The other day I noticed a tweet with a link to a video posted by a professional news organization, Delaware Online, edited in a way to make it seem that the Delaware DOT was illegally or improperly stealing some guy’s basketball pole. Unfortunately not only did this news agency take this angle, but the majority of people watching or reading the news story did too. However, most of us in government can recognize right away that most likely the guy had improperly placed this pole where he should not have. And the government had properly notified him to remove it and were only taking the pole because he chose not to comply. How many times has something similar happened to your agency? Sure enough after researching the situation, I quickly found a plat of the guy’s house, when it was built, and how long he had lived there. All facts that dispute his right to place the pole in public right of way and facts that conflict with what he led us to believe about the history of the pole.
Although I am disappointed to see that a news agency uses sensationalism and leaves out facts just to get more readers, this unfortunately has become a typical tactic for a traditional news industry desperate for readers. The even more disappointing part of it is that we have not prepared our population with even basic knowledge of how government works in order to prevent them from being manipulated by the news agencies in this manner. The anger and suggested violence promoted as a solution in the comments is disturbing and is encouraged by the irresponsible use of this video by a company that should be conducting itself in a more professional manner.
And even though the news agency’s actions have now encouraged everyone to call and inundate the state police and state representatives with calls and demands to fire the crew involved in the removal, they will be the first to wonder why we can not get anything done in government. Can you imagine how much time will now be wasted at these agencies and by state legislators as they patiently have to explain to each caller the guy did not own the property, there are laws that prevent anyone from building anything anywhere they want, and nothing is preventing the guy from installing a basketball pole on property he does own.
I have an even more detailed post about the specific situation, including the video, here: