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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 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.

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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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