February 2010


Steve Vied’s front page article in the Wednesday, Feb. 17 Messenger-Inquirer about the proposed committee to oversee planning and construction of the downtown convention center has generated several interesting comments from readers on our Web site.

Virtually all are against the idea in some manner, but what really caught my attention were the comments from a few readers that the M-I has been silent on the issue. I disagree.

On our news pages, we’ve reported about this idea every step of the way. In fact, we first broke the news about this plan on Jan. 21 – before it had even gone before the Fiscal Court and City Commission for first reading.

And on our editorial page, we stated our opinion about the idea on Jan. 26. While we’re not opposed to the idea in general, we believe that the scope of the committee is too narrow, and that more voices should be included. In that editorial, we wrote, “in an effort to avoid a committee too large and cumbersome, Payne and Haire have missed the opportunity to bring more expertise to the table for this important project. The new committee should be expanded to include people with expertise in hosting sporting events and recruiting conventions and other large tourist draws.”

The idea that we’ve fully supported this committee, or remained silent on the issue, simply isn’t true. I will say, however, that we should be stronger in speaking out against the idea of the mayor and judge-executive having two votes on the committee. While we said the committee needs more voices, we didn’t say that the mayor and judge-executive have too much authority, and that’s an editorial that we’ll likely write in the coming days.

That said, it seems that some believe that because we’ve supported the overall concept of the downtown project, we’ve also supported everything that goes with it.  That’s not the case at all. We’ve said in the past that it’s a mistake for officials to continually make changes in the plan that was presented to residents, and such changes will cause people to lose confidence in the project, and rightfully so. And we’ve said it’s wrong to have such a small group of people for a committee that will oversee such an important project.

We believe it’s possible to support the overall concept of downtown development, while still questioning certain aspects of the project, and we’ll continue to do that throughout the process.

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I’ve received several calls the last couple of days from readers expressing their displeasure over the photo of Lady Gaga at the Grammy Awards that we published on the front page of Monday’s Messenger-Inquirer.

There’s no question that the photo is bizarre, and Lady Gaga’s outfit could certainly use some more material. But I have no problem the decision to publish it, and I strongly disagree with one caller, who compared it to pornography.

Like it or not, Lady Gaga is a compelling figure in today’s pop music scene, and her performance at the Grammy Awards was important enough that producers decided to open the show with it. By publishing the photo, we were reporting on one of the more anticipated performances of the night. I think she certainly pushed the envelope, and I can see why some don’t care for her music or her outfit, but I don’t think it crossed a line to the point of being an unpublishable photo.

All that being said, it’s never our goal to intentionally offend people or publish something simply for its shock value. Instances like this are a good learning tool for us, as we’ll talk more about this photo and remember the complaints as we make decisions about similar images that will surely arise in the future.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I’d be interested to hear how more of you feel about this issue.