I’ve always considered myself an optimist—I’m the person who tries to look at the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. Over the years I have become much more patient, but I must say that it is frustrating to see how negative many people in our community have become. As I observe all of the positive things happening in our community, I don’t believe that I’m looking through rosecolored glasses.
The real estate market is stronger here than in most of the Midwest, if not the country. Our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in decades. We’re seeing unprecedented growth in our medical community, including OSF, Methodist and the U of I College of Medicine campus. Capital campaigns for the Museum, Zoo and Bradley University are underway and Peoria Promise is right around the corner. Our population is growing.
We are also dealing with some of the unpleasant aspects of our community and making progress. Homicides are up, yet overall, violent crimes are down in double-digit figures in the first quarter of 2007. These crimes decreased significantly in 2006, too. We are making progress in this area. Homicides are nothing less than tragic and we have to give other options to those who have gravitated towards drugs and gangs. Education and employment are two options that will improve when Peoria Promise is in play in our community. Until then, we must come together and continue working towards solutions. This is a difficult subject to confront, but trying to sweep it under the rug and hope it will go away hasn’t worked in the past, and we’re paying the price. Thank God we’re focusing our efforts on it now.
The negative attitudes expressed by many people are perpetuated by the media, which sensationalizes devastating and negative reports. We have seen this National Enquirer-type reporting trickle down to the local level over the years. The mindset that “bad news sells” seems to have become an accepted principle of news reporting. In my opinion, we need to reverse that trend in Peoria.
Can’t we send a message to the media that, while we expect unbiased reporting of newsworthy events in our city, we don’t need to see the most damaging stories on the front page every day? I can tell you that there are many outstanding things happening in our local school districts, more than you can imagine. Do you see that on the front page—ever? It’s very seldom, and that is a shame. I would like to see a journalism class at Bradley or ICC analyze the amount of column inches given to front-page articles in our local paper that emphasize negative stories versus daily papers in Aurora, Naperville or Rockford. And we should hold local TV equally accountable.
At times I have wondered—what it would take to get our local media, especially the print media, to start looking at Peoria’s glass as half-full? A miracle you say? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s just think out loud. Suppose our business community were to mobilize and send a message that this negative attitude is hurting the community. What if they were to send a message to the same media that relies on them for advertising revenue, that they expect them to shift the focus to the many positive things happening in our community? Would they listen? I’m not sure. I have a feeling that if only our hospitals and car dealers withheld their advertising dollars for a month of Sundays, those media outlets might get the hint. Think about the full-page color ads that we see about our outstanding hospitals. What does one of those ads cost? How about all the pages devoted to new and used motor vehicles? This may sound like a rash attempt to influence the negative concentration and maybe it is. But what is it going to take to turn the tide? Our community needs to send a message that we aren’t going to accept that focus any longer. We expect the media to help us promote our city and our community and quit tearing it down.
Are the homicides going to stop tomorrow because our community is tired of them and wants our community to be safer? No. Are we going to keep working hard to eliminate them? Absolutely. So let’s hold the media accountable and expect them to play a positive role as well. Will their overall negative stories end because of this column? No. Can we work as a community to send the message that their negativity is unacceptable? I think so. What are your thoughts, business community? IBI