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Journalism Debate Misses the Mark

The Riddle Report 05 04 2021

In today’s newspaper, I came across two articles focusing on trust in the media. Both were through Insidesources.com and both tackled the sad state of trust in the media.

The first article was by Carrie Sheffield and it was a good, well-researched discussion on the lack of “trust” that exists of media. She identified several points of concern and closed by saying, “Progressives in the media these days speak of “equity” and “inclusion,” but the question is whether they’ll include better ideological diversity in their work moving forward.”

In the second article written by Yosef Getachew and Jonathan Walter, the argument centered around the absence of women and people of color in the newsroom. They ended the article by saying, “The challenges to our current media landscape are multilayered that require bold solutions. In order to revive journalism as a pillar of our democracy, we need a vibrant ecosystem with diverse and independent voices, investigative reporting that holds power accountable, and robust reporting that can meet the information needs of our communities today.” (This article sounds more like an ad or perhaps a politician.)

Both of these articles were interesting and both brought up important points. But, in my opinion, the piece by Sheffield came closest to the answer. Just the same, I believe they both missed the mark.

More about this issue on the other side of this break.

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Now back to the article.

The solution to the problem with today’s journalism won’t be found in looking at charts and dissecting data. The answer is both simple and complex. Let’s take a closer look.

Yes, the trust in the media is broken! That is a fact. But I believe there is a very simple solution to that problem. Before I tell you what it is, let me be transparent. I hold no degrees in journalism, have never taken a class in journalism, and the only reporting that I have done is in my blog.

I am almost 78 and I have lived long enough to have observed both good and bad journalism. So, what do I think is good journalism?

The best way I can answer that question is to relate how I read the news when I was much younger.

When I was a kid, the local newspaper published news on local news and national news. And just like now they used the AP to publish stories that were primarily national. These stories were not only well-written and researched, but they were also written in a way that left the writer’s personal opinion out of it. That is, they reported just the facts; if they wanted to express their views, they were published elsewhere in the paper.

For all I knew, the writer could have been liberal or conservative. If I wanted their opinion, I could turn to the back pages where there was the Editorial page for the Editor and the Letters to the Editor where the letter writer could express his or her opinion. There were also guest opinion articles. (All of which we still have.) The bias was separated from the article and often was found elsewhere.

In short, the facts were reported without bias. And the bias was easily identifiable in another section of the paper where the reader knew it was an opinion based on their understanding of the facts.

Today that is not so.

In the modern newspaper we find the bias mixed right in alongside the facts. It is not rare to find article after article where this is the case. It is disheartening. But worse still, it is dishonest.

Reporters are supposed to report the facts and leave the opinion making up to the readers. But I am afraid the colleges and universities no longer teach journalism that way. Nowadays, it appears to me that reporters write with an angle or agenda. They insert words, sometimes only one or sometimes several, that are meant to convey certain ideas that the writer wants conveyed.

If you only want the facts, you have to try to filter out all the bias. It takes longer, is not always possible, and it provides a false narrative. I am an author of fiction and it is expected that I will write in a way to create a scene or show a person a certain way. But that is unacceptable for a reporter!

In response to the two articles, it is not what the color of skin the reporter has nor the sex of the reporter. Nor is it whether the reporter is liberal or conservative. It is telling us the facts and letting us form our own opinions. Let’s get back to what we knew when we were youngsters; report the facts on one page and state your opinion on another page!

Unless you bring honesty back to reporting and report the facts without the bias you will discover that increasing diversity and creating a vibrant ecosystem with diverse and independent voices won’t change our mistrust. It will just continue to grow and fester. Then we will get our news from blogs like this.

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Demise of the Press

The Riddle Report 12 16 2020

You may think me hard on our press, particularly the national news media. But I’m what’s called a dinosaur. I date back to the time when reporters actually reported facts and kept their opinions out of their articles.

This past Sunday I read an article about the loss of local news. It was very sad to read how the local news media has faded. But what the author didn’t mention was that the national media is also slipping. The article identified what the author thought was the real problem and went on to suggest a solution. But, I believe that he missed the mark. Let’s take a look.

According to the article more than a quarter of the country’s newspapers have closed and over 1,800 communities have lost their news outlets since 2004. That is truly sad, but what is sadder is the lack of understanding why.

The article blames the rise of websites (blogs?) that are ‘ordered up by political operatives…’ Instead, they should be looking in the mirror.

Here’s why.

Associated Press

Have you noticed how far left the AP has gone?

The next time you read an article from the Associated Press watch for words or phrases like no evidence, false charges, ranting, or the like. These are not words that you would expect to read in a fact-based news article; instead, they are opinion words. And they clutter the average article, specially those coming from the Associated Press.

Such words are a dead giveaway. You instantly know the authors are inserting their biases. A true report tells us the facts and doesn’t tell us how to read it or understand it. A true reporter digs up the facts, tells it like it is, and lets us decide!

The AP is no longer the reliable news source it once was. Back when ZI was a young man, reporters did what I described above. They dug up and put the facts out there for us to read and decide. But now they think it is their job to teach us how to interpret the truth. So, they place their highly valued opinions right in the article they are writing. Don’t believe me, pick up a paper and read an article written by the Associated Press. Just in case you accidentally find an honest to goodness report without bias, you should probably read two or three articles.

Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor used to be informative. In reading them you often learned things and there was always the possibility to change your mind. With all the controversy surrounding the election I decided to add my two cents worth shortly after reading one man’s letter that was fraught with innuendo and falsehood. So, I sat down and wrote a letter. In the process I read the rules and tried my best to meet them. I mailed it and waited for it to be published; I waited some more, and finally realized it wasn’t going to be published.

Later this year I wrote another fact filled letter. It got the same results. I don’t know what it’s like in your community, but here in a Conservative area the liberal letters outnumber the conservative letters by a large margin. So, it makes no sense why my letter was not published.

It is hard to prove they were biased against me, but the perception of bias is clear. A Conservative letter is not desired.

FACTS

That is an odd title. But consider this: in the ongoing battle over legal and illegal ballots the news media has not been reporting the whole story. If you want to know all sides of a story you often have to go to other sources.

The reason the news media has protection in our Bill of Rights is because our founding fathers expected’ the press to keep the public informed on the issues. They say they are informing the people. But today’s media has failed in that endeavor. Instead of facts we get opinion. And when facts are given, they are preceded and followed by opinion. (Check out my comments about the Associated Press.)

Solution

The article identified what the author considered the problem and then gave us a solution: money. That’s right. The solution was money, which would provide better equipment, etc. But throwing money at a problem rarely works. Besides, money isn’t the problem.

The problem is the way reporters are being trained. One reporter unwittingly provided the real problem. She was caught on air stating that it was her job (as a reporter) to tell people what to think.

No, it isn’t.

It is her job and the job of all reporters to tell us the facts and let us decide the right course of action! That is old fashioned reporting. When I was a young man, opinions were found in the Editorial Pages not in the articles. Today, opinion is mixed with facts and the reader, if not careful, assumes that all is fact.

The only true solution is to return to the ideal of reporting facts and letting the readers, that’s us, decide. Give us truth and transparency.

Will it happen?

Unlikely.

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R Frederick Riddle is the Editor of TR Writing Services providing help to struggling and/or new authors to write and publish their books. He is also an author of Historical, Speculative, and Mystery fiction, plus co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books. To reply to any blog you can comment on a blog and/or send an email to marketing@tr-indbkstore.com. His Facebook page is at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.