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August 30, 2011 > Editorial: The name game

Editorial: The name game

Recently, I viewed results of a professional survey of Tri-City residents. Telephone interviews were conducted and great care was taken to maintain a balance of those queried - age, ethnicity, background, geography, etc. Questions were simple and straightforward with little mystery about what was asked; ambiguity was avoided... or was it?

A portion of the questionnaire asked how those surveyed received local news. I am not complaining about the results since Tri-City Voice was mentioned and compared favorably with other news sources. However, interpretation and definition of the word "local" appears to be ambiguous since many mentioned that television news and radio were among likely sources of such information. As someone who is intimately involved with the media industry, especially on the local scene, I watch, listen and read quite a bit of the information that flows through this community.

It is interesting to observe the loose interpretation of what local means and how it is reported. To conclude that television news is focused on truly local issues is amazing unless the word "local" encompasses the entire Bay Area. Although some of our cities are mentioned in weather and traffic reports, rarely do I see much focused on the Greater Tri-City Area. Since I do not consider our area as simply a bedroom community or suburb of San Jose, Oakland or San Francisco, it is difficult to consider stories about those cities as "local."

As news becomes regionalized and less focused on day-to-day happenings of the local population, a filter separates reporting into qualitative categories, removing what is considered unimportant information about community affairs from its roots... its citizens. As a result, less attention is paid to local events and people culminating in an attitude of inferiority and irrelevance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although regional information is welcome and certainly important, without a spotlight on local people, events, schools, businesses, institutions and political actions, there is a tendency to devalue what is most important and right before our eyes.

As more and more news is homogenized into a sprinkling of information dispensed as personnel at a centralized office sees fit, there is a concomitant reduction of choice. Within this process lies a real threat to our democratic system. Freedom of thought and action is maintained through readily accessible and reliable information released for public scrutiny. As more of that information is gathered by large organizations that determine what and who is important, opportunities abound to manipulate attitudes.

While communication and dissemination of information has increased through the internet and a myriad of social networks, the validity of that information is at risk. Analysis gives way to news scoops that depend on little more than speed. Two extremes - speed and control - move so far apart on the information continuum that they can actually inhabit a common position, each augmenting the other. We are seeing this phenomenon as television news broadcasts have become entertainment outlets racing to compete for headlines regardless of fact or importance; daily newspapers too, routinely succumb to regional administration, blogs and internet speed competition.

This information dilemma has arisen for many newspapers including some in our own area. For decades, news sources poured resources into maintaining a proper relationship with the communities they served. Each fulfilled the needs of the other by supporting a flow of information between the people and their institutions. Tri-City Voice still subscribes to that ideal and will continue to honor our commitment to provide an independent and open forum focused on the Southeastern Bay Area.

To add a little more confusion to the subject of meanings and interpretation, I received this email a while ago. The source is unknown, but can be found on quite a few websites. It makes a point:

A phenomenal two-letter word: UP

This two-letter word in English has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is 'UP.' It is listed in the dictionary as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We call UP our friends, brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and fix UP the old car.

At other times, this little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look UP the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it soaks UP the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry UP. One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now... my time is UP!

Did that one crack you UP?

Don't screw UP. Send this on to everyone you look UP in your address book... or not... it's UP to you.

Now I'll shut UP!

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