Saturday, December 22, 2007

Publicizing the Petitions

Dr. Janine Parry, the UA Political Science professor, is also the spokesperson for BuildSmart (BS). The group has been working for months to encourage the school board and future milage voters to devote greater attention to the advantages of building a world-class high school facility on its current, central location. They have collected the signatures of 700 registered voters in support of their position, but Professor Parry doesn't think they are getting adequate coverage of their efforts by the local newspapers. She is probably right.

Northwest Arkansas Times, which is a member of the Chamber of Cowbirds and the Fayetteville Economic Development Council (FEDC) that both want to construct a new high school out in the 'burbs, had a 624-word article by Brett Bennett on Friday that devoted 45 words to the presentation of the petitions at a school board meeting. In an earlier article highlighting former school board members pushing to sell the current campus to the UA and build a new facility out near Wheeler, Bennett gave Parry and her group's position 138 words to balance the 760 words devoted to the Reed Greenwood and Laura Underwood led sell-and-move coalition of eight, which included Jeff Koenig, Chairman of the FEDC. By contrast, in another article by Bennett, the Sell-and-Move advocates were given 326 words to rebut BuildSmart's fiscal and environmental impact studies on the hidden costs of building out on Deane Solomon Road.

Morning News, owned by the Stephens family that also sells bonds for new school construction, made no mention of the BuildSmart petition presentation at the school board meeting. Reporter Rose Ann Pearce did give 102 words and a mention of the 700 signatures for BuildSmart in an earlier 547-word article about the Gang of Eight people wanting the district to sell the campus.

It should be clear to anyone that Dr. Parry and BuildSmart will not get equal coverage from the local newspapers. They can't compete with the biased corporate chain newspapers that slant coverage and write editorials against them or with the bought media of the Koenig-Greenwood-Underwood group of eight who are used to getting their way. Unless they relish the role of perpetual underdog in this public debate about the future location of Fayetteville High School, the professor and her group of self-proclaimed "millage voters" need to practice a lot more old-fashioned
politics and a little less schoolbook political science. Otherwise, they will find that 700 citizen petitioners matter far less than the demands by eight of their betters.

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