The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on September 24, 1991 · Page 6
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September 24, 1991

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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 6

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Cincinnati, Ohio
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Tuesday, September 24, 1991
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Page 6
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A-6Comment THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER Tuesday, September 24, 1991 L THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER WILLIAM J. KEATING Chairman and Publisher GEORGE R. BLAKE Editor, Vice President THOMAS E. DUNNING Managing Editor THOMAS S. GEPHARDT Associate Editor DARRYL W. EVERETT Vice President, Advertising WILLIAM R. JOHNSTON Vice President, Circulation MARK S. MIKOLAJCZYK Vice President, Production JAMES A. SCHWARTZ Vice President, Finance GERALD T. SILVERS Vice President, Marketing Services A Gannett Newspaper -V iiV Mi J rr Hf1 " Airport Interests must be balanced if $3 surcharge goes through east-west runway to shift noisier cargo flights to it from routes over more heavily populated areas. Residential areas under greatest noise stress are, of course, those nearest the airport. An airport agree Delhi plan is Tristate concern throw him out. Ultimately, however, it was inertia that killed the proposal. How can anyone in Hamilton County in all of the Tristate not sympathize with the people who own homes near the 3900 block of Delhi Road. The county has tentative plans to widen IV miles of the road to four lanes. The widening would have a direct impact on 91 property owners. Forget it; impact is too soft a word. This project would disrupt the residents' lives and devalue their property. The widening would take as much as 25 feet of frontage from the single-family homes along that stretch of Delhi Road. In one reported case, the edge of the new road would be just 22 feet from the owner's front door. With the faster traffic the additional lanes would encourage, that's like being relocated to the shoulder of a nearby interstate. Progress is one thing, but it sure as hell isn't the only thing. It's getting awfully tiresome to have government unveil finished plans that run roughshod over everything a person has worked for and cherished in his lifetime. Doesn't the individual count for anything anymore? This is not a solely Delhi problem. It's something that eastsiders and westsiders ought to think about. It's odd that no one has raised the four-year councilmanic term this year. Government reform has been a major topic of conversation around City Hall. Two successful petition drives have earned a place on the November ballot for charter amendments to limit council service to four consecutive two-year terms and restore proportional representation as the way Cincinnati elects its council. A proposal to change to a 6-3 dis-trictat-large electoral system failed by one vote in council to get on the November ballot. But Councilman Jim Cissell says he may reintroduce a districtat-large for the May Primary ballot. He A $3-per-ticket fee to relieve noise from CincinnatiNorthern Kentucky International Airport operations seems wise. But the Kenton County Airport Board, which proposed it, should continue to solicit advice from affected communities on how best to spend it. Assuming airlines using the airport support the fee, the Federal Aviation Administration will have to approve before it goes into effect. But that OK shouldn't be a problem. Any competition among communities on both sides of the Ohio River for ways to spend the up to $16 Schleper million a year the ticket fee generates could be divisive and confusing. That's why the board should make every effort to be fair. Board Chairman Frank Schleper's expressed aim "to be fair and take the worst situations first" suggests it will. "I don't think the airport board looks at Ohio, Kentucky, north or south," he said. "We look at the whole 360 (degrees around the airport)." A multiplicity of strategies may be used to reduce noise complaints. Some homes may be bought and soundproofed. Mr. Schleper also said funds could be used for such capital improvements as extending an old Lawyers The "too many should not spill A debate has surfaced in the country. The question of whether the nation has too many lawyers. Everyone has an opinion. The trouble is, there actually are two debates hidden under the same wrapper litigious-ness and learning. The "too many lawyers" debate springs from the former. Vice President Dan Quayle, addressing a meeting of the American Bar Association, suggested the idea that maybe the United States has too many lawyers, too many lawsuits, for its own good. And it's counterproductive. In fact, the United States is home to 70 of the world's lawyers. They dominate Congress and the state legislatures. Court records show that they do file a tremendous number of civil suits. On top of that, the law school applicant pool has doubled in less than a decade. One natural result has been a questioning of whether we have too many ment with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and their College of Mount St. Joseph limits noise over Delhi Township to an average daily no higher than 62 decibels. But Delhi residents still complain, and their plight should help shape the airport's noise reduction. As reduction efforts oc cur, no one should forget what the airport means economically to the Tristate. With a $315-million expansion of its regional-hub facilities at the airport under way, Delta Airlines has staked a lot of its future on this area. Delta's acquisition of Pan American World Airlines' trans-Atlantic routes, moreover, assures even more international service for the Tristate and its economy. Controlling flight noise is a high priority, and quieter engines on the way will help. But continued growth of the airport as an economic spur remains vital. lawyers" debate into academe young people going on to study law. But that's an easy answer. And like most easy answers, it doesn't really address the concern that sparked the debate. The national quick-trigger tendency to sue is not the result of too many lawyers. If the dockets are clogged, if justice has been slowed to a walk, it reflects problems in our statutes and legal system. They include everything from stays and delays in criminal proceedings to frivolous or harassing civil actions filed largely because the plaintiff and his attorney have nothing to lose. If the system is to be improved, that's where the repairs should be made. Meanwhile, let the best and brightest continue to compete for places in our law schools. Stiff competition bears good results in business and government, as well as the nation's courtrooms. videos?" President Bush asked. The music video or worse becomes the choice over the book that would take more effort, even if the effort was well spent. Television has been around a long time, of course, much longer than the decline in American schooling. So what's different today? Probably an increase in the number of children of single-parent families or of families in which both mother and father work. All too few children can resist TV without parental or other adult guidance. As a free baby sitter, TV has few equals. But its abuse by parents who don't monitor their children's viewing is almost certainly, as Mr. Bush insists, a major factor in test-score declines. Any school-improvement platform should call for less TV and more reading. And the switch wouldn't cost taxpayers a cent. Media attacks on politicians Robert Clerc already has proposed that council place a plan for direct election of the mayor on the ballot in May. The proposals cover every reform that has been debated in Cincinnati over the past 20 years every one, that is, except the four-year term. It makes one wonder . . . There were times when longer terms seemed likely to generate enough support to win passage, even as all the other proposals were being trashed by an adamant opposition. The idea was to keep biennial council-manic elections, with five members running one year and the other four running two years later. The change was seen as another way to check the rapidly rising cost of running for city office. It also was touted as a sensible way to add stability to city government. One commonly heard complaint about two-year terms is that a city council member has to spend almost half his or her time in office campaigning. As a practical matter, the argument goes, council has to spend too much of the two-year term submitting proposals and voting issues that are more likely to win votes than do the city any real long-term good. Opponents of the plan contend that it would reduce accountability. A council member would have twice as much time before having to submit again to close voter scrutiny. If the voters found they had elected a rascal, they'd have to wait twice as long before getting the chance to C Watergate taught journalists how much power they could wield. J J ted officials such as Lyndon Johnson. But even the most palsy-walsy journalists finally realized with painful embarrassment that they were being cynically used and manipulated, especially by the charming and clever Kennedys and the crude, foul-mouthed Johnson, Sabato recounts. Although the press was slow to react to Chappaquiddick and raised little immediate objection to the way the legal consequences were smoothed over with money and Kennedy clout, the incident did mark a major turning point for the media. . Later, Watergate taught journalists how much power they could wield, how heady it could feel to bring down a presidency or a candidate. So the hunt was on for trophy scalps that could be taken and mounted on newsroom walls, along with awards. But it isn't as simple or as praiseworthy as hunting down and exposing the bad guys. Overkill is common, as with the story of Edmund Muskie's crying while campaigning in New Hampshire. Innocent targets find it hard to live down an unjustified and untrue attack, such as the reports on Michael Dukakis' mental health and another candidate's purported homosexuality. The media's motives are far from pure in many of these instances. Such stories clearly sell papers and boost TV ratings in a time when newspaper circulation is flat and network audiences slipping. Too often reports that haven't been confirmed are used even by reputable editors; they can be packaged into technically true stories saying, "Rumors persist f v v There really is no such thing as the perfect system, is there? The most we can do is try to keep the mechanics smoothly up to date ... and participate. An informed vote is still the only real guarantee of a working democracy. On the subject of reform, we have to be careful not to let our interest in improving education get the better of good sense. The Enquirer recently carried a story recounting concerns over outdated social studies texts. One text in use in the Cincinnati schools lists the United States as the world leader in the production of automobiles and refers to the closely guarded Berlin Wall as a divider between the East and West. Neither statement is true any longer. The implication here is that social studies texts should be replaced as events affect the course of history. That hardly seems realistic. At the speed with which world events move nowadays, it is not uncommon to see dated mistakes in weekly news magazines and sometimes even the daily newspaper. Large metropolitan districts spend millions of dollars on books. If all but the last chapter(s) of a text is good, what's the problem? Young minds will not be destroyed because a teacher has to explain tha things have changed since the book was published, that Japan became No. 1 in 1980 and the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Robert Clerc is a member of The Enquirer's editorial board. that ... " or quoting less responsible media. But there has been some backlash, especially after the Gary Hart reporting frenzy. As a result, says Sabato, Charles Robb, for example, got exceptionally careful treatment from Virginia newspapers in their handling of stories about his association with drug dealers and "party girls" (at least until recent weeks). And, according to Sabato, except for widespread coverage of his "Hymietown" comment, Jesse Jackson has benefited from a hands-off policy unlike the scrutiny that would be routine for a white presidential candidate. And the press has gotten better at detecting and reporting efforts by candidates and their flaks to spread rumors and plant stories that will set off a pack attack and damage an opponent. Still, Sabato's book is a useful reminder to all of us how careful we must be to maintain an honest, informed objectivity about the subjects of our reporting and to keep information about them in sensible perspective. The news media do have a responsibility to tell voters what candidates and office holders are really like. Our job is not to make them look good or to print their press handouts. Character as an issue Character is an issue for candidates who are seeking the enormous power of high public office. That makes substance abuse, adultery and shady financial dealings legitimate subjects for reporting, as candidates well know before they start running. (It doesn't excuse the hundreds of reporters who hyped the Smith rape-charges stoiy.) But the occasional feeding frenzies, the pile-on pack attacks that take on a life of their own, make us look as vicious and as dumb as a school of flesh-eating fish. Joan Beck is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. TVeducation Bush cites too much viewing as a factor in school problems BY JOAN BECK Chicago Tribune Call it a lynching by a media mob. See it as a wolf pack closing in on wounded prey. Compare it to a bloody feeding frenzy by press piranhas. The attack packs of journalists that go yelping after news stories that involve character faults, indiscretions, misdeeds and assorted real and perceived sins of prominent people are changing American political life. The rules of the hunt are still evolving. And much about the phenomenon troubles many responsible reporters and editors. Since the 1940s, journalists have changed from being politicians' lapdogs into being watchdogs and most recently into junkyard dogs, says Larry J. Sabato, professor of government at the University of Virginia, in his new book, Feeding Frenzy. How Attack Journalism Has Transformed American Politics. Analysis of attacks Sabato analyzes three dozen of the best-known media pack attacks in recent years, including Chappaquiddick, Geral-dine Ferraro's family finances, Gary Hart and Donna Rice, and Joseph Biden's plagiarism. He explains the self-inflicted wounds that left blood in the water to signal the sharks and suggests justifications the press used for their behavior. The book is a useful exploration of what has become an important politicalmedia staple. It is also an excuse for Sabato to report all over again the vicious, salacious details of some of the best-known pack attacks of recent years. Today's junkyard-dog reporting is actually a reaction to the press' days as lapdogs, as Sabato explains. The old cozy-cozy relationships between news sources and those who cover them led to serious professional lapses in judgment and responsibility by many prominent journalists, such as keeping quiet about John F. Kennedy's outrageous sexual liaisons and the public drunkenness by elec- f The story is told of a Cincinnati boy who went home daily from school, switched on TV and watched its soap operas and other fare until bed time. When he did his homework was unknown. Presumably he ate supper, perhaps in front of the TV. His may be an extreme example, but it came to mind after President Bush branded television a key cause of dropping test scores. Clearly too much TV-watching is not the only factor in the decline in verbal scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) that Mr. Bush cited. If students watched only educational-TV channels, CNN and, say, C-Span, their scores not only on the SAT but other tests might go up. But all too often they choose TV the way they do junk food. "And when our kids come home from school, do they pick up a book or do they sit glued to the tube watching music T

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