Why I’m troubled by Lebron James on the front page of the newspaper

February 17, 2012 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

First, some context. Today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer featured a story about something Lebron James said. It was on the front page  and above the fold.

Cleveland Plain Dealer Front Page, Feb. 17 2012

No. Just no.

Now, I don’t really care about what he said, but the basis for my irritation is neither James nor whatever it was that he said.

This story and it’s location in today’s paper, to me, is indicative of a larger problem in our society: a lack of civic participation in issues that really matter.

I like sports, I promise. (Although I do dislike the NBA). But no story about a sports start should trump the nearing deal on the middle class tax cut, Ohio House Bill 191, which deals with the length of the school year (specifically, it prohibits schools in Ohio from opening before Labor Day and remaining open after Memorial Day), the hearing on contraception yesterday, or even Rick Santorum’s Super PAC Donor’s comments about contraception.

The point is, our civic engagement in this country is in a sad state, and the media should not be encouraging less of it.  I’m not saying the media should take full responsibility for the level of civic engagement of our citizens, but the fact is that news consumption is a common – and important – act of citizenship. Putting an offhand statement by a sports figure on the front page sends a clear message that sports are more important than the issues facing Cleveland today.

I’ve been bringing HB 191 up to everyone I talk to through work and in my personal life, and most people simply don’t know about it. This legislation is in serious danger of passing, and yet it is not getting the coverage it deserves. But plenty of people know about James’ statements. There is something wrong with this picture.

Civic engagement is critical to democracy. We cannot allow ourselves to be brainwashed by consuming whatever the media passes off as news. This “journalism” is unacceptable and troubling.

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