Thursday, September 21, 2006

Clueless in Gulf Breeze

We've got a small bone to pick with the Gulf Breeze News. Worthy as that weekly newspaper is -- and we mean that sincerely -- Franklin Hayes' weekly "On The Spot" feature always leaves us scratching our head and asking: Why?

Why waste valuable newspaper ink and digital bandwidth asking people no one's ever heard of what they think? Why are we never given a clue who these people are, what they do, how old they are, where they live or work (other than "Pensacola") or whether they know their elbow from a nose hair?

Even the implied presumption these are "average" people requires a leap of faith.

Take this week's "On The Spot" question (Sept. 21 issue) for example. Hayes asked four women -- two of whom are barely out of high school, by the looks of it -- "What are your thoughts on the current discussion to dissolve the Santa Rosa Island Authority?"

Now, there are a lot of rational "thoughts" someone who pays attention to the world around them might have in response to a question like that; pro-SRIA or anti-SRIA, pro-county control or anti-county control, and more. But there are a lot of hair-brained, woefully misinformed, and just plain idiotic brain cramps out there, too.

"Everybody's entitled to their opinion" is a popular public expression. It's usually articulated in a plaintive, whining tone right after the speaker has been exposed as completely clueless.

Well, maybe so. Maybe they have a right to believe anything they like. But before we readers pay any attention to the opinions of others shouldn't we have some assurance these people know what the heck they're talking about?

No doubt, there are sound marketing reasons to send Franklin Hayes out to interview people-in-the-street. For one thing, they'll probably buy the newspaper that week. But if he's not going to ape Jay Leno's amusing "man in the street" routine and test their state of awareness --
Newspaper: "In what century was World War I fought?"
Average Person: "Duh... ah... um... the 18th century?"
-- then it isn't even entertaining. It's just irrelevant.

Here's a standing bet: We'll buy a full year's subscription to the Gulf Breeze News print edition if anyone can offer convincing proof that on the day they were put "on the spot" Brandy Nicholson, Amanda Donaldson, Jennifer Siegel, and Blue Curry could have told us how many members there are on the SRIA board and how long each one has served. All four of them Oh, what the heck... even just one of the people interviewed

Otherwise, we'll just stick to reading the free electronic version of the Gulf Breeze News.

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