McHugh David: Is any press, good press?

There’s a saying – any press, is good press.

The direct quote, attributed to Oscar Wilde in 1915, is ‘all publicity is good, if it is intelligent.’ That was printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that year, with the thought that the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.

Public relations gurus, departments, and professionals have debated the merits of the statement for years. How much truth is there to the idea that even negative press can be beneficial? Is it really a good idea to be discussed, even in a poor light?

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Large business owners, some athletes, and still some politicians would agree with the sentiment. Whether it’s good or bad, they want it heard in some form of media. They’ll take to TV stations, newspapers, online blogs, and social media to get the word out about it just as quickly as possible. Good or bad? Doesn’t matter, they want their name to remain in the spotlight.

For many, this appears to be quintessential narcissism is probably the worst way. However, individuals seem to forget quickly these days. What was happening with the novel coronavirus at the end of June that caused surges in July, pushing to a mask mandate? None really remember, they just hate the mask mandate.

President Donald Trump is a master at such tactics. Whether you agree with his policies is irrelevant to the discussion – the president will take to Twitter with whatever is on his mind at any given point, be it right, wrong, good take, bad take… it doesn’t matter. The purpose is to keep all eyes on him, or the situation to which he’s bringing the light, to keep it relevant. And while even some staunch Trump supporters dislike his Twitter demeanor, its difficult to question the results.

But that’s the President of the United States, and few have come to expect any different from someone who came from a bombastic background in reality TV and very forward-facing business ventures. How about a state that continues to make headlines – and the majority of those headlines are the wrong ones?

Louisiana is first, per capita, in COVID-19 cases. Louisiana is last, or second-to-last, in economic beneficiary categories including infrastructure, tax system, education system, and workforce development. The United States Chamber recently released a video series on Louisiana’s ‘judicial hellhole’ and how it affects individuals and the state’s economy as whole.

There was a major fight in the legislature just this past session over fixing auto insurance rates.

Let’s not forget that, getting hyper-local, the New York Times wrote an article on the insolvency of the National Flood Insurance Program. Within that article was an interview with Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks, asking him about decisions he made post-flood with regard to elevation certificates and permits to allow people to re-build or repair their homes in a flood plain. He admitted to it, and said he would do it all over again.

But what does it matter, you might ask, because the state continues to move along? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Louisiana experiences a net exodus, year-over-year, of residents especially in younger demographics. The state has a 14th highest tax burden, per WalletHub, and yet has one of the bottom 10 tax bases in terms of land value (as well as the lowest property taxes in the nation, for the states that levy them) as well as a low base for sales tax due to low median income.

To add to those tax issues, Louisiana is a net-taker of federal money which it is using – especially post flood in Livingston Parish – to fund large scale infrastructure and drainage projects with no plans for future funding.

As Congressman Garret Graves likes to say – you can’t always wait for a windfall of federal money to plug funding issues.

The answer to the first question is a complicated one, but it’s also a hard pill to swallow for the state. Is any press, good press? The simple answer is ‘no,’ but the more complicated one lies in the direct quote from Oscar Wilde – ‘if it is intelligent.’

Are the headlines surrounding Louisiana’s issues intelligent? No, because they lack general direction on how to fix said items. As mentioned, just this past session legislators tried to take on auto insurance rates to some – but not all – avail. This is the framework moving forward – everything is going to be a fight.

But risk will be necessary in order to fix many of the issues that plague Louisiana, and things will have to be tried here that may not work at first.

If one thing is for certain, the Bayou State has to at least try because if there’s one thing we have proven – if you’re a state, bad headlines are no good.

Especially if budding citizens and businesses have better options, right next door.

McHugh David is publisher of the Livingston Parish News.