Saturday, January 14, 2006

NYT: Clucks and half-presents in an editorial passing for an article

"Disarray at Center for Dr. King Casts Pall on Family and Legacy" is the front page story that Shaila Dewan is credited for in the New York Times.

The story's old news to this community. When the main participants are non-white (and not accused of a crime or Bully Boy lapdogs), news takes a little longer to reach the Grey Lady.

Like Keesha, I'm already on record regarding the sale of the King Center to the federal government. (Opposed.) So keep that in mind.

Dewan tells you that "many" are in favor of the sale and finds ONE person to quote on it. Dewan notes, but never questions, that the National Park Service is offering the family eleven million dollars for the King Center. Eleven million dollars?

Why the property must be very valuable, right?

There are some apparent repairs that need to be made. Ironically enough, the National Park Service says there are eleven million dollars worth of repairs that need to be made.

So we're supposed to believe that out of the good of their hearts, the National Park Service is willing to blow twenty-two million of tax payer monies?

MLK's crypt is on this land. Presumably that too would be part of a sale.

Coretta Scott King is not quoted but she's alluded to repeatedly. It's a strain on her, we're told, as her children are split on what to do. No where in the article is a reader told what the community already knows, that prior to her stroke, she was said to be opposed to the sale.

The King Center hasn't been what it should have been. I don't think there's a great deal of dispute about that. (I could be wrong.) But having lagged behind for years, the debate (or fight, if you prefer) over it's future may be the best thing to happen.

A decision is now forced and something will result. Either the two children wanting to sell for eleven million dollars will get their way or the two who find the idea of the federal government owning The King Center repugnant (which, again, I do) will get their way.

Either way, the center will have a direction. The articles full of tidbits and gossip. (The Times hasn't done any work of their own, they rely on articles by others for this front page story they've sat on for a month -- apparently they feel it honors the legacy of MLK to run old news now.)

I think it will be really sad if the government ends up owning The King Center. But, again, either way the center will have a direction. Owned by the government, it will become a tourist attraction only and it's doubtful that MLK's teachings (other than playing the one speech over and over) will be noted. If the side wanting to retain family control of The King Center wins out, the debate of the center's reason for being should lead to a new focus for the center.

It's already a proven tourist attraction (which, no doubt, is why the federal government wants it). It can continue as that. But it could be a great deal more if the family retains ownership. Sometimes expressing differences leads to a sharper vision. That's a point (one of many) the article never raises but the paper can't even find a person to go record against the sale of the center so it's not surprising that this is presented, by the paper, as something "many" support and that the only "witnesses" are the ones advocating the sale or (this is the paper's idea of balance) those who can see "both sides."

Sound familiar? It's the way the Times portrays political debates as well. You get the right and then you get the mushy center.

MLK fought for a larger good (another point the paper's not interested in). As a result of the larger struggle, sometimes he and his family suffered. The debate within the family today is a reflection of the same struggle. Hopefully, those advocating the sale of the center to the federal government are doing so to keep the center alive. If so, you have two points of view attempting to determine how to best serve the legacy. The struggle may be painful but MLK never claimed that the road was easy.

The paper can cluck all he wants but tody the family's involved in a struggle and, regardless of which result you side with, that reflects the fighting spirit of MLK. That's a point the article could have made but doesn't.

Hiding behind Coretta Scott King, the paper attempts to silence one side and appears to bemoan a failure to 'go along to get along.' The failure is the paper's, not the family's. But, as Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon noted in Adventures in Medialand: Behind the News, Beyond the Politcs, this is the paper that, in response to MLK's "Beyond Vietnam Speech," "lecutred that Vietnam and racism were 'distinct and separate' issues; merging the two did a 'disservice to both' and led to 'deeper confusion'" (page 208). Dewan's article this morning follows the same pattern of selective information in the "we know best" attitude that's a hallmark of the New York Times.

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(This may be our only entry on the Times. No member's e-mailed on the paper this morning. Regardless, this isn't the make up entry for missing yesterday.)