Friday, November 27, 2009

Guam's media doesn't get it

Guam’s media is having a righteous indignation festival over Sen. Matt Rector’s failure to disclose a 25-year-old misdemeanor conviction. Kuam and Guam News Factor are already cranking up their own versions of overheated, high-minded outrage.

Rector raises important questions about Guam’s economy, the impact of the build-up on wages and cost-of-living, and brings an important perspective at a critical time to the political process. He’s passionate, idealistic and recognizes that the military build-up will bring new hardships to many on Guam who will be hit with a higher cost of living and not necessarily better paychecks.

Rector is hard-charging, somewhat confrontational and appears to have doubts about the fairness of mainstream media. No surprise here. Rector is a longtime union leader, and union leaders tend to suspect that news outlets are inclined to favor management.

Rector has alienated local media and that means that his explanation for not citing a 25-year-old misdemeanor burglary case on the election form is unlikely to get anything close to a fair analysis. Some of the reporting is beginning to appear a little heavy handed. Kuam seems to relish pointing out that “the senator continues to refuse to answer calls or do interviews with Kuam News…” There’s a difference between refusing to give an interview to Kuam and not having to give an interview and I’ll explain why in a bit.

Rector's political viewpoints have ticked some people off, but his defense of this long-ago charge deserves dispassionate consideration. He may have had every reason to believe that the case had been sealed. If he was deliberately hiding a past conviction why then apply for a weapons permit, which involves a background check and fingerprinting? Why risk exposure?

The idea that Rector deliberately misled the electorate isn’t supported by his actions. It just isn’t. It would have made zero sense for him to have applied for gun permit if he was consciously trying to hide his past.

Moreover, the Guam Election Commission also required a “police clearance” as one of the necessary documents, along with a financial disclosure statement, from candidates seeking office. If a candidate had believed that a prior record had been sealed or expunged wouldn’t a “police clearance” have given added peace of mind that any police record had been erased?

The Guam Election Commission can’t remove Rector from office so the real test of this will likely rest with the legislature. Hopefully lawmakers will separate any political grievances they may have with Rector and look at this for what it is, a misunderstanding about the status of a long ago record and of no consequence to the job the voters have awarded him.

But the political leadership is already hanging Rector. The Pacific Daily News reports:

Sen. Adolpho Palacios said he believed burglary is considered a crime of moral turpitude, even if it is a misdemeanor. Sen. Frank Blas Jr. said he believed any acts of burglary committed under California law is a felony.

In Washington, my wonderful home, whenever a politician uses the term “moral turpitude” (which is rarely because they know better) the usual response is a snicker. And why did Sen. Blas see the need to up this to a felony? Can you feel the love?

While Rector can expect little support from local media, his defense may get fairer consideration on the social networks.

Rector has more than 1,800 friends on Facebook and has one of Guam’s larger Twitter networks, with over 500 followers, the 6th largest on Guam according to Twitterholic. Rector is arguably emerging as the media’s counter insurgency, and I have to suspect that some of this bitter media angst stems from his natural social networking ability and the growth of his networks. He has a knack for it.

In or out of office, Rector is certain to remain an influential voice as social networks expand, which is something for everyone to think about.

Rector is responding via his social networks and he is clearly in his right to pick and choose his forums. If Rector "refuses" to speak to the local press, what of it? That’s got to bother the heck out of the local media outlets, who ought to be asking themselves whether Rector has more influence and means to connect than they do.


Really?! said...

I think the fact that you are not on Guam contributes to you "not getting it." The truth is that if you listen to the people actually living on the island, you will see that Sen. Rector isn't the most appreciated politician. He has only passed one bill (a simple name change from GPSS to DOE), which calls in to question the effectiveness he has a leader for his political niche.
It would also benefit you to see just how many of his so-called "freinds" and "followers on both facebook and twitter are true supporters of him, as I am both and couldn't be further from the term supporter.
Rector has lied on the session floor, bullied testifiers at public hearings, and black-listed Guam's most reputable news organizations. If anyone doesn't get their role, it would be the freshman Senator.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua said...

The previous comment in a way shows the whole point of the post.

In Guam today, you find a million reasons to hate Matt Rector. You'll find so many random people who will quote different things about why he's dangerous, why he's worthless, etc. And these things tend to be spoken of as if Senator Rector himself is the only person on island or currently in elected office who has ever done any of these things.

That's the power of Guam's media in terms of directing discussion and thinking. You can find a plethora of instances where any senator lies, bullies someone, makes someone mad, or is just plain useless. The media has developed this narrative over the past year, that Matt Rector has the monopoly on these traits. I for one think its incredibly dangerous and wrong for rich people to be in political office, but the media doesn't seem to think that's an issue, for them the only real danger is if a union leader, with a pro-union agenda is in power. Guam has had more than six decades of pro-business, rich people in office, legislating with almost absolute freedom and pretending to be working for common folk. I don't remember the PDN or KUAM ever going after any of them the way they have gone after Rector and his pro-union and pro-working families philosophy in less than a year.

I think Guamblog has a very good point about how Rector's anti-KUAM and anti-PDN stance is working. Both news agencies have for far too long gone unchallenged, and are both frankly sorry excuses for news companies. They are too used to having access, power and authority and so when Rector comes in and gives voice to what so many progressives or liberals on Guam claim, that the media on Guam is very pro-business, conservative and generally just not very good, it irks them. It is true that both KUAM and PDN have become increasingly frustrated and it is reflected in the way they constantly reword the fact that Rector won't do interviews with them or will only do interviews with certain pre-conditions.

Although things are very difficult for Senator Rector right now, and you can rightfully claim that some of that is because of his approach to politics or being in the legislature. But ultimately, you cannot discount the power and the potential that he has, and its unfortunate the his message has gotten lost, muffled by the media who wants to protect their profits, and also by fellow politicians who pathetically claim to be for everything and generally don't do anything.

Rector already passed a big test last year and will face the ultimate test next year in terms of whether or not he can get re-elected. People have alot of sayings and ideas about politics on Guam and most of them have nothing to do with reality or how things work. One regular constant in Guam's politics is that when the business community organizes against you, you tend not to get re-elected or elected. This was something Democrats learned in 1974 and 2004. We'll see if Rector's media approach is yielding good results for his message next year.

kob said...

To anon -- Facebook "friend" only means that both parties have agreed to be part of each others social network. It's just an agreement on an alternative communication vehicle.

Michael, one of your excellent points: ...> You can find a plethora of instances where any senator lies, bullies someone, makes someone mad, or is just plain useless. The media has developed this narrative over the past year, that Matt Rector has the monopoly on these traits. <

It certainly seems the case. It speaks to Rector as a threat to the established ways of doing business by government and media.

Separately, I enjoy, immensely, the always insightful analysis on your blog; your writings are the source, in my view, for alternative examination of the issues facing Guam.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate some timely skepticism finally being applied to this orchestrated bleating of political sheep in their cry to remove Matt Rector. I didn't vote for him the last time but you can be sure I'll vote for him next time. I think a lot of other folks will, too!
The only reason the lawmakers, media outlets, et al., are resorting to these tactics is because they never thought he'd get elected in the first place. Does anyone really believe that Eloi is just being a good public citizen in his crusade to remove Rector and that he is filing his complaints independently of anyone's prompting?!
Also, if his records were sealed, who committed the criminal invasion of Matt's privacy and exposed a record under seal of the court? Why aren't we going after these kind of people ... they're the really scary ones and pose a real threat to our community. When do such folks quit getting the free pass.

Anonymous said...

I voted for Sen Rector and I would vote for him again. I voted for him bcuz I knew he would ruffle more than a few feathers. Now we can tell where the snipers are...when they shoot.