BY Tony Palmeri
Every year the Media Rants column awards a “Tony” to media acts worthy of merit. Award criteria are simple: whatever I personally found to be provocative during the year. Don’t like my choices? Write up your own “Best of 2015,” and post them on a blog or on social media. You can even submit an old fashioned letter to your local newspaper.
The Tony’s for 2015 are divided into subcategories. Drum roll please:
Broken Clock Award: Donald Trump. As is true of most demagogues, Mr. Trump is like a broken clock in that he’s right twice a day. He earns a Tony for two tweets that told the truth about Scott Walker. The first was on July 25: “Scott Walker is a nice guy, but not presidential material. Wisconsin is in turmoil, borrowing to the hilt, and doing poorly in jobs, etc.” The second was on July 27: “When people find out how bad a job Scott Walker has done in WI, they won’t be voting for him. Massive deficit, bad jobs forecast, a mess.”
In less than 300 characters, Trump was able to do what the Recall Walker movement, hundreds of thousands of protestors, and the Democratic Party establishment could not: convince the Republican voter base that Walker really has been bad for Wisconsin.
Political Candor Award: Wendy Davis. This Tony goes to former Texas Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis, the Democrats’ unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2014. While running for governor, Ms. Davis supported open-carry of firearms, a position that disappointed her base, but took the issue off the table during most of the election season. Recently she wrote an essay for Politico entitled “Why I caved on guns when I ran for governor of Texas,” in which she admitted that her posturing probably didn’t get her any votes, and ended up wasting a golden opportunity to use her campaign as a bully pulpit to educate citizens on the reality of gun violence.
Wendy Davis should be applauded for her candor. Will other Democrats have the courage to learn from her example? Maybe. Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for president, is certainly not hiding from her gun control position.
Best Twitter Shaming: Igor Volsky. Mr. Volsky is Director of Video and Contributing Editor at the political blog ThinkProgress.Org. After a “pro-life” terrorist murdered three people at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, Mr. Volsky noticed that the most common response of Republicans in Congress was to offer “thoughts and prayers,” for the victims. Volsky then “twitter shamed,” 36 thought and prayer offering politicians by exposing how much money they had received from the National Rifle Association. He found that all 36 of them had “A” ratings from the NRA, and had received more than $2.3 million in contributions. “The NRA pays them to only think and pray about gun violence, and not to do anything else about it,” Volsky told MSNBC.
Sensationalism On A Mission: The New York Daily News. For many years, the New York Daily News has been synonymous with tabloid sensationalism, especially with some of its over the top front page headlines and photos. In 2015 the sensationalism went on a mission; a front page cartoon of Donald Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty became an instant classic. More powerfully, the paper called out the CEOs of the four largest gun manufacturers in the US, finally giving citizens a look at the people who profit directly from the nation’s gun carnage.
Editorial of the Year: The Washington Post. The fifth Republican presidential debate, held in December in Las Vegas, featured several hours worth of doom and gloom and fear mongering, leading many to wonder what happened to the Reaganite sense of optimism in the modern GOP. In a powerful editorial, the Washington Post opined that “for Republicans, bigotry is the new normal.” Telling a sad truth, the editorialists wrote this: “Fear-mongering and raw xenophobia were once the hallmarks of fringe candidates. Today the fringe candidates have stormed center stage, brandishing their zeal and hyperbole and, disturbingly, dragging the mainstream along with them.”
Letter of the Year: In 2009 the city of Oshkosh bought out their lone Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant to make room for a roundabout. Since then Oshkosh’s KFC status has become somewhat of an obsession with Gannett’s Oshkosh Northwestern. In February of 2015 the paper published a front page history of KFC in Oshkosh. Citizen Paula Steger’s letter in response gets a Tony for letter of the year:
Seriously, the lack of a KFC in Oshkosh is the front page news on a Sunday? Furthermore, if people are looking for a chicken dinner in Oshkosh, they have plenty of choices, and the dinners are better and cheaper than anything KFC has to offer.
Let me see: Mike’s Place on Jackson; Jansen’s on Bowen; Mahoney’s on Wisconsin; Parnell’s on the south side, just to offer a few.
Those more familiar with Oshkosh than I may be able to offer more opportunities. To my knowledge the restaurants offer eat-in dining as well as take-out.
For a newspaper that likes to pat itself on the back as a community cheerleader, you did a great disservice to the local restaurant community by giving free front page advertising to a giant nationwide fast food restaurant.
Tony Palmeri (email@example.com) is a professor of communication studies at UW Oshkosh.