Pravda on the Isle

Published 5:27 pm Friday, July 31, 2015

         We’ve been trying here at the paper to come up with a more appropriate name for Isle of Wight’s new official news organ. The county calls it the “Voices from the Isle.”
We settled on variations of a name more commonly used worldwide to describe government veracity — Pravda.
Our older readers will recall Russia’s state-run newspaper, Pravda, which means — wouldn’t you know it? — “Truth.” Back in the days of Nikita Khrushchev and later, Brezhnev, Pravda told the world what the Russian Central Committee wanted told — and nothing else.
Pravda outlived the Soviet Union. When the Hammer and Sickle finally came off the Kremlin, Boris Yeltsin sold the propaganda organ. It went through several owners and was finally purchased by the Russian Communist Party. Once dirty, always dirty.
In this country, the most recent (before Isle of Wight) effort at a state-run paper was launched by Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Pence announced early this year that he was ordering publication of something to be called “JustIn.” It was to become the “official” voice of Indiana, with its own taxpayer funded news staff and its inside track on what government is doing — or, at least what government wants you to know it’s doing.
Critics quickly panned the effort, dubbing it “Pravda on the Prairie,” and Pence wisely allowed the venture to die a quiet death.
Oddly, Pence said about his brainchild roughly what Isle of Wight said in announcing its own “official” news source. The Isle and JustIn would both be loaded with calendar items, and other interesting tidbits and press releases vital to the wellbeing of all who live under the rule of law in Indiana and Isle of Wight County.
Just this past week, Isle of Wight Director of Tourism Judy Winslow described county residents during a Board of Supervisors meeting as customers, rather than taxpayers. It’s something of a new spin on taxpayers as consumers of government services and largess.
(A few days later, Planning Director Beverly Walkup made it clear that some of the county’s “customers” aren’t on her Christmas Card list. Those who oppose ISLE 2040, which is defended in the latest edition of Voices from the Isle are rude and just not very nice. She wants legal action taken against them.)
I did a bit of basic research this week into state-run newspapers and found the topic pretty interesting. In order of media control, you work you way down from North Korea through Burma, Turkmenistan and on down to Belarus.
Recently, there has been a surge in government-financed “news” organizations in Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua. It appears Isle of Wight is in good company.
“Americas Quarterly,” an electronic magazine specializing in matters relevant to South, Central and North America, put it succinctly:
“Regimes that seek to limit civilian and political opposition have found a new tool in controlling their messaging: state-owned media. This comes despite the fact that state media — like many means of communication — should serve the interests of all citizens and provide information free of commercial, state or political influence.”
The University of North Carolina conducted a study of journalism versus public relations, and came up with the following distinction:
“The main intention of those working in the journalism profession is to provide their readers and audiences with accurate, reliable information they need to function in society.
“The work products from public relations professionals are intended to influence public opinion and are designed to promote and protect an individual or organization’s image and products.”
That pretty well defines Voices from the Isle. May it live a blessedly short life.

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