Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One of the Disappointments

As the election year began I was really looking forward to see how the Lakewood Observer and the Lakewood Buzz would moderate the discussion on the various races.

In 2005, the Lakewood Observer started publishing and hosting a forum for discussion of topics. The Buzz had been around and was a focal point of most discussions.

This year, I had high hopes that these two forums would serve as the backbone of the political discussion and be the disseminator of fact over hyperbole.

However, when it came to crunch time these forums turned into partisan politics.

The Buzz run by Steve FitzGerald was awash in somewhat anonymous postings attacking issues and candidates. Now I have no real problem with The Buzz, it is what it is. Anonymity provides it with the ability to slam issues and candidates with out attribution. From a legal stand point it’s a no brainer on the libel and slander front.

It is a different game for the Lakewood Observer; now I have high regard for the members of the Board for the Lakewood Observer, such as Ken Warren, Director of the Library, Jim O'Bryan, Stan Austin and all the rest of the Board. However, it is my opinion that the Observer was going to play an integral part of the race as a third party arbiter of issues and positions.

But like I said previously, it failed miserably!

For the Observer, its failure was in the use of the Observation Deck as a debate forum. The original premise as I understood it, was that members of the Board of Trustees and regular members of the Observation Deck would submit questions to the Candidates. Now that part was true, but then they also allowed for questions from the non-mainstream types such as Scene and Cool Cleveland.

When this whole virtual debate was brought forth, I thought it was either going to be a total waste of time or a total mess because it added people and questions way beyond what was original proposed. My fears would become truth. The candidates (Demro, FitzGerald and George) were to submit their responses by a certain date and time so that that the answers could be collated and than published.

Well, the partisan crap started when the candidates (except for George) missed the deadlines, at that point there was chest thumping by the George supporters that their guy was the only one to submit the answers by the required time and Ryan Demro was able to submit his questions shortly thereafter, but because they didn't have Ed Fitzgerald's they canceled it.

I am not sure what caused it but they eventually did provide a side by side comparison of the answers prior to the primary.
At that point, the gloves came off and everyone was either piling on to the Observer and each of the Candidates.

It became pretty clear from the "discussions" that Demro wasn't going to make it through the Primary and that the George supporters were going to try and submarine Ed FitsGerald's victory.

With that tactic, both discussion boards became as useless as the mailers for the absentee voters.

If I run again, I will think long and hard about using the boards as tool of my campaign. If I do use it, I will have to try and sway those who post rather frequently to talk up my campaign, but they will have to come to me with that offer.


Peg Wasserbauer said...

I agree! And they went after everybody didn't they?

Anonymous said...

Great article Tim. The Observer really hurt it's credibility for me me with the election. Two things struck me as bizarre and self-defeating:

1. the publisher of the Observer -- Jim O'Bryan was so vocal and so partisan that he alienated many visitors and potential visitors.

2. the flat-out refusal to moderate the board. The Observer is always quick to boast about using "Real Names" however, this didn't stop certain individuals from posting libel, slander and just flat-out lies about the candidate they didn't like (Fitzgerald). In addition, if anyone posted anything that went against the grain of George's campaign platform (crime really does exist) O'Bryan would release the hounds on the poster and often, they would get worse treatment than the posts smearing Fitzgerald.

Funny, even after the election, this sort of behavior continues. I expect to see the LO die a slow, pathetic death.