Line between news and opinion has blurred
On July fourth we celebrated our independence and the rights endowed by our Creator later to be reinforced by our Constitution. The great experiment has survived wars foreign and domestic and even attempts to crush freedom in the name of patriotism. (Remember Joe McCarthy.)
While many may see massive debt as our biggest challenge, it may well be one of our freedoms that dismantles what no country can conquer. "The pen is mightier than the sword," Franklin said. Today it would be mass communications in general.
Free speech may not be free, speech without responsibility or at the very least consideration of the impact is as dangerous as muzzling it. The line between news and opinion has blurred to the point where they have become interchangeable. Opinions one would hope are derived from thoughtful consideration of the facts but in truth do not require facts or even reality.
News organizations have abandoned neutral ground for various reasons ranging from sales share to the owner’s politics. Talk shows like Limbaugh’s masquerade as political opinion and public information while only one opinion is present and the information is seldom factual.
When cornered by facts, Limbaugh has countered "I’m not an expert, just an entertainer." When millions eagerly listen to every word you say and they quote you word for word, you are a political tool trying to sway public opinion no different than any cold war propaganda master.
Whether it is a lack of time or lack of will, people today tend to read or listen to political news slanted in their direction deleting the background necessary to make an informed decision. News reports that inform giving the details without opinion are rare. Bret Hume recently apologized for speaking against the Arizona immigrant law because he had not read it but listened to an Arizona reporter’s opinion of it.
Thirty million listeners the previous week formed their opinion based on poor journalism. Opinion belongs on the opinion page or a talking head show not intertwined with fact-based reporting.
A news story should contain facts and the job of a good reporter is to report them and let the public form its own opinion. The pressure to bring it to you first and to fill a 12-minute news cycle with something that sounds like news has created what amounts to a dangerous environment. The Soviets learned long ago that propaganda repeated enough would be eventually taken as fact. Our version is the news cycle.
When I was a child who, what, when, where, why, and how was the model used for serious reporting and is even more important today. Report the news, don’t make it was also the creed. When you read or watch the news, consider who is talking, what is their motivation, when did the article leave the news realm and enter opinion, where did it originate from, and why. Intelligent decisions required more and more effort of you and me. Read, listen and always question the source.
S. J. Mehaffey