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Margaret's Musings: It is news? and other thoughts for the day

Technology is a blanket word which covers a lot in today's society. Last week, when Milwaukee county executive Scott Walker was in town, it made me acutely aware of how our world of instant information may not reflect the best side of humanity. One person, who as it happens is affiliated (he told me he works for them) with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin followed Walker, within a couple of feet with a small video camera on a monopod. Where ever Walker went and whoever he talked to, including me, was captured on "tape." Well, I really could care less but, I doubt I looked too hot and perhaps, reflected an image more in keeping with "Animal" on the Lou Grant show, tired and wearing a somewhat ragged photo vest, than anything else. Thankfully, I believe my brief greeting was benign, having covered his arrival in Hudson on more than one occasion.

More importantly, why is it worth it to hire someone to do this? The only conclusion I can come to is that the goal is the hope that someone will make a significant verbal gaff.

We are all too familiar with the You-Tube clips which have literally destroyed people's reputations and in some cases livelihoods. Politicians are particularly vulnerable. While no one actually verbalized that Walker is running for governor during the water stop in Hudson, he is.

Let me make it clear, this is not a political ad or statement. It is however, a look at whether or not we want to live in a society where candidates live in fear of being caught being human. The other aspect is the control of the message, which occurs on both sides of the political fence and in the middle. The candidates, who are actually running, are faced with serving up a message which is supposed to please all facets of their respective party.

In the end, the truth of the candidate's personal feelings and in some cases integrity gets lost in the effort by the handlers to serve up an electable image.

Shouldn't the concept of free speech apply to all?

The other observation, resulting from my assignment to cover Walker's tour, stems back to the concept of what makes something newsworthy.

I have to admit I fell into a common trap. You have all seen the videos on the evening news of a handful of protesters or picketers. If the camera person actually gave the audience a wide shot of the scene, in most cases we would see that the event was small and contrived just for the media.

This is how it works. The media outlet, in this case the HSO, receives a call to let them know an "event" is happening and it might make a news story. The media goes, documents the event but only tells part of the story. So it went last Monday. We got a call from Graeme Zielinski, who advised us when we could expect Walker to arrive and left a cellphone number to call if we had questions. Being, perhaps naïve, both myself, and my boss, who took the call assumed, something we should never do in this business, that Mr. Zielinski was affiliated with the Walker entourage.

In fact, he is the media contact for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, a pleasant, young man, whose mother named him after the drummer, Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues. It was clear after a few bars of conversation with him in Lakefront Park that he was not with the Walker group. He pointed out a large banner, critical of Walker, that a couple of "volunteers" would raise at the appropriate time so it would form a backdrop behind the county executive as he entered Lakefront Park.

The pond, wasn't too full of media. I was the only one there, so the phrase hook, line and sinker comes to mind. I shot the image he created and we ran it in the paper. Walker arrived with his fellow bikers, over 100 of them. They didn't care or notice the banner, which vanished along with Mr. Zielinski almost instantly, presumably packed up and in route to the next stop.

Since, very few local people greeted Walker, the banner would not have been seen by more than a dozen people outside of the bikers had I not succumbed to the suggestion that it would be a good photo-op. Is it news? Not in my opinion. Did it make a decent photo? Yes.