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"Q" is for Question, Question, Question

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
August 22, 2002


"Advice is seldom welcome: And those who want it most always like it the least." — Lord Chesterfield

Having written under the title "Observations from the Edge" for nearly a decade I have created a niche for myself as a writer, asking questions and giving opinions from a decidedly alternative perspective.

Having done this long enough I have discovered my point of view is really not as alternative as I once thought. Most readers tell me they agree with a lot of what I have to say, never all, and that they are glad I have the nerve to break away from the new style of journalism that does nothing more than regurgitate press releases, as to not piss off advertisers, and subscribers. As a journalist my job is to inform, provoke, and when possible, entertain. I love my job.

As a young kid I embraced the bumper sticker philosophy that encouraged everyone to question authority. Even today I still question authority, not out of malice, but as a way of protecting and promoting what I believe America to be about. Had revolutionaries not questioned the authority of a distant King we would still be sipping tea and worrying about all things British. Questions are good; because it is through the questioning process we hopefully we arrive at truth.

It is my opinion that journalism has been replaced with media. No longer involved in investigative reporting, newspapers are more concerned with the bottom line than getting to the bottom of an issue. My role in print is to bring up issues, not solve them. If I were to start answering my own questions, and providing a list of potential solutions other than the generic "stop waging war on the environmental systems that support us" certain readers would use it as opportunity to denounce the questions being asked.

Which brings me to the need for distinctions. A reporter should ask question of those involved in the news. Opinion editorialists question the news being made. Perhaps this seems to be nothing more than an exercise in semantics, but in fact it is very important to understanding how the game is played. Like everybody else I have answers, my role is to prompt the dialogue.

I believe the dumbing down of the media is responsible for a lack of accountability of those in power. The fact that the Bush Administration is getting a free pass on the plethora of corporate scandals they are intrinsically involved with, while Bill Clinton's sexual peccadilloes garnered a forest worth of newsprint, with nothing to show for it except a smoking dress.

I write because I can. I write about environmental issues because I care. When individuals take the time to ask questions everyone benefits because it is through dialogue the positive social change is achieved. Here in coastal California we have for too long accepted the status quo, without questioning its foundations.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I too have been guilty of not asking certain people, certain questions. Assuming we were on the same page, I was to later find out we weren't even in the same book. Because of such preconceived notions not only have I short changed readers, and my own growth as a professional journalist, I have also been left eating a great deal of proverbial crow.

Any journalist who believes he has all the answers is not worth his or her weight in salt, myself included. I do have suggestions, and readers who follow my weekly dissertations know all to will I am not shy about sharing them. Solutions are only possible if people see a problem that needs fixing. My intent has always been environmental awareness, how people respond is really up to them, and like it or not denial is always an option.

Questions, and the act of asking of them, are the opposite of denial. Being engaged in the governance of our communities, and stewardship of our shared environment is paramount to the preservation of a life of quality. When people fail to defend their right to ask questions, they soon lose it. Here in California had we been more proactive in regards to questioning how energy was generated and managed, we would have avoided the false crisis that crippled the state, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

We should also ask ourselves if ourselves who exactly does Governor Gray Davis represent and if there is another option besides the ethically bankrupt Bill Simon. I could answer that question, but I wont. Instead I invite everyone reading this to research all candidates running for governor because the inquiry itself is reward enough.

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