Founded on mature decisions
May 13, 2020
The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.
~ Malcolm X
If meetings of the Saratoga Town Council were being conducted normally, one would have seen this quote from Malcolm X, a civil rights leader and spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, posted as they headed towards council chambers. While we certainly could try and take the time to delve into the context of this quote, we at the Saratoga Sun feel what is more important is the location and timing.
Much like any quote taken from leaders throughout history, this quote appears from time-to-time on various social media feeds. For this to be posted at the Saratoga Town Hall, however, is concerning. This building, after all, houses the municipal government for Saratoga and is where decisions are made by government officials. While there isn’t necessarily anything illegal about this quote being posted in the building, it does cause us at the Saratoga Sun some concern.
It has long been the job of the media, the press specifically, to hold the powerful accountable and to inform the electorate. Since the founding of our nation, the press has served as a watchdog of government, often much to the frustration of those in power. This even includes one of our Founding Fathers.
Though Thomas Jefferson once said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” his tone changed upon being elected President of the United States. One can find quotes from later in his life that seem to contradict his previous statements.
Nevertheless, the Founding Fathers believed that the role of the press was so important to the role of government that they included it in the First Amendment along with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The best way for a people to govern themselves is to be informed. The role of a local newspaper is a difficult one. We must ask the tough questions and report on the news within our community, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. Often, our role within the newspaper as individuals means that we must report on or about those who we have known most of our lives or who we see in the public on a regular basis. At the end of the day, however, we have a job to do.
While we may have to often report on the difficult topics, we do so to keep the electorate informed.
We at the Saratoga Sun are as much concerned with where this quote was posted as we are with the timing of this quote. It comes following reports by the Saratoga Sun about alterations made to a public document by a member of the town council. It also comes after several months of quotes being posted within the council chambers as some council meetings have taken a more dramatic turn. Also, in recent weeks, the town hall has been closed to most traffic save for by appointment due to concerns over the novel coronavirus.
Suzie Cox, town clerk, stated that she was troubled by the posting of the quote and that she had been unaware that it had been placed in the hallway. It is possible that we may never know who posted this quote unless a feeling of guilt forces them to step forward.
We at the Sun, however, feel that it must be stated that this quote, especially in terms of current context, is disingenuous. To imply that the public is simply a mindless mass that can be so easily manipulated by the “media,” as if being led by the nose, is an insult to the public. The Sun firmly believes that members of the public are not a mindless mass, but rather free-thinking individuals who work to stay informed. That is, after all, why they continue to look towards their local news.
If this quote were posted by someone who is upset or has concerns about our coverage, the Sun makes the same offer as we do to everyone. Our office is open to visitors who have questions or concerns about our coverage and we are not beyond explaining our reasoning. If we are proven to be in the wrong, we are certainly not beyond issuing a correction or retraction. We also will be more than willing to afford the space for a Letter to the Editor or a column for the person to explain their position.
If this quote were posted by a town employee or a member of the town council, we regret that they chose to express their frustration with our coverage in such a passive-aggressive manner. Additionally, if this were posted by someone who felt it was worth a laugh or wished to simply agitate people, then we are equally disappointed. The Sun believes that the people within our community are better than this, that they should be better than this.
In times of difficult discourse, a mature viewpoint is desperately needed.