The Problem with Labels

Labels are what we use to tell us what is inside – or to describe ourselves and others.

Sometimes those descriptors are accurate, other times not.

We use tags not only to describe the content, but list the ingredients, or, in the case of people, to classify individuals and groups by their differences – gender, race, color, religion, income, intelligence, sexual orientation, size, shape, age, republican, democrat, etc., etc.

We use these marques to separate and maintain order, allowing us to keep things of like type together; after all, without them, we wouldn’t be able to tell a can of corn from one containing green beans, because cans typically all look the same with the labels removed. . .

It gets more confusing when you consider that there are an infinite diversity of green beans – bush and pole types, French-style, sliced, Italian cut, mixed, fancy – or broken down further by the different brand name they are sold under – Green Giant, Del Monte, Libby’s – over time, we pick our go-to favorites and become “brand loyal,” rarely going outside our preference to try other varieties of the same product.

Often, with a single word, a label can communicate things like quality, brand, taste – and they are carefully crafted by manufacturers, marketers and snake oil salesmen to present the contents of the package in the most attractive light possible – so, its up to us to determine the actual value and worth based on our own personal experience with individual brands.

I recently reflected on the use of labels and descriptors in our modern lives and political debates – the need to differentiate between those we agree with, and those we don’t – and separate ourselves by our own notions of self-identity, good and bad, black and white, rich and poor, smart and stupid – I do it all the time.

Increasingly, some in our society have come to using racial, gender and other “identifiers” to divide us into specific categories – usually based on their weird notion of what is “fair” – and our merits are no longer as important as our genetics.

And don’t get me started on the depth of the political divide. . .

Following last week’s primary election, I followed with interest a social media dust-up between newly re-elected Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and several of his constituents, during which the Mayor described one participants argument as “lunacy and heretical” – labels which were clearly meant to transfer to the person.

That is the nature of our political discourse in this foul year 2020 – and I am just as guilty as Mayor Henry, or anyone else – of lowering the bar and calling names.

Don’t expect anything to change.

For instance, get ready for some major mudslinging and imaginative descriptors as the two predominant political parties square off in the battle for the Big Enchilada this November.

Unfortunately, the idea of labeling ourselves, and each other, to set ourselves apart from our broader commonalities – then forming exclusive socio-political alliances which always pigeon-hole those who are different from the group – and use exclusionary rhetoric, even violence, as a means to a radical end seems to be increasing in popularity.

And, over time, one group’s ideas and vision for the future become morally and ethically superior to others – based solely on their external differences or cultural experience – leaving no room for social, civic or political compromise, as any differing opinion is immediately labeled racist, homophobic, misogynistic, lunacy, heretical, etc.

Then, my life matters more than yours – and our political and ideological differences are reduced to fistfights, rioting or worse.

And it seems there is not a damn thing we can do about it.

The cities of our nation are on fire – and no one who should seems to care about stopping it, so long as the mayhem serves a perverse political need on both sides of the political divide.

Fortunately, that is not my personal experience – and my wonderfully diverse family love and help one another unconditionally.

I found it interesting that the front page of Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal carried a piece by editor Pat Rice entitled, “The News-Journal will reflect reader diversity,” oddly suggesting that the racial and gender composition of the newsroom determines how the news is reported.

“In newsrooms, diversity is important because it impacts how we determine what makes news, and it impacts how we cover it.”

Say what? 

Frankly, I have never cared about the cultural identity of reporters, so long as they got the who, what, when, where and why of a news story reasonably correct and present the facts in a clear and unvarnished way.

Over the years, the News-Journal has lost an incredibly diverse pool of talent to “downsizing,” an evolving industry, and good old-fashioned mismanagement – so, with the newsroom now whittled down to a precious few, why would Mr. Rice place ultimate importance on the color of a reporters skin, rather than the quality of their skills and journalistic integrity?

According to Mr. Rice, “Much more often, newsroom diversity is important because it impacts how we as a group determine what to cover and how to cover it.”

Really?

Because, those of us who pay for the privilege of consuming the news from our local newspaper – regardless of our race, color or creed – would prefer that Mr. Rice and his bosses at Gannett simply focus on bringing us quality local news in a comprehensive and unbiased way – rather than stuffing our daily paper with pap and fluff from the Palm Beach Post and other members of the “USA Today network.”

At first, I thought Mr. Rice’s article was a joke – one of his lighthearted Sunday asides – then I realized he was serious.

In my view, diversity in the workplace and beyond is extremely important – but race, gender or ethnicity should have no influence on how the basic facts of a news story are investigated, compiled, or reported.

That’s not fair to anyone.

With all of print media on a rocket sled to oblivion – and our newspaper seemingly changing fonts and formats every other edition in a weird strategy to remain relevant in a digital world – the fact our local newspaper chooses to focus on the notion of selecting reporters based upon their gender, race and “life experience” – rather than their learned and innate ability to ferret out the stories and information that make a difference in the life of our community – is astounding.

To the reporters and staff who work for Mr. Rice and those like him – my heart bleeds for you – as he suggests the color of your skin or gender dictates how you should report the immutable facts and circumstances of incidents, accidents and the administration of government.

I cannot think of anything more inherently presumptuous, or, dare I say, “racist.”

Are current employees going to be fired or run-off to make vacancies for employees who do not look like them?

Will The News-Journal use forced attrition to ensure demographic equality with the community – or use money they clearly don’t have to hire more employees (while excluding others) who meet Gannett’s engineered idea of what the newsroom should look like?

Exactly, how does Mr. Rice plan to achieve this corporate idea of a social utopia over on 6th Street?

Unfortunately, as the regionalization and homogenization of The Daytona Beach News-Journal continues, we can expect more of the same as the executive focus turns from quality reportage to some warped idea of “inclusion” in its rapidly shrinking newsroom.

Sorry, folks.  It is not about reporting the news anymore.

Our “local paper” has clearly lost sight of what is important to us, regardless of our race, color, or creed – and abdicated it’s important role in our community to political correctness – even as our coastal version of Rome continues to burn.

8 thoughts on “The Problem with Labels

  1. Mark, you were a really good cop, but you’d have made an excellent carpenter. You never fail to hit the nail squarely on the head… especially today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Guess you did not see the story from WNDB with Boyd telling a judge after the Henry recount that dead people voted by mail.She wants help in counting 6000 ballots and prove those people are not dead.Guess Henry never learned.Pat Rice said today he will not back Heather Post because she took money from builders but backs Debbiedoo Deny because Ed Kelley does too. Lets not mention how much money she took from Minto ,Kahlid and Housseini and all his corporations.Lets not forget Pat Rice says he has a 61.000 circulation but in reality only had 29.000 in 2019. .Diversity would mean firing people as he has almost no staff and the News Journal parking lot is empty at all hours.Did he tell you Gannett forced him to make employees who made over $35.000 to work 3 weeks and take the 4th week off with no pay for three months.His diversity will only last as long as that rag is in business and that wont be too long away.Cant find 2020 numbers anywhere.Transparency in the media does not exist

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Mark,

    I always enjoy your columns but feel you missed the mark with the Labels story.

    Pat Rice is correct in his efforts to diversify the newsroom. In America, race matters EVERYWHERE and if we’re going for true equality that has to be taken into consideration. If you doubt me on this ask Percy Williamson or Brent Chrite for their thoughts on the matter

    For further insight into how black Americans feel about us whites, have a look:

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1962/11/17/letter-from-a-region-in-my-mind

    Let me know if you think differently after reading it.

    Best,

    Eric Breitenbach

    Like

    1. Eric back at ya.Wish you were with me when two blacks did a bump and run on me at the Miami Convention Center with a gun at my head and back or the home invasion in Brooklyn or getting mugged twice in Brooklyn.2800 shot and 480 dead by black on black in Chicago year to date .Same garbage for the 8 years Obama was president and Mayor Lightfoot had her block shut down because of a protest this week and had her her defunded police protect her because she said protestors threatened her life.Tell me why a black mayor of Daytona made life great for whites in Margaritaville and Mosaic and we have a ghetto in Midtown that a black did nothing for in his dynasty as Mayor .ALL LIVES MATTER DUDE .Never see blacks working for landscapers or roofers in feels like 110 degrees but they love minimum wages ay Wendys but Hispanics work their asses off.BLM IS POLITICAL Trump before Covid had more blacks employed and least unemployment and the least amound of food stamps ever.

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    2. Eric you do know a principal at Mainland had to retire because she gave an A to all the football players who never attended a fake class

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    3. all lives matter. stand up for national anthem, no kneeling. NBA should remove black lives matter from basketball court surface. I gave up watching he NBA and NFL 4 years ago. I nicknamed both leagues the thug leagues.

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  4. Right on Mark. I let my subscribtion cancel because of some of the choices they are making over on 6th st. Or at “headquarters “. I’ve was a loyal reader since I was 15 and in charge of grabbing my dads paper off the wet driveway most mornings. I looked forward to the sports and funny pages. Nowadays I cannot read (don’t want to) half of the stories and headlines. Covid this or that, this billion dollar company wants X amount of tax dollars or relief and especially how the DBNJ cowers down (or promotes) to anyone they CANNOT offend w actual reporting. Its a new world in media. My Democratic father is rolling in his grave. And soon, so will the DBN,. unfortunately.

    Like

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