I didn’t quite believe what I was hearing

For most of the minutes he appeared in front of the crowd of the big and important festival he put together so well for the community of Syracuse this past weekend, founder and executive director Frank Malfitano was a happy guy. As well he should be, I thought from my spot in the roped-off VIP seating section, media pass hanging around my neck to better cover the musical sets for this blog and my Mark It Up community column for Syracuse Public Media site waer.org.

The fest founder Frank Malfitano and Onondaga County Execitive Joanie Mahoney before Aretha Franklin's set.

The fest founder Frank Malfitano and Onondaga County Execitive Joanie Mahoney before Aretha Franklin’s set.

He danced down in front of the stage to the cool music he put up there. I spied him off to the right coaxing a photographer to take shots with him as he draped his arm over a Syracuse police chief. On stage, he shook hands with musicians, local and international and made sure that plaques of appreciation were given headliners. They in turn thanked him profusely for inviting them to perform at various times during their sets. ?An easy peace was established.

Yes, much deserved good times for Frank, was my point of view, because Syracuse, a city with many needs, has received warm and fuzzies in various ways big and small from Frank’s hard work for 33 years now.

While introducing Aretha Franklin’s headling finale set, Malfitano decided to make a comment about a good thing he saw while looking out over the tens of thousands of fans appreciating his festival this Friday and Saturday in July, namely, the diversity of the crowd. But he prefaced that observation with a cutting remark, a dagger regarding the state of how we’ve gotten to where we are right now in the United States of America.

The media, Malfitano declared, wants people to think we can’t get along like this. But we here right now prove otherwise. Those aren’t the exact words, but that is the intent.

I took offense, and mouthed some swear words in my seat. Of course I have a media-defend reflex. And I thought it trivialized a serious situation we’re battling right now, among other flash points it ignited in my head. I included this moment in a roundup commentary about the fest for waer.org.

If you’d like to read my Mark It Up column for the Syracuse Public Media, click the link below.

http://waer.org/post/appreciating-good-things-jazz-fest

Thinking about it here, I’d like step up to a larger context. Malfitano said what he wanted in the moment. I’m seeing tnis on the TV morning shows more and more. Yeah, in the media. So who’s stirring it up? By the way, I haven’t been able to find any other media outlet that’s reported a word about Malfitano’s introduction.

This morning I watched Matt Lauer on “Today” interview Donald Trump about something he said about John McCain’s service record and then how he squawked about how it was reported by the media. That’s an easy example …

Do you think people are speaking out more in general, filtering down because it’s an election year? Have you heard somebody say something totally unexpected the past few months? Is there something you’ve been holding in that you want to get off your chest right here and now?

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33 thoughts on “I didn’t quite believe what I was hearing

  1. It seems “the buddy boy system” still exists, and people will push their agenda in any place where they want.

    Let’s just say I am working on a blog post called “The Radical Moderate” that sums up my feelings, Mark. Stay tuned.

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  2. Whew. Big, big topic Mark. In physics there is an “Observer Effect” that makes it clear that any and all systems are changed by the observation of those systems. This applies to human behaviour as well – so the media does affect the news they report and , by times, create that news. The trouble is that the media extracts profit from that reporting and so will always be suspect by the general public.

    Much has been written in recent years about the culture of fear that our society seems to be perpetuating. It seems to be a part of the natural operation of our hindbrains – we pay more attention to that which is an immediate danger than that which is a long term danger. Some sort of Darwinistic survival mechanism. Which means that politicians or media or businesses get more attention, profit, growth from leveraging fear. In other words fear elects politicians, profits media and grows business.

    For similar reasons we also fear that which is different than we are – and that can include race (not necessarily black/white). It is easy to overcome that automatic fear by seeing the value in diversity, but not all do that.

    I have personally seen cases where the media has propagated fear by focusing on negative race relations to sell papers and/or media consumption. This is the exception, in my experience, rather than the rule. The truth, as I see it, is that that fear is a part of who we all are and it is our responsibility individually and collectively to see past and overcome that fear and treat all equally and justly. One of the best (most eye-opening) treatments of race problems that I’ve seen recently was a blog post by a lawyer who writes under “The Closet Monster” http://deborah-bryan.com/2015/07/19/being-color-brave/

    There are serious race problems Mark (many of which are white-washed over). Most news media, in my experience, write fair and well-balanced articles and stay away from fear mongering. There are exceptions. It is unfortunate that the organizer of your music festival should have chosen to use his stage to berate the media in general. I do not think that the media is any more guilty of bias than individuals are. There is rot in the system, but in the big picture that rot is no more or no less aggravated by the media than by individuals or groups of individuals.

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      • Having pondered your comment Karen, I have to say that I agree. I suspect that it is a matter of accountability. Local and regional news reporters know some of their customers personally and feel responsible for their reporting. After all they have to live in the communities they write about. National reporters do not have that consideration. Much as I find that apartments where the building owner or investors live in are much better maintained than buildings where the owner is absentee. So too is news reporting.

        To my mind “media” is defined by the writing or production of material for the consumption of others. It can be paid or not and is act defined.

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    • I agree that the media’s role in all of it is important and of course up for discussion, Paul. As always you bring up interesting points in the issue of human interaction. I don’t think that the media is the cause, so be it. My biggest issue, though, as you ascertain, was with the when and where of this particular statement.

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  3. Where to begin? Well, in the age of social media, aren’t we all really the media anyway? It seems to me that people use the word media too loosely. There seems to be a certain general perceptions among the masses that are reflected in the media and it’s almost like a chicken and the egg theory, the media reflects public opinions and the public opinions express what the media has to say. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t agree with what Maltifano said, and I think he should have thought it threw more carefully, but I would try not to take personal offense if I were you, Mark. Of course, this is just an opinion I have without actually having been there and without fully knowing what was behind his words.

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  4. Ah, it’s the media’s fault. Again. In a way, he’s correct, but not entirely. People and groups in this country have the freedom to disagree. Unfortunately, sometimes they do so violently. If it’s in public, or is discovered later in a public record like a police or court document, the media report it. The trick is, to do so fairly. Case in point: Yesterday’s rallies at the S. Carolina Statehouse. A group of African-Americans held a rally, followed by or in tandem with a KKK rally. Some on both sides played to the cameras, as is common. (How would they have acted with no cameras around?) So the media is obligated to avoid encouraging/baiting behavior (a FOX employee did this recently, I believe) and to balance whatever they report. For instance, there were some downright frightening photos of hatred and anger on both sides; later, I saw a photo of a KKK member who was suffering from the heat, being attended to by a black police officer. I’m glad they photographed and published that. But, Mr. Malfitano … “the media” is not a monolithic entity. There are right-leaning, centrist and left-leaning outlets that public/broadcast (or don’t) according to their philosophical bent. And there are “digital first” outlets, formerly known as newspapers, that struggle with covering real news as they churn out crocks of click-bait aimed at the lowest common denominator. So it does no one any good, especially as an intro to a music festival, to say something irresponsible and cynical about “the media.”

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  5. Sorry your experience was soured by his comment Mark. Anything I want to get off my chest? Yes. How does someone like Trump get to run for president and please don’t vote for him America! ❤
    Diana xo

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    • Trump gets to run for president because he’s really rich. I think, anyway, Diana. I don’t think he’ll get his party’s nomination. We shall see …

      I still thoroughly enjoyed this festival. My shock at the statement was short-lived, but deserving of comment. Thanks for your support. 🙂

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  6. the lines between news and entertainment have become fuzzy, and sadly there are times when an editor/news director loses sight of which is which. that being said, the media is not to blame for the ills of the world, bad choices, bad people, and things that happen, their job is to report it and comment on it. it is unfortunate that he chose this venue to air his personal opinion on all this, to blame the media for the ills of ht world, and hope it didn’t ruin your experience for you.

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  7. The guy’s got more balls than anyone else in this town. It’s his platform. Let him say what he wishes to Mark, he’s earned it. No one has dug through the trenches as this man has.

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