View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

When Teachers Go Bad

Teachers are allowed to profess a viewpoint. But if you're adjunct faculty at a school where the tuition is roughly $2700 a class, one would expect that, for a defensible viewpoint, you'd be able to defend it coherently. Herewith, therefore, a few rhetorical suggestions for the professor of marketing who insists on opposing FCC deregulation.

1. Make Sure the Law You're Opposing Actually Affects the Example You're Using

For instance. If you're worried that Clearchannel is going to buy the only radio station for 100 miles around Paonia, Colorado, and stop broadcasting cattle futures, make sure the law doesn't allow that now. Of course, it does. There's nothing in the law that ensures that the rancher wearing a Walkman is going to get the Northern Farm Network instead of Tom 'n' Judy from Los Angeles.

2. If Someone Points This Out, Don't Pretend You Were Talking About Something Else

This is the rhetorical equivalent of leaping from crag to crag like the chamois of the Alps. Don't, for instance, decide that you were really complaining that Clearchannel might buy up and homogenize 40% of the Denver market into the radio equivalent of a big-box strip mall. Clearchannel might indeed do that. But they won't be able to dominate most markets.

And don't then pretend that what you really were talking about was the elimination of news in small markets, because that's not going to happen, either. I spent the weekend in a small town named Almont, located between Gunnison and Crested Butte. The Gunnison Paper was there, right in-between the Post and theTimes. It seems to have survived the onslaught, and the two Denver dailies seem to think it makes sense to sell there. Nobody's going to take away the local news. Go back to sleep.

3. Don't Make Stuff Up

When you assert that Mr. Potter is going to buy up all the media in town, including George Bailey's little co-op radio station that broadcasts weather and pork belly futures on a computer-generated continuous loop. He's going to starve us of news, and starve us of any opinion except his own. "Well, they don't have the Internet in small towns?" Well, yes, but it's all AP Newswire.

HUH? My friend Peter Baker probably thinks he writes for the Washington Post, but now we both know better. I mean, sure, it surprised the hell out of me when I found out that he's writing for AP Newswire, but now I know better. If you do stuff like this, students won't take you seriously on this stuff.

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