Letter to the Editor (11-14-18)

Now that the Free Press has spent several weeks self aggrandizing their accomplishments and posturing their achievements at the expense of space and time to the reader, let’s consider some facts.

Journalism is an industry. It does everything imaginable to make money. It’s not some supernatural or virtuous arena where ethical word wizards work, not even in Marion County. All media is inherently biased so it has always needed a way to be held accountable.

Until social media came along, broadcast and print media stood for truth and fairness as a vanguard for public interests. The news used the time embedded in news cycles to get the story right or correct what was wrong.

Historically, the unequivocal benchmark for reporting was objectivity. Reporters were expected to defend their words to hard-nosed editors who questioned every detail of their work. Uncorroborated facts could end the reporter’s career.

As social media emerged news cycles disappeared. Network news and newspapers were forced to compete for relevance as the immediacy of the social media formats legitimized every idea from every source, every second.

Fact checking became irrelevant.

From there, journalism really got ugly. In the wake of political contention President Trump eventually called out the media as “fake news” for its deliberate intentions to influence discourse instead of protect the public interests.

Today’s journalists are Orcian creatures speaking a dialect of media muck that replace the 5W’s; who, what, when, where, and why with the 5i’s; identify politically, insult, insinuate, ignore and invent.

Fake news is real. It’s as much about what the media won’t report as it is about what it does report. Deliberate omissions and innuendos are as “fake” as intentionally misleading and false news.

Weekly newspapers are some of the most egregious offenders of fake news where reporters and editors are far less likely to be trained journalists. Many have no writing experience at all or, at best, come from writing experiences that advocate ideas in newsletters or opinion features.

Obituaries and volleyball scores aside, the abuses are insidious at local levels where small town editors engage in blatant advocacy journalism to protect advertising dollars by pandering to, at minimum, safe sentiment. In these, and other instances, the local media is complicit and joins the list of the enemies of the people.

President Trump is the favorite target of fake news these days, but he is not the cause of the sewage spewing from nearly every media direction. He simply points out how the media is handling news as a partisan political weapon instead of being a bastion for freedom of speech.

Trump is hardly a likable guy. He’s not at all presidential, and he engages in ridiculous tweets. To the media, that should all be beside the point, but it’s not. Instead, media watchdogs, including Google, admit to an overwhelming media bias against Trump and most of it is personal.

Even if the reported percentage of negative news on Trump and his conservative agenda is a gross exaggeration, what’s left is a preponderance of irresponsible journalism.

Referring to the media Trump said, what Americans are reading “is not really happening.”

He’s correct, it’s not happening nationally, socially or locally. It’s not happening at all because so much of what you read or listen to is simply made up. It’s a lie, and what should be reported is ignored. That’s why Trump calls the news, “horrible, horrendous and disgusting.”

Newspapers, even in the Midwest, are finally being called out with their national media counterparts, for what they really are, “fake news,” because they engage in bias reporting and controlled commentary.

Objective media is a National treasure. It is the crown jewel of our right to free speech. It’s seldom found outside of America. Where fairness and truth can still be found, it should be protected by responsible, objective journalists. But that’s not even being taught in journalism schools today.

Ronald Reagan said “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” The media has been part and parcel to weaponizing our political system. It’s brought America to the brink of another civil war. The violence has already begun.

Our freedom has always been based on a few ideas that must be interpreted correctly or things get all screwed up. For example, our judicial system requires the rule of law. That means an individual is innocent until proven guilty. Look how twisted that became with the recent Supreme Court nomination.

In the media, objectivity and facts are the rules. Otherwise, it’s fake.

Stan Thiessen


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