Hats off to Dalhousie… and to Rush Limbaugh for putting Cape Girardeau in the spotlight

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

One of the great sporting events in the history of Cape Girardeau was the three-day American Junior Golf Association tournament, which concluded Thursday with the winner carding a 67 in his final round (the lowest in competitive course play) at the now nationally acclaimed Dalhousie Golf Club. The tournament drew 144 teenage girls and boys (almost all headed for college golf scholarships and some to eventually become big names on the national golf circuit) from the entire United States.

Over 70 percent of the current residential lots have sold at Dalhousie, and the golf course is ranked No. 1 in Missouri, which will attract many visitors and comments about Cape Girardeau.

Thanks to Cord Dombrowski's perseverance in seeing his dream and vision become a reality.

Rush Limbaugh, another name that has helped put Cape Girardeau on the national map, recently received the first William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence -- though he'd probably trade it in for the ability and skill of the junior golfers in our midst last week.

The following is the report on the Media Research Center event at which Limbaugh was honored:

To borrow a phrase, "We've come a long way, baby" -- and we couldn't have done it without you. On March 29, we gathered with more than 1,000 conservative leaders from across America to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the MRC at our annual gala and dishonors awards ceremony at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C.

It was a festive celebration and an evening to be proud of given the two-decade battle the MRC has waged against the liberal media -- with many battles won -- and given the wonderful and forward-looking comments by the conservative movement leaders present at the gala. This was typified, graciously and humbly, by our most honored guest, Rush Limbaugh, who received the MRC's first William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence that night.

"The Media Research Center was there at the beginning and set a standard, and had the guts to go after the left," said Rush in accepting the Buckley award. "They don't distort, they don't make it up, and they don't lie about it. ... I want to thank the Media Research Center. They have been great to me. They have been an invaluable resource, and they have been supportive."

The MRC created the Buckley award to recognize and honor the very best of America's new conservative leaders, especially those dominant in the new media of talk radio, cable TV and the Internet. -- Media Research Center newsletter

I believe this speech given June 12 by Tony Blair at Reuters headquarters in London to be too important not to share excerpts. I will print it in two parts, so be alert for the second part.

Part I: Like a Feral Beast

Today's media are too concerned with "impact."

The purpose of the series of speeches I have given over the past year has been deliberately reflective: to get beyond the immediate headlines or issues of the day and contemplate, in a broader perspective, the effect of a changing world on the issues of the future; and this speech, which is on the challenge of the changing nature of communication on politics and the media, is from the same perspective.

As I always say, it's an immense privilege to do this job, and if the worst that happens is harsh media coverage, it's a small price to pay. And anyway, like it or not, and some do and some don't, I have won three elections and am still standing as I leave office. This speech is not a complaint. It is an argument.

As a result of being at the top of the greasy pole for 13 years, 10 of them as prime minister, my life, my work as prime minister, and its interaction with the world of communication I think has given me pretty deep experience, again for better or worse.

Let me say categorically, a free media is a vital part of a free society. You only need to look at where such a free media is absent to know this truth. But it is also part of freedom to be able to comment on the media. It has a complete right to be free, and I, like anyone else, have a complete right to speak.

My principal reflection is not about "blaming" anyone. It is that the relationship between politics, public life and the media is changing as a result of the changing context of communication in which we all operate; no one is at fault -- this change is a fact. But it is my view that the effect of this change is seriously adverse to the way public life is conducted; and that we need, at the least, a proper and considered debate about how we manage the future, in which it is in all our interests that the public is properly and accurately informed. They are, after all, the priority and they are not well served by the current state of affairs.

It is also incidentally hard for the public to know the facts, even when subject to the most minute scrutiny, if those facts arise out of issues of profound controversy, as the Hutton Inquiry [on the death of David Kelly, source for a BBC story claiming that the British government had "sexed up" a report on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq] showed.

And in none of this also do I ignore the fact that this relationship has always been fraught. From Stanley Baldwin's statement about "power without responsibility being the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages" back to the often extraordinarily brutal treatment, if you've ever read it, meted out to [William] Gladstone and [Benjamin] Disraeli through to Harold Wilson's complaints of the '60s, the relations between politics and the media are and are by necessity, difficult. It's as it should be.

The question is: Is it qualitatively and quantitatively different today? And I think yes. So that's my starting point.

However, why is that? Because the objective circumstances in which the world of communications operate today are radically altered.

The media world -- like everything else -- is becoming more fragmented, more diverse, and above all transformed by technology. The main BBC and ITN bulletins used to have audiences of eight, even 10, million. Today the average is half that. At the same time, there are rolling 24-hour news programs that cover events as they unfold.

In the early 1980s, there were three TV stations broadcasting in the U.K. Today there are hundreds. In 1995, over 200 TV shows had audiences of over 15 million. Today there is almost none.

Newspapers fight for a share of a shrinking market. Many are now read online, not the next day. Internet advertising has overtaken newspaper ads. There are roughly 70 million blogs in existence, so I'm told, with around 120,000 being created every day. In particular, younger people will, less and less, get their news from traditional outlets.

But, in addition to that, the forms of communication are merging and interchanging. The BBC Web site is crucial to the modern BBC. Papers have podcasts and written material on the Web. News is becoming increasingly a free good, provided online without charge. Realistically, these trends aren't going to do anything other than intensify in the years to come.

These changes are obvious. But less obvious is their effect. The news schedule is now 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it moves in real time. Papers don't give you up-to-date news. That's already out there. They have to break stories, try to lead the schedules. Or they give a commentary. And it all happens with outstanding speed.

When I fought the 1997 election -- just 10 years ago -- we could take an issue a day. At the last election in 2005, we had to have one for the morning, another for the afternoon, and by the evening the agenda had already moved on entirely.

You have to respond to stories also in real time. Frequently the problem is as much assembling the facts as giving them. Make a mistake and you quickly transfer from drama into crisis. In the 1960s the government would sometimes, on a serious issue, have a cabinet that would last two days. It would be laughable to think you could do that now without the heavens falling in before lunch on the first day.

Things also harden within minutes. I mean, you can't let speculation stay out there for longer than an instant.

I am going to say something that few people in public life will say, but most know is absolutely true: A vast aspect of our jobs today -- outside of the really major decisions, as big as anything else -- is coping with the media, its sheer scale, weight and constant hyperactivity. At points, it literally overwhelms.

Talk to senior people in virtually any walk of life today-business, military, public services, sport, even charities and voluntary organizations -- and they will tell you the same. People don't speak about it because, in the main, they are afraid to. But it is true, nonetheless, and those who have been around long enough, will also say it has changed significantly in the past years.

The danger though is that we then commit the same mistake as the media do with us: It's the fault of bad people. My point is that it is not the people who have changed; it is the context within which they work.

For example, we devote reams of space to debating why there is so much cynicism about politics and public life and, in this, the politicians are obliged to go into self-flagellation, admitting it is all our fault.

Actually not to have a proper press operation nowadays is like asking a batsman [in cricket] to face bodyline bowling without pads or headgear.

And, believe it or not, most politicians come into public life with a desire to serve and by and large, try to do the right thing not the wrong thing. To be continued.

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: