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Last Blog: Wal-Mart

I found the story about the grassroot efforts that stopped the proposed Wal-Mart from being built in St. Petersburg, Florida to be the most compelling. I was amazed and shocked when reading about Wal-Mart’s history and how they treat their employees. It is fascinating that in only 30 years, 5,000 Wal-Marts were built.  I was disgusted when I read that Wal-Mart gets most of their products from China and that these workers only get paid 40 cents an hour whereas the CEO of Wal-Mart made $32 million dollars in 2008. This means that it would take 27,397 Chinese workers who worked 365 days a year for eight hours a day to add up to the $32 million dollars that this one CEO makes. I also thought it was awful that Wal-Mart gives their employees very low salaries. Williams states that, wages and benefits were so low that employees qualified for food stamps and healthcare. These are just a few facts that I found very interesting about the history of Wal-Mart and how they treat their employees.

I thought that the story about how the media helped to get people involved in preventing the construction of a new Wal-Mart in St. Petersburg, Florida to be very compelling. One individual who really took a stand and helped others in the community realize the harm of building a Wal-Mart in this community was WMNF radio reporter Andrew Stelzer. The way in which he reported fascinated me. He used many arguments to persuade listeners’ way a new Wal-Mart should not be built. He interviewed three activists on his show that all brought up different points that would appeal to different members of his audience. One activist brought up the point that there are already three Wal-Marts near this area and one is only 4.2 miles away. Another activist brought up the issue that if this new Wal-Mart was built, it would cause major traffic jams in this area that many citizens would not want to deal with. The final activist that Stelzer had on his show explained that, many of Wal-Marts employees receive their health care benefits from the state. On his radio show, he then played audio from a member of the Sierra Club that stated that Wal-Mart said there were only six acres of wetlands, when in reality there were 20 acres. She also stated that, “Wetland mitigation has a 50 to 90 percent failure rate” (128).  From these interviews on Stelzer’s show, it helped inform people about the potential dangers and problems that this new Wal-Mart could have on their community and the natural environment.

Another way in which Stelzer helped stop this Wal-Mart from being built through using his radio show is that on the day of the hearing, he let his listeners know that they could still make it to the hearing and show their disapproval of the proposed Wal-Mart. He did this by giving out a telephone number that listeners could call to get more information on this hearing. He stated that by the end of the hearing, hundred of people showed up to show their disapproval of building a new Wal-Mart. I thought that Stelzer’s reporting was very inspiring. It is sad to say, but I do not think I have ever heard or seen a report take so much action in helping to make a community a better place. I hope that in the future more reporters will choose this career because they truly care about helping others and will not be persuaded by corporations with a lot of money.

The St. Petersburg Times was another aspect of the media that talked out against the construction of building a Wal-Mart in this community. In the St. Petersburg Times they discussed a story about another Wal-Mart that was built in Oldsmar, Florida. The company promised to create a wetland in order to gain five acres of land they needed to construct their store. Reporters Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite stated that the man-made wetlands the company made failed and the company then tried to sell this land. The one problem in the St. Petersburg Times articles was that they did not give their readers an idea of what they could do to help prevent this Wal-Mart from being built within their community.

Before reading this article, I never realized how powerful the media can truly be. This story showed that the media can be used to inspire people to talk out against what is wrong and what they can do in order to fix or solve a problem. I also find it incredible that through one source of media it can inspire hundreds, if not thousands of people to get involved and fight for what they believe in.

The question I have for Eesha Williams is, Why do you think that so many different classes of people are under represented in the media (especially in the news) and what do you think will need to happen in order for this problem

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  1. Kathleen
    November 14, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Great post, Matt! It’s clear your understanding of a lot of these complex media issues we’ve discussed over the quarter has really been refined. I think you bring up a great question in terms of who is represented in the media, especially in contrast with your earlier point on the effectiveness of media to mobilize people. Do you think the two are related in that media are purposefully under-representing certain segments if the population to reinforce the status quo? It is a somewhat cynical viewpoint, but there are several media theories out there that argue just that. Well done!

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