Yes It’s True: Politicians get lots of free positive press

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote this column about a half dozen years ago. I believe it’s still relevant today.

Long ago, but not far away, the late, great Wayland Globe Editor and Publisher Irvin P. Helmey taught me a lesson about cropping pictures that I’ve never forgotten.

It must have been in 1974, when I received a photo of a Hopkins FFA member shaking hands with Col. Harlan Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame during a national FFA convention. I thought nothing about preparing the photo for publication in that week’s edition of the Globe.

Mr. Helmey angrily returned the picture to me and scolded me for being taken in by sneaky advertising and propaganda. He maintained the photo was a subtle attempt by KFC to pick up free advertising, taking advantage of a young and naive reporter.

Irv then proceeded to crop out Col. Sanders by masking him with a thick white sheet of paper. He permitted the photo of the Hopkins FFAer to remain unscathed.

I told Irv I thought this was news because the young lad indeed had the privilege of having his picture taken with a celebrity, but he insisted the rich and famous continue to be rich and famous because they take advantage of the unwashed masses in their insatiable quest for free publicity.

Obviously, Mr. Helmey won the argument and I was left with a bruised ego, but a lesson I have taken seriously since then.

Fast forward to a March of Dimes fund-raising march in the early 1990s in Middleville. The chairwoman of the event called up State Rep. Bob Bender (who actually was a pretty decent fellow, for a politician) to ask if he would say a few kind words and take part in a Saturday morning sendoff ceremony.

Bender’s immediate reply was, “Will there be any media there with cameras?” She told him there would be local media (me) present. So he agreed.

I dutifully took the picture after his perfunctory comments, but remembering Irv’s stern lesson from nearly 20 years before, I cropped Mr. Bender out of the photo we published. The state rep., immediately after the ceremony, hopped into his car and took off, waving with a cheerful smile.

Mr. Bender actually had nothing to do with the hard work of marching. He only showed up to get his picture taken and perhaps advance his re-election chances.

But he is not alone. To this day, politicians are adept at just showing up at some event such as a fund-raiser, or at some ceremony honoring a local person who did good.

I have spent nearly a lifetime taking pictures of celebrities and politicians and cropping them out.

One of my most recent instances was when State Rep. Steve Johnson showed up at a Wayland City Council meeting to present a plaque honoring former City Manager Harmon (Pete) Stull for his military service. You guessed it — I excised the publicity seeking state representative from the photo.

I once was asked by a congressional candidate why so many politicians (particularly in pre-term limits days) get re-elected. The answer is easy. The incumbent has the power of recognition and a complicit press fawns all over him or her when they simply show up. The best way to stay in power is to keep your mug in front of the camera and be easily and often seen by the public.

When this happens, the people don’t know who the other candidate is and are less likely to support him or her.

Once again, the late, great comedian George Carlin had it right: “The game is rigged. But nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care.”

6 thoughts on “Yes It’s True: Politicians get lots of free positive press”

  1. Yes………I see you didn’t photochop Austin Marsman from Governor Gretchen Whitmer……….

    Such a double standard……..

    Your rag, do as you please.


  2. Your headline is factual as far as this publication is concerned. At least for those politicians of a certain party persuasion.

  3. As Mr. Young says, he can do what he wishes. Maybe it is time another type of website is created to give balance to arguments by the nutty Left Marxists.
    Truly, if Young is doing it, how hard can it be?

    1. You should put your money where your mouth is, I’m sure you and wilkens can scrape a few dimes together and start one. I can just see it now. Welcome to the delusional and confusion podcast, with your host DID and …… Cheers Man where conspiracies run deep and autocracy is our Moto

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