scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: Re: Accuracy of the Press
Donald Scruggs (DScruggs@concentric.net
Tue May 02 2000 - 01:51:24 CDT
As a youth I was often in awe of the power of the press. I felt as much
as read the story of John Peter Zenger. I was a great fan of the press. In
many ways I still am.
The fantasy of some sort of impartial press is a fairy tale that simply
is not reality. In Washington DC for instance I consider the Washington Post
to be a fair minded, honest newspaper. I consider the Washington Times to be
a right wing, reactionary, mud-slinging example of everything that is wrong
with the press today. My good friend Randy believes the Times to be a fair
minded, honest newspaper. He considers the Post to be a communist front.
Not surprisingly I am a liberal Democrat and Randy is a conservative
Republican. It is perhaps to much to ask to expect our newspapers to be
simply reporting the news. The very origins of "Freedom of the Press"
involved saying things that governments, or other would rather not be said.
Every man, woman or child who puts words together to form sentences is
involved in "Creative Writing" in one form or another. Everything we say or
write is based on our perceptions.
A very recent Washington Post article speaks of Virginia's "Rush to
Judgement", in this article they cite a case of a man who has been on death
row for only 14 years and is about out of time. It is WITHOUT DOUBT that the
author of this news feature is an opponent of the death penalty and is
coloring this story with his own ethics. He can't do anything different. It
is in his, AND OUR, nature to color our expression with our own ethics and
morals. Another author with the SAME facts may have written about the
intolerable delay in bringing justice to pass.
Ask any person who has been in the middle of a developing story and then
seen in on the news to give their opinion about accuracy. They will wonder
aloud if the reporter was in the same state! Several years ago a series
squalls unleashed an F-1 tornado in our town. 3 miles away in another town
they received a couple of serious microbursts and had a few tree limbs down
along with some wires. Someone in that town made a phone call to a TV
station and before you knew it all 3 network affiliates in Washington had
live trucks on scene looking at a few downed limbs and power lines. They had
heard that one affiliate was going there and they were NOT going to get
scooped. 3 miles away there was 10 times the damage but not a single
reporter, not a cameraman, nothing at all. Every person who heard the news
that evening learned of the "devastation" in Riverdale and nothing at all
Should we be angry that this occurs. I don't think so. We must use our
own God given, common sense to intake and sift ALL information we receive.
News is a competitive business. Sensational sells, PERIOD. No matter how you
slice it a newspaper who reports only facts without color, interpretation,
analysis and commentary is about as exciting as the Visine guy, monotone and
Whose fault is this? Primarily it is ours. We place entirely too high a
burden of "impartiality" on the press and when it does a fair job the right
blasts it as leftist and the left blasts it as fascist. We must understand
that the press, like Hollywood is simply giving us what we want. Every
single time sensationalism sells more papers than dry facts, draws mores
viewers and increases profit for media outlets of all types. Why else would
the Globe and the Weekly World News do so well. (My all time favorite cover
story was "Boy pulls One Hundred Yards of String from Eye")! Absurd, OF
COURSE, but the issue sold like hotcakes.
The primary value of the press in a free society is the tenacity of the
investigative journalist. These intrepid few are people who help keep our
government honest. Like gadflies about a scandal they help us to preserve
that fragile, flawed wonder we call Democracy. I for one will continue to
read the newspaper, (Post, thank you) and take everything I read with a
grain of rock salt the size of a bus. As my friend Cheryl Singal pointed out
so well, "Well, OK, but then, if I may ask, where DO you get your