Deena Winter Helps Bash Wal-Mart

November 29, 2005 at 4:28pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I’m awfully disappointed in Deena Winter after reading her article on the City Council’s discussion of a new Wal-Mart near 84th and Adams. This paragraph is what bothers me:

A series of Wal-Mart opponents testified against allowing another Wal-Mart into Lincoln, going through a litany of beefs about the world’s largest company and its well-publicized business practices: the number of its employees on government assistance and health care programs and the effect the company has on independent businesses and wages.

In that paragraph Ms. Winter has managed to imply negative things about Wal-Mart’s so-called “well-publicized business practices” without actually stating them. It’s a classic case of allowing the reader’s imagination to conjure up images that are worse than reality. She doesn’t state “the number of [Wal-Mart’s] employees on government assistance and health care programs” (Is it 1%? 50%? 100%?), nor does she cite “the effect the company has on independent businesses and wages”. It is, quite simply, lazy and biased.

In all fairness to Ms. Winter, it’s not like she was writing a story about the virtues and vices of Wal-Mart. The article was about a City Council meeting, and she reported what she heard. It’s not her fault the public’s comments were not accompanied by silly things like “facts” and “data”. Still, a little context would have been nice. Many people take these sorts of things at face value, and Ms. Winter needs to recognize that. The activist public feeds off of these sorts of articles because they fuel existing biases with pseudo-data, while the passive public only remembers the catchy baseless claims (Wal-Mart “will create excessive traffic, crime, litter and light and noise pollution”), pleas to emotion, and non
sequiturs (“A man ... said he has seen the impact Wal-Mart has had on floral shops, optical stores, paint stores, garden centers, grocery stores, shoe stores and clothing stores in small towns. He said the owners and employees of those stores contributed to their towns for years, until Wal-Mart came to town”).

The discussion in this situation ought to focus on only one thing: is a regional shopping center, including a large discount retailer, appropriate for the intersection of 84th and Adams? That, in and of itself, is an interesting question, but it is one that has more or less already been answered in the affirmative. The current discussion is rooted not in a rational analysis of the situation, but an emotional, ideological, and elitist drive to stifle consumer choice in favor of inconvenience and higher costs. In other words, it’s a discussion best held around the water cooler, on blogs like this, and on the opinion page, not in a local news story.

[Note: Do you hate Wal-Mart, and the proposed 84th & Adams Wal-Mart in particular? Write up a solid, well reasoned article and I’ll post it in the Opinion section. Send it to me at MrWilson at Lincolnite dot com.]

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The Comments

foxspit November 30, 2005 at 1:29am

Good point.  I suspect the writer’s deadline prevented her from looking up a lot of the data, but that’s what makes for a good follow-up story.

I support local business as much as possible, so I hate to see the big box retailers popping up in Lincoln.  I am definitely not a fan of Wal-Mart, mostly because they have such a huge selection that they harm local grocery stores, hardware stores, clothing stores, etc.  Call me an old codger, but I prefer to see local businesses succeed versus corporate stores that send their net profits to Arkansas (Wal-Mart, Alltel, etc).

If the reporter is doing a follow-up story, I would be interested to see how Wal-Mart’s business practices stack up to those of other big box retailers.

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