Corrupt government, led by self-serving leaders, loves nothing more than a captive and adoring press. So it comes as no surprise that our mayor, in a printed newspaper which receives $30,000 a year of its budget from the city, would use her ghost written monthly column to attack the publication which has focused on transparency and accountability in city government. In thinly veiled references to articles published in these pages, Mayor Jones refers to us as bloggers who “publish microaggressions against the police department, selected council members and even the mayor.” She tags us with employing “political strategies that impede the healing process and fail to correct false narratives.” And she says “Ronald Regan [sic] had it right. There is a big difference in being an enemy, an opponent, and a rival.”
To be clear, Mayor Jones is not alone in her desire to have a lapdog media, or no coverage at all. There are many places in the world, such as Russia, North Korea, and Cuba, where a free press pushing for transparent and accountable government is prohibited. We are thankful to live in a country where, as a matter of law at least, that is not true. But we hasten to add that when government picks and funds a favored media outlet, which scrupulously refrains from journalism and explicitly refuses to publish anything negative about anybody, it seeks to establish an environment that would be comfortable for the likes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.
In America, the tradition of investigative journalism runs deep. Muckraking, a progressive journalism which took root in the late 19th century, explicitly fought against the political machines of the day. In what some call the first muckraking article, Lincoln Steffens‘ article “Tweed Days in St. Louis” focused on political corruption and incompetence just a few miles from here, calling St. Louis one of the worst governed cities in America. Ferguson now strives mightily to join those ranks, and we stand ready to labor against such efforts.
The mayor also seeks to demean the efforts of this publication by referring to us as “bloggers.” One of her water carriers, writing in a large local Facebook group, calls us a “so-called online paper, operating as a blog.” In a time when the Washington Post has a monthly online readership of 95 million unique viewers, but a weekday print circulation of less than 230,000, we feel no shame that our low cost circulation model is exclusively online. This allows us to bring you timely coverage of breaking news, next day video and summary of city council meetings, and a variety of other interesting content of relevance to our community. The mayor calls that divisive. We call it responsive, and effective. Our readers, who would otherwise be relegated to political flyers, city funded promotional mailings, and a “see no evil” newspaper partially funded by our tax dollars, are grateful that we take the time to focus on city government.
We have a city in which nothing is working. The streets are crumbling and strewn with garbage, the police are not patrolling neighborhoods or enforcing against serious traffic violations, serious code violations go unnoticed for lack of inspection staff, and we have recently been without a finance director and a human resources manager. Snapped off light posts go unreplaced for extended periods, wires sticking up from the sidewalk, guarded by a traffic cone or a long forgotten sawhorse. The stench of neglect and incompetence is everywhere. Yet our mayor prefers that we focus on her ribbon cuttings, her photo ops at food pantries and charity events, the meaningless pablum of retail politics which do nothing to move our city forward. And she has convened a charter commission to recommend that her authority, and salary, be greatly increased. It is little wonder that Mayor Jones would dislike a news outlet which focuses on results, looks at our community with eyes wide open, and fearlessly speaks truth to power. Vladimir Putin would have complete sympathy for her plight.