Waite: Was the Gazette’s Thanksgiving cover tone deaf or did it touch the right nerve?

Thursday's Gazette front page
Thursday's Gazette front page

WEIGHING IN – Three people were killed in two separate shootings, and in bold orange letters on the front page of our Thanksgiving Day edition were the words, “We give thanks.” In addition to the large feature about local folks expressing their appreciation, my mostly upbeat column about a Thanksgiving tradition ran along the left side of the page.

I couldn’t help but feel as though The Daily Gazette’s Thanksgiving cover was out of touch, tiptoeing toward tonedeaf. Here was our paper – and my column – showing gratitude on the same day there was a double murder in Princetown and a still-suspectless slaying in Schenectady. These two incidents came just days after a shootout in downtown Saratoga Springs, during which police officers reportedly fired their service weapons at least 11 times.
Andrew Waite - Weighing In

What’s more, in the national news, major stories over Thanksgiving week were about mass shootings at a nightclub in Colorado Springs and at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, not all that far from where I was peacefully spending my holiday chasing gleeful children running through waves.

How is it possible to be thankful amid the recent bloodshed? Then again, maybe confronting juxtaposition, as Thursday’s front page inherently demanded, is precisely what we need to do to address crime in our communities.

There’s no denying crime has been heavily politicized. In New York, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin nearly rode to victory with a crime-centered campaign in the state’s closest governor’s race in decades. The New York Times recently reported that suburban swing voters on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley, which are some of the safest large communities in the country, turned out for Zeldin because they bought into doomsday campaign messages about the state’s streets not being safe.

People on the left tend to respond to this messaging by saying that fears about crime are overblown and distorted. Conversely, people on the right often use horrific events such as last week’s murders as proof that crime is out of control. It’s as much of a fallacy to say crime isn’t a problem as it is to say things have run amok.

More Andrew Waite

While focusing on what data actually show, we also need to accept the fact that people interpret news differently. It’s the only way we’re going to arrive at meaningful action that can actually address the scourge of shootings in our country.

Following recent news, the New York Times reposted a comprehensive 2017 report showing guns are the root cause of America’s disproportionate amount of mass shootings. Among other illuminating statistics detailing that factors such as mental health and violent video games aren’t to blame, the Times’ story reported that while Americans make up about 4.4% of the global population, they own 42% of the world’s guns. And from 1966 to 2012, 31% of the gunmen in global mass shootings were American, according to a 2015 study by a professor at the University of Alabama.

Yet even five years after this Times report and a decade after 20 children were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, we still haven’t come to a consensus on meaningful gun control legislation. In such a divided country – and an increasingly divided state, as evidenced by the midterms – the only way we’re going to be able to achieve any meaningful result that addresses gun violence is by bringing all sides to the table.

To do this, we must have open and honest conversations. We must refrain from digging into preconceived narratives and from completely dismissing others’ views.

I often think about the “Red Brain, Blue Brain” episode of NPR’s “Hidden Brain,” in which a researcher details that a primary difference between conservatives and liberals is how they view threats and danger. Conservatives are far more likely to be actively worried about outside forces. People simply process information in completely different ways.

The sooner we can accept this difference, the better. If we continue to disregard each other, the gridlock will only grind on.

That’s why I’m encouraged by the fact that following the Saratoga Springs shootout, an agenda item was scheduled for Monday to discuss bar closing times in the city. To me, this item is representative of what should happen following such a worrying incident, which was only the latest violence to occur downtown during early morning hours.

If trouble is coming as a result of bars being open too late, closing at 2 a.m. might provide a real benefit. Of course, any action should be based on data and should factor in the perspectives of business owners, who may be right to fret about lost revenue if cutting two hours of service won’t actually make anything safer. (Would the potential for violence simply shift to two hours earlier as people spill out of the bars at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m.?)

Regardless, a public dialogue that is looking into a specific law change designed to improve safety is the right start. These conversations – and corresponding actions – must happen at the local level up through Congress.

More Andrew Waite

The holiday season is famously a time when family members of all political persuasions sit together at the same tables, and arguments can often ensue. For instance, during our beach week on the Outer Banks, our family had differing opinions about whether 10-year-old kids should be allowed on the beach without adult supervision. Some feared rip currents and predators. Others valued independence.

In the end, the group decided on a compromise that permitted the kids to dig in the sand but not go in the ocean without an adult. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was something.

The reality is everyone sees and experiences the world uniquely, and perhaps in a starkly different way than a person across the room or pictured across the front page. One person may be giving thanks while the other is grieving; one person may be fearful while the other feels comfortable.

If we remember our differences, we may just start a conversation that can lead to common ground.

Columnist Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

More Andrew Waite

Categories: Andrew Waite, News, News, Opinion, Opinion, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, Schenectady County

One Comment

In the newspaper trade, as I’m sure an experienced journalist like Mr. Waite knows, there’s a term “above the fold” as a means to attract attention, (to sell papers, to appease advertisers, to increase revenue) referring to what someone sees at first glance when they see the paper for sale.

One look at the Thanksgiving edition of the Daily Gazette shows where their priorities are. Why are you asking us? FWIW, it looks pretty tone-deaf to me.

Leave a Reply