Friday, March 07, 2003

Making The Best Of Your Bad Choices

The Commercial Appeal made a decision back when former Governor Don Sundquist launched his campaign for the income tax, and ignited the Income Tax War that consumed this State for four years, and sealed Sundquist's political death. The paper praised the Governor, lauded his courage, denigrated his enemies mercilessly, reported his remarks uncritically, hid his mistakes and even walked him out the door at the end of his term. In making common cause with him, they couldn't allow criticism. To undermine the Governor would be to undermine the income tax crusade.

So, when Nashville's Tennessean, Phil Williams and Bill Hobbs began to detail the cloud of corruption that arose around Sundquist, the paper elected not to report any of it. They either didn't carry wire stories or would bury oblique mentions to the charges in other stories. It was a choice that carried consequences, and now those consequences are coming back to them.

The shit is hitting the fan in a very, very bad way. One so large they can't ignore it. Tennessee schools, which made the leap to computers and Internet dependence a few years ago, find that their online access will be severely slowed down, to the point it will sharply and negatively impact classroom learning.

Of course, there's a whole post just in the foolish decision to embrace the Internet so blindly and completely. It smacks of faddishness, even if there are numberless reasons to give children the kind of access and tools that computers and the Internet offer. It's using this as a replacement for in-class materials and books that was dangerous; like any rush to the new, there are downsides to consider, not all of them immediately visible. Sundquist just showed them one.

Anyway, now that they have to start talking about Sundquist's malfeasance, it's fun to watch how they shape the story to cover their asses as they back into the ugly stuff. The story starts:
Due to fallout from a federal and state investigation into how state government contracts were awarded under former Gov. Don Sundquist, the company that supplies Internet service for Tennessee's public schools is expected to cut those services by 70 percent by the end of next week.
Note all the passive voice construction used in reference to Sundquist.

The story then details numbers and the effects of this slowdown on the schools (a sidebar goes even deeper). It's not until the last three paragraphs that you see what the CA hasn't wanted you to see:
There was controversy last year when ENA was awarded the contract. Competing bidders charged that the company was not the low bidder, but the bid process was not based entirely on costs.

ENA's co-founder, Al Ganier, was chairman of Sundquist's inaugural committee and a heavy contributor to his political campaigns.
Yeah, "there was controversy." Makes it sound like a dispute, not a criminal investigation. Note how they don't detail the charges and the breadth of the investigation, either. How nice of them, eh?

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