Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

News Can Push Preparation Aside

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

News Can Push Preparation Aside

Article excerpt

WHAT MUST IT FEEL LIKE to be a fullback racing downfield toward the end zone when someone rushes onto the field, rips the football from your hands and sprints over to the sidelines, to be greeted by wild cheering from the crowd?

That's sort of what happened to the 4 C's group this week. The 4 C's stands for Churches Committed to Community Concerns. The planners - 16 Roman Catholic, Methodist, United Church of Christ and Presbyterian churches - had been laboring for weeks to stage a forum for the betterment of the city.

They had invited various community leaders to speak on four topics: (1) education and youth at risk, (2) housing and neighborhood development, (3) economic development and jobs, and (4) crime and public safety.

As a late starter, the topic of racial and cultural diversity was added.

Guess what? On the eve of the forum, the city's new mayor, Freeman Bosley Jr., spoke out strongly against busing of students to achieve racial integration of the schools.

The federally mandated, expensive, 10-year-old program puts too much emphasis on racial integration and not enough on education, he said. His main concern, he said, is what's happening to our neighborhoods in the process.

That announcement, apparently a shocker for many, coming from a black mayor, put him and the local NAACP chapter on opposite sides of the fence. He was one of the main speakers at the forum.

I don't have to tell you what got all the media play.

Many people had worked hard to stage a wide-ranging program to encourage action to try to solve some of the city's problems. The speakers had interesting comments on the other topics, but they got almost no air time or print.

(A "wrap-up" story about the forum appears on Page 1B of today's paper.)

Besides the mayor's advance comment, a Post-Dispatch story on Page One the day of the meeting depicted it as "a desegregation forum." That probably helped swell the crowd to about 1,500, most of whom were interested primarily in the busing issue.

In all fairness, I should point out that the Post-Dispatch story did include two paragraphs saying the forum had heard reports on the four issues - education, jobs, housing and crime. It quoted one speaker on the need "to tear down the ways that separate north St. Louis from south St. Louis. . . ."

Busing was the big news, however.

The 10 o'clock news on two TV stations covered only the busing issue, I'm told, and a third mentioned the other topics only briefly. Unfortunately, the Post-Dispatch story was slotted for too little space to delve into the other issues, so reporter Jo Mannies had no opportunity to broaden her coverage.

I think the play was all too understandable, considering the watershed significance of the new turn of events. However, it was a good example of citizens' well-intentioned efforts going astray - getting sidelined, in effect - and fueling some readers' impression of "herd journalism. …

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