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Media scrutiny sadly lacking in this election RENITA FENNICK OPINION

I was about to shut down my computer on Friday night when I noticed a new e-mail in my inbox.

The e-mail was signed by Gerry, a self-described undecided voter who believed he was “not getting the full story” on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Gerry has questions about Obama’s associations with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and with domestic terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Gerry also wondered about Obama’s attendance at a social event for Palestine Liberation Organization spokesman Rashid Khalidi.

Gerry said he didn’t trust the Internet and was looking for a comprehensive article where he could find the answers to all of these nagging questions.

He wondered if citizens have the right to know more about Barack and said he didn’t think it was racist to look into Obama’s past.

Citizens’ right to know

I have no idea who Gerry is – or even if Gerry is male or female. I don’t know if he is liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, old or young. Yet the e-mail disturbed me, on several counts.

For some reason, Gerry thinks delving into Obama’s past could be construed as racist. And that’s not true. Citizens have a right to know more about any individual who wants to lead this country.

I don’t know if Gerry is white or African-American, but it’s troubling to know that the fear of being labeled racist is out there – if you dare question Obama’s past, present or future. Racism still exists but it’s a two-way street: No one seems to be questioning the more than 90 percent of blacks who are expected to vote for Obama.

The fact that Gerry has to ask if citizens have a right to know more about Obama – or Republican nominee John McCain or their running mates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden -- is a sad commentary. American citizens should be demanding closer scrutiny of all candidates because it is their right and they shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so.

They should demand that the media – from local newspapers to national networks – cover this race in an objective, fair, thorough and balanced manner.

Media responsibility

And therein lies the most unfortunate revelation of this election cycle: The national media has failed us.

I went into journalism – and remained in it for nearly three decades – because I believed it was a noble profession. I believed the press played a vital role in keeping an eye on elected officials, and should always be a loyal watchdog. I thought it was our duty to serve as the eyes and ears at all governmental functions – and to provide the voice and record to the citizens who are too busy working and raising families to monitor the actions of elected officials and government workers.

I believe it is important to attend municipal meetings, no matter how small, because not every citizen in a town can do so. I believe we must tell you what goes on in every courtroom and police department because not everyone has the time to pore over every public document.

And, in Gerry’s case, I believed it was our responsibility to find the answers to all of those nagging questions.

I believe local papers like ours still do a pretty good job.

I feel much differently about national newspapers, news magazines, major networks and wire services.

They failed miserably in their responsibility to fully and fairly cover this presidential campaign. I suspect there are millions of voters out there -- just like Gerry -- who have questions and wonder why they can’t find the answers.

It’s simple. Nobody in the national media is bothering to get them for you.

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