Thursday, January 16, 2014

Skeptics, Not Cheerleaders

Back in the olden days before television, most people just graduated from high school. Few but the well-to-do, graduated from college. Those that did earn a college degree generally didn't see newspaper reporting as a prime career choice. Any number of high school grads did lust to become reporters.

If you were lucky enough to get a job on a small local paper, they would start you out writing obituaries or the like. You would rewrite them ad nauseum, until your editor was satisfied. You were learning to write and learning the newspaper business. If you survived that you might be allowed to cover town council meetings or the county commissioners. Again you were at the sufferance of a crusty editor who had survived all the trials that you were trying to survive.

Eventually, if you didn't give up from sheer frustration, you might be allowed to write a news article. This is where things got complicated. Interviewees had to be interviewed. Facts had to be ascertained and corroborated. In other words, you were now doing real reporting. But there was still that editor to please before you saw your masterwork in print.

Over a long newspaper career, editors had learned to be skeptics. Reporters had to justify the slant that an article would take. They had to double check their facts. The story had to be balanced. And above all, no opinion was allowed. The good reporters became as skeptical as their editors. They had learned to write well and by training they wrote good.

They produced good stories with all of the facts so that the reader could feel informed. Then that reader could form their own opinion with a good understanding of the situation.

That was then. This is now. Skepticism has been thrown to the wind. Facts are selected to fit the bias. Opinion is now equal to fact. Pick a winner. Cover up what is harmful and shout to the skies what is good. What was "All the news that's fit to print", has become, all the news that's fit to spin. Our country is in trouble. An uninformed electorate is the root cause. The press needs to put their own prejudice aside and bring back a good healthy dose of skepticism.

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