Tonawanda News

August 25, 2013

DUVALL: Obama's speech a yawner from media

By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A handful of thoughts on what was a newsie week in Western New York:

Anyone who thought just because we elected our first black president America’s race problem would be solved can find ample proof they’re wrong in the news just about everyday.

The Supreme Court is rolling back the Voting Rights Act and Republican lawmakers at the state and local level are wasting no time instituting what dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called “second generation” racial roadblocks such as voter ID requirements and gerrymandered districts reducing minority input at all levels of government.

It’s apparently OK to pick a fight with an unarmed black kid in the South, then when you start losing the fight, shoot him to death.

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic March on Washington, which culminated in his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

I’ve watched the speech probably dozens of times and studied it in college. It still casts a spell over me every time it plays.

(Fun fact: The actual “I Have a Dream” riff wasn’t in King’s prepared text. His prepared portion of the speech comes at the beginning of his remarks and is rather dull. The closing stanza that returns to the “I have a dream ...” line was an extemporaneous add-on, elements of which King drew on from speeches he’d given before. A great orator knows when he’s losing the audience and adjusts. That one of the greatest speechs in American history was largely impromptu only further adds to King’s aura.) 

I was heartened to see King’s legacy recalled as it should be — one of inspired action. That organizers expanded King’s civil rights legacy to include the poor, gays, Latinos, women and other portions of society not fully recognized was both smart and necessary.

•••

President Obama didn’t speak at Saturday’s rally on the steps of the Lincoln memorial — but he did make a speech in Amherst two days earlier.

It’s always an honor to host a sitting president, regardless of the reason or topic of the visit. Thursday was no exception.

Though I have to admit, the speech itself was a bit of a bore and from the media side it was something of a non-event.

You could tell by how the national media, far more used to this sort of thing than us local guys, treated the affair. News City Editor Neale Gulley, who attended the speech and wrote our main story about Obama’s call for higher education reform, noted the national guys didn’t even watch Obama in person. Instead they sat in a cordoned-off portion in the back of Alumni Arena and lunched on a catered buffet, their stories probably already written based off the embargoed copy of the president’s speech distributed by the White House press office that morning.

Absent much by way of “color” to fill in the policy heavy story, we were left with what felt like a fairly dry topic.

Kudos is due to Neale and the rest of our reporting team for really digging down and flushing out angles for what turned out to be a fairly straightforward news event. I enjoyed reading their stories and glimpsing their photos from the event. I hope readers did, too.

•••

I also noted a pet peeve in coverage: Almost every national publication datelined their story Buffalo. Obama landed in Cheektowaga and drove over the border into Amherst, then back out. By my count he never even passed through the city of Buffalo.

If you’re covering the president of the United States you should probably know what town he’s in.

•••

Just got done watching the Bills third preseason game. My first thought: That’s more like it. (They stunk.)

More to the point, they could be in some serious quarterback trouble. Rookie EJ Manuel is out for the rest of the preseason and it’s unclear if he’ll be ready to start the season opener at home against New England. Veteran Kevin Kolb has looked lost in training camp and looked even more confused after getting kneed in the head, forcing him to leave Saturday’s game with a likely concussion.

If both Kolb and Manuel are hurt that leaves third-string undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel to start opposite Tom Brady.

I’ve got one word if that happens: Yikes.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.

News City Editor Neale Gulley noted the national media didn't even watch Obama in person. Instead they sat in a cordoned-off portion in the back of Alumni Arena and lunched on a catered buffet