Thursday, January 14, 2010

What About That Photo of Senator Inouye?

RandomAsheville is admittedly Webcentric, so I get most of my news, local and national, on the Internet. But I do enjoy picking up Mountain Xpress for free at a coffee spot. The paper seems to still be fat (or pleasingly plump) with advertising, and that's good for its future.

Sadly, the Citizen-Times is thin on both ads and content. There's no incentive to buy a copy and no pleasure in the physical experience of reading it in print. Occasionally a coffee drinker leaves a copy of the Asheville Citizen-Times behind, so I sometimes see how stories are playing out in print.

That's how I came  to see a headline on the inside continuation of Mark Barrett's story on the airport board members' letter justifying their trip: "AIRPORT: Attendees e-mail PR photo." Barrett had already disparaged the photo by describing it as a low-resolution image taken on a cell phone. Now the headline writer is making sure we know how to perceive it.

And although I semi-promised no more posts on Hawaiigate, a commenter on the Citizen-Times Web site sent me to the Web site of the American Association of Airport Executives, the sponsor of the conference. It seems the AAAE doesn't want the media reporting on who says what there:

"MEDIA ACCESS: Because of the open-discussion format of this conference, all sessions are off-the-record for members of the media. No audio recordings, still or video photography will be permitted. Media members wishing to attend the conference must register with AAAE in advance. Media registrations will not be accepted on-site. Interviews with delegates can be arranged through AAAE. For information, please contact Sean Broderick at or 703 824 0504."

And it isn't just local media that is figuring out the conference is a junket-boondoogle.  Here's what the Washington Post's Al Kamen had to say in an article titled "Hawaii offers warmer weather, yet less hot air" on January 8.  I've added some emphases.

"Freezing cold driving you to distraction? Time to head to Hawaii for the annual American Association of Airport Executives conference for some intensive golf and beach time! . . .

Back in the good old pre-Abramoff days, eight or so lawmakers, dozens of Hill staffers and a contingent of administration officials would attend the conclave, which thoughtfully scheduled its "working" sessions to end before lunch to leave plenty of time for touring and for golf and sun at the spectacular Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.

In recent years, very few government folks have showed up and some even paid for themselves -- at the government rate. A preliminary schedule, which no longer appears on the association Web site, listed no administration or congressional officials participating in the sessions, even the exceptionally timely one on airport security concerns.

Unclear how many, if any, Hill staffers will be there. Early indications are that Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who, after all, lives there, and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who will be in Hawaii en route to his trip with Inouye to Japan, will attend. You might see Rep. John Mica, (R-Fla.) former chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, who has gone on his own dime in the past.

Also, the venue has changed to the Westin Maui Resort and Spa, but that appears to be an excellent place to ponder aviation issues, so the event retains its Loop Five-Star rating. Casual dress strongly recommended."

Now what about that picture  with Sen.  Inouye the Asheville contingent sent back?  And what was that about government officials going on their own dime?

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