I am pleased and honored to be here today to provide a counter-argument to the recent assertion from the PAC, Americans for Stricter Media Accountability (ASMA), that mass media is a “vast wasteland’ and their desire to support stricter legislation on mass media reporting. I will admit that it is common knowledge that throughout all media there is some amount of content that could be termed ineffective and focuses on the negative. When media — in any of its forms — emphasizes the positive in the world, it can have not only immediate, but long-lasting effect for producing an optimistic environment, which we all benefit from. I would like to share with you today just two recent examples of positive outcomes from the publication of media stories.
A news article on ABC News written July 10, 2015 by Alexa Valiente, titled “Kansas Police Officer Buys Diapers, Shoes for Mom Who Shoplifted Them for Kids’, focused on Mark Engravalle, a Roeland Park police officer who was called to a Kansas Walmart after the store reported a woman was stealing goods. When he arrived he spoke with the young mother, Sarah Robinson. Ms. Robinson shared with the officer that she was struggling to make ends meet after the sudden death of her husband in 2012. Ms. Robinson was unemployed, had lost her home and belongings and was the sole provider to six young girls, who range in age from 4-year-old twins to 15 years. The family was also living in a car. Once Robinson was cited for misdemeanor theft, Officer Engravalle did something that some would see as heroic — he proceeded to take her and her girls back into the store and paid for everything with his own money. Being a father of two, he could relate to the situation and thought it was the right thing to do. Since the incident, there has been an outpouring of support from those within and outside the community, with offers of money, cloths and accommodations. None of this would have been possible without mass media and the publishing of this article. After ABC reported this heartwarming story other networks, newspapers, Twitter and Facebook did as well.
A second story, one reported by a local news station in Sarasota, Florida on June 30, 2015 went ‘viral’. Donald Gould was playing one of seven pianos on the sidewalks in downtown Sarasota as part of an interactive public arts project. Gould was playing one such piano when he was videoed by visitors who shared it on social media. Within twenty-four hours, it had been shared and re-shared and viewed by more than 500,000 people. Gould, a homeless, former Marine has had a difficult life — struggling with addiction, losing his wife in 1998 to drugs and losing rights to his son. As of two days ago, the video of Gould playing Styx’s “Come Sail Away’ was seen over nine million times. Also in that time, he’s been given temporary housing, been awarded a full scholarship to finish his degree at Spring Arbor University, has received over $40,000 in GoFundMe donations, and more importantly was able to re-connect with the son he hasn’t seen nor spoken to in fifteen years.
This article and news story, and the mass media exposure they produced, enhanced the opportunity for Ms. Robinson to find employment and increase her families standard of living. For Mr. Gould, it opened up new opportunities for improving his life in so many facets. The mast media exposure for both restores hope in all of us that there are good people in the world waiting to help in a constructive way. If mass media was a “vast wasteland’ as promoted by ASMA, neither Ms. Robinson nor Mr. Gould would have gotten the help and support which they so desperately needed. In this case mass media was a positive influence as a result of a good news story. Investment in human kind through positive mass media improves the daily lives of all Americans.
Thank you for your time and consideration today.