Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What specific regulation?

It's doubtful you'll find someone in support of "needless" regulation.    But as we move further into the political campaign season, you'll read more and more about "needless regulations" that are making it impossible for business to create jobs and the politicians who want to change that.

For the journalist, it's essential to get the specific.   What specific regulation is causing the problem?   Why was the regulation enacted?   What does the regulation do?   What does it cost?   What does it save? 

There's a lot of criticism of the EPA.   Do you remember Love Canal?  Remember the Cuyahoga River catching on fire?  Would you like to live in a country like China where you can chew the air?

So when politicians start ranting about regulations, do some fact checking and get specifics.  Has the politician who is ranting done his/her homework?  If she/he has, great, you've got worthwhile facts for your story.   If she/he hasn't, now it's time for follow-up questions and more great facts for your story.  Right now, we're seeing a lot of human microphone stand stories.   We just repeat the rants.   That's not reporting.   That's stenography.

If corporations acted in the public interest, there would be no need for the EPA or the SEC or a host of other regulatory agencies.   But we don't live on a planet where all corporations always act admirably.  That's why a river caught on a fire.  That's why OSHA tries to prevent companies from exposing their employees to dangerous, and often cancer causing chemicals.      Never has thoughtful, contextual reporting been more important as we head into the season of the political rant.

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