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Editorial: Cost of a Well-Informed Citizenry

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July 13, 2014 by Steve Winkler

- The Observation Post – by Steve Winkler

July marked the second month that a West Fork city council meeting was made available to anybody, anywhere, anytime. Video technology and the internet have opened up the proceedings in city hall to anyone who wishes to be a witness to their city government conducting business.

The funding for video recording and distribution on YouTube of the entire council meeting is made possible by a locally owned community news blog and donations from private citizens who share the idea that the best government is one with an informed citizenry.  The idea is basic to our democratic form of government.

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government;… whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.” –Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, 1789.

“The diffusion of information and the arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public reason, I deem [one of] the essential principles of our government, and consequently [one of] those which ought to shape its administration.” –Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural Address, 1801.

“How much does it cost to make a video and post on a free website, YouTube?” someone asked. Fair question. Yes, individuals can use YouTube free of charge, but processing and posting a video of a two hour meeting on YouTube is a time intensive task.  It can take all day to upload; YouTube doesn’t like long videos.

The quality of what appears on the internet depends, of course, on the equipment and skill of the videographer. The high quality of the two videos produced so far is the result of the best equipment in the skilled hands of West Fork resident, Brooke McNeely, a university trained, professional photographer. Her fee is one hundred dollars.

Should the taxpayers, rather than private donations, fund this effort? Is it the responsibility of city government to inform citizens about city business? Does the “diffusion of information…shape [our city] administration?” Jefferson might ask.  Is the current West Fork city government making an effort to keep citizens informed?

The cost? The question always becomes, what is the cost of having an ill-informed citizenry?

Steve Winkler

Steve Winkler is the publisher and editor of the Observer. Email him at steve@wcobserver.com

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