Just a few nights ago, unable to sleep after midnight, I tuned into a rerun of A Few Good Men. I waited around until the famous scene where the character played by Jack Nicholson shouts at an interrogating prosecutor, “You can’t handle the truth!”Fortunately, Berl Schwartz and the City Pulse have a higher opinion of the audience and community they serve. As a longtime Lansing resident now transplanted to Minnesota, I continue to value the independent reporting of the Pulse as well as its in-depth treatment of the arts. Both are journalism resources unavailable anywhere else in the Lansing region. I appreciated Berl’s invitation to write about environmental issues during the early years of the Pulse. The environment is not always the foremost issue in the minds of citizens, but it is vital to the Lansing region. The links among environment, human health and quality of life are as much a part of the community as the river, the Grand, that runs through it. The Pulse has supported coverage of the issue like no one else. One of my favorite memories is the flap over a column I authored, challenging then-Representative Virg Bernero’s argument that drinking water was the leading source of lead poisoning for the community (I said lead paint in older houses was the major source of diminished IQ and neurological problems in kids). Berl hosted us both on his radio program and the conversation, to put it mildly, was spirited. Rep. Bernero accused me of drinking too much lead-contaminated water to think clearly. (I don’t need to drink poisoned water to have muddled thoughts.) I drew from that a strengthened belief that Berl was committed to challenging the views of those in positions of power, but he was also committed to an open discussion of differences as a means of permitting his audience to make its own judgments. We need a lot more of that in this society.
My wishes for the future of the Pulse include: • Ever-growing capacity to penetrate the fog of spin that clouds politics, including environmental issues. There are plenty of unfulfilled opportunities for investigative journalism in this, Michigan’s capital of bamboozlement.
• Making voices of the often unheard, including persons of color, a regular trait. Much has been said about the “new,” alternative journalism in the age of dying newspapers and the rise of the Internet.
Not so new. The Pulse has been doing first-rate alternative journalism for a decade now. I hope it will remain and grow as an institution for many decades to come, and that the Pulse’s granddaddy, Berl, gets the recognition he deserves for enriching the Lansing region. This community can not only handle the truth; it needs the truth the Pulse unearths and brings to light.
Dave Dempsey is author of “William G. Milliken: Michigan’s Passionate Moderate” and five books on the Great Lakes and environmental issues. He wrote a column on the environment for City Pulse, on and off, from 2003 to 2010.