Media Malaise

If a local economy falls down and no one is there to report on it, does it make a sound? Jaci Clement from the Fair Media Council ponders the future of Long Island with less media coverage and more at stake than ever.

Ah, the suburbs.

My, my, my. What a mess we’ve got going on here.

To the east, we’re taken by surprise at the once-a-bright-light, now-a-lame-duck county exec situation. To the west we find the most humbling of insults: a control board calling the shots. In between, we suffer Albany’s wrath via crippling budget cuts destined to erode important service programs. Soon, we’ll have riders in need of buses. Hell, right now we have inmates in need of space.

To help keep our minds off that uber-annoying MTA tax and the brand new potty tax, we currently face the threat of skyrocketing property taxes. In short, it’s going to cost more to own the same house that’s now worth less than when you bought it.

Right now, worldwide, Long Island has catapulted into the spotlight for yet another dubious distinction: FBI profilers invited in, to walk the beach at Gilgo.

And it’s only April.

Is this all (OK, save for the serial killer) just a sign of the times? Is every community in this country at such a startling crossroads, or has Long Island’s geography finally undermined its destiny?

It’s easier to get away with everything – including murder – when you’re off the beaten path. Even Crain’s took note of the fact that one of the best places to operate a business fast and loose is Garden City. (It won the honor for being conveniently located near the city, but still far enough away for no one to bother looking after you.)

It’s our geography that enabled our lone daily newspaper to once tout the highest penetration rate of any newspaper in the nation. And it’s our geography that has so insulated Long Island from competition that we have one cable company bearing strong resemblance to a utility.

That geography is also where we always found our strengths, but that doesn’t seem to matter much to anyone anymore. No one’s telling that story. It’s easier, I guess, to stand by and watch things implode.

Industrial Development Agencies (IDA) were once highly visible, both on and off the Island, in their attempts to draw business to the sandbar. And where did all those ad campaigns disappear to? You know the ones, highlighting our white sand beaches and family-friendly downtown shopping areas? The excitement of Belmont racing juxtaposed against the tranquility of the East End’s 40-plus vineyards?

Touting strengths in times of weakness is the fastest way to get back up and running. It not only draws people to you, but it gives those around you reason to stay.

In the end, it’s all about perception. Created by the media, sure, and just as easily destroyed by the same hands. The paradox here is this: Would Long Island be suffering so hard now if there had been enough reporters knocking on enough doors and asking enough of the tough questions?

The court of public opinion will always trump the court of law. Like it or not, what people think matters. It’s not about money, but whether you can open doors with just your name. No one knows that more than fallen politicians.

The Long Island name has long been synonymous with quality, bordering on exclusivity. If you wanted the best schools, the highest quality of life, low crime and abundant amenities, Long Island had what you wanted. Today’s news tells of a different Long Island, one that’s fast becoming unrecognizable, and in need of reinvention. Everyone – including the media, and especially the media – has to be part of the recovery plan.

Author: Jaci Clement

Jaci Clement knows media. It all started when she earned her first byline in a daily paper when she was in the fourth grade. Today, she’s executive director of the Fair Media Council, and believes the best way to hold the media accountable is to create media savvy news consumers. Her ability to explain media issues and their impact has taken her around the country. Sometimes, people react like she’s talking politics. Usually, they’re right.

2 thoughts on “Media Malaise”

  1. Excellent piece tahnk you. It’s actually my first time reading anything by Jaci and I’m impressed. We have conversations about reinventing Long Island and recasting our image nationally and internationally at LITweetUPs all the time (it’s partly where Social Media Camp and even my involvement in 140conf Long Island came from) but this is the first time I’ve heard it put quite like this.

    “Touting strengths” is certainly more sensible and more effective than fixing weaknesses. Noted.

  2. Jaci
    Very eloquently said…I think the power brokers and the masses on Long Island have to think about what they want the Island to be. Exclusivity can be a double edge sword and in this case our being insular is hurting us. As far as media hopefully products like FIOS, and the LI Press have the fortitude to be game changers and redefine the landscape. Time will tell. For now I left LI for Long Beach. The view is a tad better from here or a little the same stuff is on a micro level.

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