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A Narrow Response: The GR Press and the President’s State of the Union Address

January 28, 2010

As could be expected the was coverage in today’s Grand Rapids Press responding to the President’s State of the Union address last night. On page 2 the Press ran a story by reporter Ted Roelofs, which featured local reactions to the Obama’s speech.

The article included six reactions from people throughout West Michigan. There were reactions from both Congressmen Pete Hoekstra and Vern Ehlers, both of which had critical assessments of the President, but nothing concrete. There were also two additional GOP reactions, one from a business consultant and the other a Grand Rapids businessman.

The other two reactions included one from a woman described as a “veteran Democratic activist,” with the remaining response coming from the “assistant director of Grand Valley State University’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Resource Center.”

Most of the responses focused on partisanship or style and not on substance. Only the GVSU representative and the GR businessman addressed specific issues, namely jobs, taxes and the US military policy for gay/lesbian soldiers, often referred to as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

What is unfortunate is that there were no working class perspectives provided and only one that seemed to be not representing either a Republican or Democratic Party perspective. Too often it seems the Press cannot see past the Red/Blue dichotomy, as if there are no other independent points of view.

What might a story like this look like if it included those who were suffering from unemployment, lack of health care or an immigrant concerned about immigration policy?

Style not Analysis

The Press also featured a front-page story from the Associated Press entitled “Pointing in a new direction.” The story that appeared in the Press was shorten version of the original AP article and was primarily about whether or not the President connected with the American people. In this shortened version there is no analysis or verification of the claims that the President made during his 75 minutes speech.

Providing citizens with this some kind of analysis or fact check is essential if we are to have an informed democracy. ABC reporter Huma Khan does exactly this kind of analysis in an online piece that fact checks the President’s comments on health care, jobs, taxes, lobbyists and campaign financing.

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