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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: KOMU-Mediacom negotiations were all about words and dollars

By Tom Warhover
January 7, 2011 | 3:36 p.m. CST

Dear Reader,

Medicom and KOMU have been vying for our hearts and eyeballs this week, while dickering over the only thing that stood in the way: money.

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KOMU wants it. Medicom says the station is unreasonable.

Most of that story took place behind closed doors. Although the two parties reached an agreement Friday, we know there were many offers and counteroffers. We don’t know how much was offered or rejected, or the percentages of trade dollars through ads vs. hard, cold cash.

In the meantime, each side worked to tip the victims-villains scale of public opinion.

So Mediacom implied in its advertising and in interviews that KOMU didn't fulfill its public service mission to the people of mid-Missouri when it took its programming off the cable station’s lineup.

KOMU marched to its own high moral ground. Sure, money is important, “however, most everyone expects to be paid for the work that they do,” it noted in a question-and-answer piece online. “We are fighting to protect our rights.”

In television ads, the cable guys prominently used the term taxpayer-funded; the station is owned by the UM System Board of Curators, which is a nonprofit organization that receives money from the state each year.

KOMU says the station isn’t taxpayer supported at all – it pays its own way and even returns dough to the university.

True and true. Or – well, that’s been reporter Eve Edelheit’s job figuring out this week. It comes down to how you consider the terms.

As with all politics, winning the fight over definitions is half the distance to public opinion victory.

Full disclosure: Although there are several differences, the Missourian similarly serves a teaching mission with the MU School of Journalism. I’m also a Mediacom customer, as is Edelheit.

I’d like to think that neither has unfairly skewed the newspaper’s coverage, but I’ll leave that to your thoughts.

It’s been Edelheit's job to continue to sift through the language of negotiations.

And the work of KOMU and Medicom? As one customer interviewed said, it's their job to fix the problem, and "it's my job to watch television."

Thanks to Lois Richardson for pointing to a glaring oversight in the daily television listings in print: There are no listings for CenturyLink, one of the two cable companies serving Columbia.

A fix is in the works. Unfortunately, it might take some time. That big grid is compiled by a company in New York and is sent in two-week batches. (Jan. 22 was downloaded yesterday, for instance.)

….

Put me down as a vote against altering Mark Twain. I get the argument that removing the N-word would make “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” more palatable to a larger audience.

I don’t agree. There are other Huck Finn books out there abridged and edited for young readers.

It’s the adults – the ones who ban Mr. Twain’s from high schools – whom this week’s release is aimed at.

“Nigger” is an ugly, hateful word, which is all the more reason for high school students to see it for what it is in the greatest American novel ever written. We need to give high schoolers more responsibility to think and act critically and not pretend to shelter them from words they hear plenty of times already.

Tom