Natchez has enough reality TV

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When the cameras come on, the gloves come off — it’s a truth that’s made millions of dollars for reality TV producers.

Whether it’s the originals such as “Survivor” or the too-talked-about latecomer “Jon and Kate Plus Eight,” reality TV survives on competition, controversy and performance.

And local government has all three.

Though “Dancing with an Alderman” or “Supervisors got Talent” would undoubtedly be more amusing, Channel 4 has had reality TV worth poking fun at for a few years now.

If memory serves me, the Natchez Board of Aldermen started televising their regular meetings first. The board later pulled the plug citing cost savings (a three-hour meeting cost taxpayers $500) before plugging in again.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors turned on the cameras a few years ago — I remember because that’s when the sport coats came out.

Hours upon hours of reality TV since have recorded ridiculous aldermen spats, supervisors grandstanding, insults all around and sometimes pure ignorance.

If you don’t laugh, you may cry.

But perhaps the worst byproduct of cameras in the boardroom has been the politicizing of each and every word said.

Some of our elected leaders are no longer making the best decision for the taxpayers, they are instead sometimes just flashing their best political smile for the camera.

Sometimes that smile comes in the form of a pre-written monologue aimed and a select group of voters who must be on the fence; other times it merely comes by trying to make someone else at the table look bad.

Either way, it creates a malfunctioning government.

But just like “The Bachelor” there’s always one more spin-off.

Monday, the board of supervisors voted to send letters to every member of the hospital board requesting that the hospital board televise its meetings.

It seems someone is in the mood to share the spotlight.

But a spotlight with an on/off switch won’t do any good.

Just like the aldermen and the supervisors — and just like every reality TV show — televised hospital board meetings would not tell the entire story.

The city and county only televise their regular meetings, not all the special — sometimes closed-door — meetings they call in between.

So you, the TV viewer, are only getting part of the story.

In fact, the hospital board is not covered by the Mississippi Open Meetings Act. A large portion of their meetings can legally be handled in a closed-door, no camera setting.

Televising the hospital board meetings will only tell a small portion of the story.

Instead, the supervisors who are seeking financial accountability from Natchez Regional Medical Center should request a quarterly in-person report from the hospital board. And if the county board turned off its own cameras, maybe the hospital board members would listen.

Cameras could turn hospital board members into reality TV stars, concerned only about their audience.

I don’t want the men and women charged with overseeing my health care primping for a camera, and you shouldn’t either.

Just look at where it got Jon and Kate Gosselin.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or