Tag Archives: Oklahoma

Advancement or Anomaly for The Oklahoman?

Last Sunday, the largest Oklahoma City newspaper, The Oklahoman, did something unexpected: The entire edition showed journalistic verve and even boldness in several incisive reports, giving factual information that would equip citizens to take action on important issues. How about that? The big question: Is this an advancement that will be sustained or just an anomaly, an exception, quickly “corrected” once particular people start calling in? I hope it’s an advancement.

While some Progressives in Oklahoma have made a name for themselves criticizing the paper, most residents jYesterday's Sunday Edition of the Daily Oklahomanust wanted it to do what large papers are supposed to do: direct sunlight on problems in government and society that need to be brought out of the shadows so that they can be corrected.

It has always been a delicate dance for anyone at The Oklahoman who tried to lead that organization into a more traditional role of providing clear, well-researched reportage, with editorial positions clearly taken on the editorial page and not slipped into the front page.

Powerful and extremely conservative forces in our state have exerted deep pressure on The Oklahoman for years to direct public opinion in every page toward not just a conservative, but a right-wing agenda. And now that they have a new owner, Denver-based billionaire and right-wing philanthropist Phillip Anschutz, the question has loomed even larger if the paper would ever achieve its potential as a news outlet of integrity.

Denver-based billionaire Philip Anschutz
Denver-based billionaire Philip Anschutz

So, while I have been openly critical of The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com for their clear, deep, but unacknowledged bias lately, I gladly want to give them credit for this latest Sunday edition.

The largest piece, “Addicted Oklahoma”, took up much of the front page and continued onto 8 more pages inside. It was the result of a productive collaboration between Oklahoman reporters, Jaclyn Cosgrove, Phillip O’Connor and Warren Vieth of investigative outfit Oklahoma Watch.

Environmental issues? Only if Sen. Imhof says they aren’t there, right? Hey, wait…Brianna Baily’s piece on the first page of the Business section, “Pollution Problems: Old Aircraft Factory Is Site of Concern”, showed good research coupled with a timeline and diagrams. It dealt openly with the conflict about ownership of earlier pollution problems when a company like the old North American Aviation/Gulfstream plant goes by the wayside and leaves the cleanup for someone else.

Over the last several years it has seemed like the OPUBCO’s NewsOK.com, has shown a much more tolerant and broad editorial policy than The Oklahoman which certainly is read by an older age demographic than the online content. Sunday’s showing reveals what seems to be a good experiment.

I’m going to allow that The Oklahoman will have to serve its sometimes-dark corporate and political masters on the Opinion pages as long as power remains concentrated on a wealthy minority the way it is now in this state. But, this slow change, starting with what they allow reporters to do and publish, shows me that leaders in The Oklahoman realize that central Oklahoma is becoming more progressive and more heavily populated than the surrounding rural areas served by that paper. If they act now, and move closer to a central position, they have an opportunity to rescue the newspaper. If not, numbers will continue to dip as smaller, more nimble papers pick off it’s increasingly younger demographic.

That’s why I will give them praise when they do well and serve their public rather than serving that one-percent-ish minority hiding in the shadows. I encourage you to do the same. When we do, we may help that part of their staff who should be winning editorial arguments in meetings within The Oklahoman.

Education Rally Draws Large, Enthusiastic, Angry Crowd at Oklahoma State Capitol

Today more teachers, support staff, parents, and administrators turned out for the Education Rally at the Oklahoma State Capital than expected. Afterward, a majority of them patiently waited in line to go through security checkpoints and talk to legislators about Oklahoma’s being at the top of the list for education cuts.

Five Ways in Which Oklahoma Can Move Forward

Populism is not just for the history books. It is a practical way forward for our state that resists the quiet rule of the wealthiest, tiny minority, which in Oklahoma is even smaller than “1%”.

It is necessary to resist, too: Oklahoma has not a better place now for ordinary people since we got the “right to work” or since we went from a one-party, to a two-party, and back into a one-party political system again, just with the other party now as the current single political power in the state.

The following is based on five points (in italics) for developing a Populist agenda nationally that were proposed by Jim Hightower, print and radio commentator from Texas, in a speech at the Strategy Summit held by the Progressive Congress and reported by The Nation Magazine .

These points are just as, if not more, applicable to potential Oklahoma Progressive/Populist influence as they are nationally.

1. Great Progressive movements have advanced not only by good organizing, but by a steady altering of the public’s perception. Cultural shifts produce political change. This truth is born out by how fiercely we see the current controlling conservative minority in Oklahoma working to control the print and broadcast media. If they can keep certain types of information from most of the people, or at least twist it enough, then enough people will believe their narrative and not rise up against a minority-rule system that has been developing for years. Truth published, spoken, aired by many different voices will have its effect over time.

2. Building a people’s movement requires taking the long view. Advancement takes place in decades, not months or years. Impatience is the biggest enemy of those who are progressive. That’s one of the reasons why progressive-minded people show up to vote for a particular candidate and then fade away until the next campaign. It requires little thought or effort to be all for a candidate for the last month of their campaign. In order to actually turn our state government toward that which will benefit a large majority of Oklahomans, progressives need to be a part of a movement year in and year out, not just individual campaigns. The best candidates that did not have enough support in this campaign will stay and return to fight another day if they have a convinced movement of people working for the same causes between campaigns.

3. Expand the movement by reaching out and connecting with other movements that don’t identify as progressive but are in fact populist and also are actually on the move. People who might disagree with a pro-abortion rights stance can be moved to act with others who are concerned about preserving life beyond the womb. People who might self-identify as conservative might be very moved by the ways in which unfettered strip mining and fracking are affecting the land that they love and want to protect and join with more progressive people who are concerned for what that does to our environment.

4. Do less issue-speak and policy dump and more talk about core values such as economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity for all. Van Jones has reminded us that MLK in his historic 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial didn’t say “I have a position paper”. Most people who I know in this state would be hard pressed to argue against those three values. Do we talk specifically about those values that most progressives have in common? I don’t hear it or see it much in print.

5. Get the hell out of Washington! The most productive politics are local, not national. Just look at any recent polls of the approval ratings of the Congress and you will see that most people of either party see Washington political piss fights as in-credible and not worth the time of anyone who lives outside of Washington, D.C. Recently our Republican Governor and Republican dominated legislature have blocked the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act for no other definable reason except that it’s “Obamacare”. Right now, our state is not currently governed by Oklahomans, but by think tanks like ALEC and The Heritage Foundation.

Oklahoma has a great tradition of Populism. Currently, we see more signs of that in the workings of the Tea Party where there is a general appeal to the hard-working Oklahomans who believe that the economic system is rigged in favor of somebody else. They really don’t know who is rigging it, though. They believe it is that black man in the White House. But, they do only because they are hearing one narrative that sounds credible to them and not other counter narratives that more closely hold to the truth rather than racist, anti-abortion fiction.

It is time for people who advocate for common folks in Oklahoma to speak up, and in a constant way right here in our towns, cities, and state. We shouldn’t even worry that much about consistency. The persistence of our message is what will win.

What do you think?