I didn’t catch Olbermann’s #1 story on the TV last night, neither at 8 p.m. nor 10 p.m. Something more pressing was on.
Okay, it was “House” and then “Weeds.”

But each time, I did catch the end part, of a man sitting in front of a burnt down house, and Keith scowling. Only later did I view the entire story online, and halfway through it, I had to stop and roll my eyes.

The story is of the Cranicks of rural Obion County, Tenn. Gene Cranick’s grandson was burning some garbage, and the fire got out of hand, but the fire department of South Fulton, Tenn., would not douse it because Cranick had not paid a $75 subscription fee. They FD did douse the fire on an adjoining property because they guy had paid.

Olbermann leaped on this thing like he was a starving tiger.

A look now into the America envisioned by the Tea Party. A home catches fire. Firefighters arrive on the scene, and watch the place burn down. All because the home owner did not pay an extra fee. Our number one story. Pay to spray, just a preview of what would come in a kind of a la carte government. In a moment, the man victimized by this policy, where its already in effect, will speak out.

But the story he told here seemed utterly incomplete.

I’ve spent years in a former career covering government at the municipal level for newspapers. This is a common theme between cities and surrounding rural areas. A city might, for example, offer to annex a township, a move that enhances the city’s tax base and offers the township an energized way to provide services. Often, the township’s elected officers will fold up their arms at this offer and mumble about not needin’ no city gov’mnt no how.

It’s interesting to see how Olbermann is capable of leaving vital details out of a story just like any of these other cable news hacks. For instance, he lightly refers to a white paper of some kind, which details what departments provide what in and around the county. He doesn’t tell you that resource was a 2008 proposal to create a county-wide fire department, which, as reported by Mother Jones, the County Commission voted not to fund.

So, yeah. This is a story about an epic failure caused by a cynical, short-sighted government—just not the government who’s blamed so harshly in Keith’s piece last night. It was not, as it was presented, a simple tale of cold-hearted libertarianism gone amok. It was a confluence of local political issues that I guarantee you are probably being debated at your next city council meeting in your own community.

As an aside, I also love that Olbermann failed to mention that, later in the day one Timothy A. Cranick—related, I assume—was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault after he allegedly “cold-cocked” the fire chief. That wouldn’t tend to make your interview subject very sympathetic now, would it, Keith?

We don’t need to hype a ridiculous story like this one to draw attention to the ongoing effort in this country to dismantle the commons. The effort is real and ongoing, and there are plenty of concrete examples to point to. Keith mighta thunk this was good television, but one thing it wasn’t was good journalism.

There really is a difference.

One thought on “Burned.”

  1. Brady, My thoughts exactly. If I was not suffering from such a prolonged case of writers’ bloc, I would have said as much myself. You the man.

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