversial issues. For corporate-owned
newspapers, however, the incentive to
report such stories becomes a calcula-
tion based on profits and circulation
figures. Trivial stories, acting more as
entertainment than news, fill such pub-
lications with fluff and contribute to the
tabloidization of the press.
Quality journalism is not profitable.
But journalism shouldn't be about prof-
it; it should be about providing a service
that holds the government and other
institutions accountable to the public.
It may be expensive, but the public
should demand fearless, vigilant and
in-depth reporting. Rather than feel-
ing an obligation to the public, Gannett
and other conglomerates are beholden
to investors who control decision-mak-
ing at the highest levels. Maintaining a
free press involves a commitment not
to profits, but to providing newsrooms
with the necessary resources to con-
duct their work with integrity, courage
and independence.

The thumbs have it

Friends and
Family of

In challenging a Michigan law that allows police
to administer breathlyzer tests without consent to
those under 21, the ACLU's latest lawsuit proves
its commitment to truly protecting the civil liber-
ties of even the drunkest of underage college stu-
dents. Mr. ACLU-man, this Bud's for you.
Now that Kilpatrick has become the first Detroit
mayor in nearly 60 years to place second in the
mayoral primary, it appears that the unemploy-
ment rate among this group of loyal supporters
will soon hit a record level since 2001.

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