“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” Oscar Wilde
If the flamboyant Irish writer is correct, then is it too much for me to ask that when the external source of an opinion derives from a journalist, might that content provider at the very barest of minimums try to contribute a thought that is remotely original, or if not truly unique, at least a view that represents an intelligible synthesis of reputable commentary on the topic at hand?
Accordingly, is it too much for me to hold a newspaper’s obligations to a higher standard of intelligence than the swill-inspired crayon scrawling on the drywall above the urinals at the Luddite Bar & Grill?
Am I wrong, then, to expect journalism’s absolute lowest of common denominators to encompass intellectual honesty, earnestness and diligence, and not sloth and laziness?
If I’m indeed mistaken about these concerns, and if it’s wrong of me to expect journalists to aspire to be something more than transmitters of phoned-in Luddite graffiti, then please, run right out and hire Legal Bagel or some other charlatan mouthpiece wanna-be, and sue me.
It’s not like you don’t know who I am, and where I live and work.
In the interim, as I await my summons to explain to a jury of hooded little people why I detest mediocrity, let’s consider today’s otherwise informative New Albany Tribune and managing editor Chris Morris’s sloppy, negligent and poorly reasoned rant entitled, “Do cities really need formal smoking bans?”
It is a typically inadequate, scattershot piece that somehow is allowed to masquerade as fodder for the editorial slot, which itself is a portion of the newspaper’s acreage presumably intended for expression of its official editorial policy, and one not lightly to be given over to stream-of-consciousness ruminations unencumbered by research or the slightest effort to examine issues beyond simplistic sloganeering.
If a sense of déjà vu overtakes you while reading the “editorial” as reprinted in its entirely below, that feeling might stem from it being the third time in a year that Chris has advanced the same “argument” and mouthed the same unsubstantiated “personal freedom” mantras.
It gets no better with mindless repetition.
Do cities really need formal smoking bans?
It looks like the city of Jeffersonville is one step closer to passing a smoking ban – which would include most public buildings. The Jeffersonville City Council voted 4-3 last Monday night to keep the ordinance alive. It appears it’s all but a done deal.
This seems to be the trend nationally – these anti-smoking ordinances.
Louisville has already passed such an ordinance, and now it has crossed the river.
Will Clarksville and New Albany be next? Probably – it’s the “in” thing to do.
However, how much will a smoking ban benefit residents in Louisville or Jeffersonville? It seems to me these types of laws are like gun control – bad people still wind up with pistols and rifles. Smokers will still smoke. It just feels good to pass a formal law I guess.
Most business owners in Jeffersonville are against the ban. They fear it will drive away business. But, will those businesses, that once allowed smokers, attract more non-smokers when they become smoke-free?
No one knows for sure. The only thing we do know is that the government continues to try and regulate legal and personal habits. What’s next, an anti-fast food ordinance?
What is wrong with eating establishments having a smoking area, and a smoke-free area, like they have today? That takes care of both sides.
I’m sure those businesses would also install a bigger exhaust fan if that would help.
Our personal freedoms continue to be regulated or altered. We don’t need anti-smoking ordinances.
What we need to do is continue to educate our children about how smoking cigarettes is bad for their health. Education at an early age is key.
We don’t need a feel-good law that will have little to no effect on lowering the number of people who smoke.
There are bigger issues in Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany to tackle than passing anti-smoking ordinances.
Increasingly it has become obvious that to Chris, any phenomenon he fails to understand must be some sort of “fad” perpetrated on freedom-loving Americans by the “feel-good” lobby. Apparently it has yet to occur to him to conduct research and further develop his understanding – five minutes of Googling should do the trick – as to the fundamental rationale that has guided proponents of restrictions on smoking.
That's workplace safety and the health of employees.
Yes, that’s it -- but you'll not find Chris seriously addressing it.
Make no mistake; smoking bans are not “about” reducing the number of people who smoke. They’re not “about” bar and restaurant customers.
They’re about workers.
If you wish to wave the banner against smoking bans, you are advised to refer to the history of governmental regulation of health and safety in the workplace, and not the history of cigarettes as a bizarre, flag-waving aspect of personal freedom – because that dog won’t hunt.
Note this passage from Many claim smoking ban exemptions; Louisville businesses, groups prepare for new rules Tuesday, by Joseph Gerth in today’s Courier-Journal (short shelf life for C-J links):
… most of the national chain restaurants in Louisville say they will ban smoking.
Applebee's, which operates eight restaurants in Louisville; O'Charley's, which has five; Outback, four; Texas Roadhouse, four; and Tumbleweed, five full-service, all say that they are going smoke-free in the city.
Terry Smith, president and CEO of Tumbleweed, was enthusiastic about the ban, saying his company doesn't meet any of the qualifications for an exemption.
"Even if we were to meet it, we would still go smoke-free," Smith said. "We believe in the mayor's initiative for smoke-free environment for employees, as well as our guests."
I hate chains … but they’re getting it.
Beyond this critical error in focus, Chris seems eternally unwilling to try and grasp the potential breadth of this and related topics, preferring flippant banter and inevitably jigoistic conclusions to an appreciation of the intellectual content of public policy issues.
As I asked Chris previously in Smoke 'em if you got 'em, says the 'Bune -- but not while you're pumping that $3.00 a gallon gas:
Did you read former FDA chief David Kessler's “A Question of Intent?”
Have you seen the movie “Super Size Me?”
Have you read “Fast Food Nation?” If so, you might not be so quick to blithely refer to cheeseburgers in a flippant matter as the next target of the regulators. Adults make choices ... but do children?
For instance, any debate of “fast-food bans” as a manifestation of public health must include thoughtful considerations of personal choice vs. the pervasiveness of saturation advertising and mass marketing. It’s a serious topic for an obese and increasingly unhealthy nation, but to Chris, it’s just an adolescent snigger on the path to the summary dismissal of complexity in everyday life.
Verily, Chris and the Tribune must do better than this if the writer and the newspaper are to be taken seriously as journalists, as opposed to the spokepersons for this community's ridiculously low expectations.
See also the debate at Jeff votes to uphold smoking ban, by the Healthblogger (NA Health blog).