News is not a popular word. Sometimes the news can make us feel scared. Sometimes the news can make us feel angry. Sometimes the news can make us argue with each other. And all too often, our media administrators use the news to manipulate the public for all of those intended effects. It’s a powerful thing, being the gatekeeper of information.
There has been much ado recently regarding the idea of “fake news” and it has made us think more about where we get our news and who we trust to tell us the truth. Certainly, President Trump has condemned much of the mainstream media, accusing them of false reporting. Last November, the President suggested on Twitter that there should be a “fake news trophy” for inaccurate news reporting. He has also suggested that fake news is so common that it warrants investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And we’ve seen forces at work to implant misinformation in our social networking sites. A BBC report last November described steps that Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerburg, is taking to allow users to see whether or to they have followed the Russia-based Internet Research Agency. According to Facebook, as many as 126 million Americans “may have seen content uploaded by Russia-based agents over the past two years.”
In the face of these accusations, there has been a call to action for “media literacy” so that consumers of news, particularly our younger generations, can think more critically about the media they encounter. Researchers from Stanford University, for example, have developed a series of news-literacy lessons called “Civic Online Reasoning” which is currently being piloted by teachers in a few dozen schools.
However, though I fervently support any efforts to make our nation more savvy when it comes to the media, I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to demand integrity from journalists, editors and producers who work in a concerted effort to inform the public.
And what does integrity look like in a newsroom? I can only tell you from my experience. When I first started writing for this paper, I flirted with the idea of branching out from feature writing into the world of editorial writing.
This was a precarious leap for me, considering that I had just moved to the area and I was an outsider to begin with. Not only that, I’d been reminded on more than one occasion since my arrival that my opinions leaned more to the left than most of my readership.
Our editor, Mr. Randy Bartley, had just written a piece about the damaging effects of sanctuary cities following the uproar of President Trump’s promises to build a wall along the border.
With more than a little trepidation, I sent our editor a piece I had written in response, which attempted to broaden the context of sanctuary cities. I made a note that I didn’t expect for it to be published, but would appreciate his feedback as I honed my writing skills.
“Your comments offer a solid rebuttal to my comments from this week,” he replied. “I propose running your commentary on the editorial page next week.” He assured me that there was room for dissenting opinions.
If only today’s media giants would take a lesson from our editor. I would like to see them invite, and welcome, the opposition, knowing that it’s a critical element in a healthy democracy.
As our editor, Mr. Bartley, steps away from his editing desk to explore new ways to contribute to the betterment of his community.
I want to thank him for his years of dedication to the Jeffersonian-Democrat and wish him all the best as he moves forward.