Is it fair to say that Washington is in a state of upheaval….that the political process is under attack from all sides….that Americans are pretty much “in the dark” as they (we) look for the truth? I think all of the these are truthful. Americans from all walks of life find themselves everyday scratching their heads, listening, reading, watching, trying to discern in the midst of all the media noise, what is really the truth.
First let me say that ALL Americans deserve to know what is really going on in government — at every level, in every department. Oh, of course there are matters of national security that will keep certain pieces of information under wraps. Americans understand that. But for the most part, we deserve to know.
But we have a problem: who is the “keeper of the truth?” For a couple of centuries the federal government and those who served in it were simply trusted to give Americans the facts about everything. There was no real “vetting” process necessary for the general public to use to determine truthfulness of what was being said. Because the government said it, it HAD to be fact.
And then there was the media — also trusted by Americans to give us facts. Media members were trusted that all the facts included in news stories and programs (and even editorials and commentary) were vetted and were always right-on. I remember during the 1960’s and 1970’s (until Nixon) NO ONE ever questioned what news anchors or correspondents were saying about the U.S. government or those within it. I cannot imagine Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, or Peter Jennings ever reporting something that wasn’t factual. In my radio days, every station had either a UPI or AP machine that printed national, regional, and local news and weather. On air news people simply “ripped” the news, sorted the stories, and read them verbatim on newscasts, never questioning the validity of what the UI or AP said.
But now we’re deep into the 21st century. News and unfortunately the truth have changed. Now “truth” is subject to outside circumstances and influences — like which news organization from which it originates, which news person writes/presents the story, which political party controls Congress and the White House at the time, and the ratings of each news network and specific network news show/periodical from which the story comes. Yes, it is really different now: the truth (which should be an absolute no matter what the political leaning of the news “presenter”) is almost always given with an interpretation and/or perspective. It has become virtually impossible to find the truth in every issue and be able to simply label it. So what do we do?
Is it plausible to have some type of fact check App that we can use “on the fly” whenever we see, read, or listen to a politician, reporter, or pundit speak? I can see it now: “Siri, was what President Trump just said the truth?” Or maybe another App that would enable us to simply hold our phones up in the air and to hear an alarm sound anytime a speaker tells a lie. (I’m not sure I’d have enough battery life to last through a normal press conference!)
Seriously, what can we do? In my humble opinion, I can think of only three ways to clean up this mess. We need to find just how good the Russians are at running everything in America. After all, didn’t Hillary and Bill sell 20% of the U.S. supply of uranium to a Russian government controlled company, and didn’t Donald Trump work with Putin to rig the November election to get him elected over Hillary? We need the truth from D.C.!
Here’s option #1: TELL THE TRUTH. Wow, what a novel idea! I don’t, but maybe some of you and all our parents remember a time when politicals could actually be trusted for what they said to be truthful. In fact no one ever gave it a second thought. If the Mayor, Police Chief, Governor, Congressman or Congresswoman, Senator, President, V.P., Judge, said it….it was true! Rather than be forced as we are now to find a way to be able to discern the truth in all things political, I think we ought to stop doubting our government leaders, believe what they say is truthful, support them with blind abandon, trusting all the while that we are hearing/seeing/reading the truth, and that they have all abandoned any personal interests and are giving us only factual information. We can do that, can’t we? NOT!!!!
Here’s option #2: TREAT THEM JUST LIKE THEY DID IN THE OLD TESTAMENT. Double Wow! Do you remember what happened when leaders were untruthful with the Israelis in the Old Testament? What happened when a Prophet gave a prophetic prediction that didn’t come true? Simple: you lie, you miss a prophesy of something that was supposed to happen, you got only one chance. Miss it and they took you outside the walls of the City and stoned you to death! And not with really good marijuana….they used big rocks! Think repeating that might work in our present political climate? Hmm…..I’d love to read the language in that bill as it was presented to the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to pass, That ain’t gonna happen, for sure.
Here’s option #3: HOLD EDITORS AND PUBLISHERS LIABLE. Now that’s a novel idea. To me it borders on ridiculous to watch the news process being used today on a national level play out with no checks and balances. My Journalism Faculty Advisor is one of my all time favorite people — Ron White — (who is a reader of this blog). I know Ron shudders today when he reads, hears, and watches news stories which have content that news sources have not confirmed. “Anonymous Source?” Come on! I wrote a column in our college newspaper and had to provide confirmation of any “news” items included before it was ever published. Confirming truthfulness of story content is, if not THE foundation of good news, one of the top two necessary elements in good Journalism. (I cannot mention Mr. White’s name without remembering jealously he and his bride traded their life in the piney woods of north Louisiana for a daily morning coffee porch view from a gorgeous home in the North Carolina Mountains — where they have REAL snow all the time!) But, seriously, wouldn’t it be a prudent option to expect editors to do what their titles actually proclaim they do: edit the news? And they should require “actual” sources for each and every story before it is published in print or electronically….period. If any reporter or columnist in their charge writes without using vetting and confirmed sources for stories, the editor should bench them. I long for the days when news management put their reputations and jobs on the line for a story.
News Media: tired of being trusted on or a bit less than the same level as members of Congress? Editors and Publishers: tired of Americans and others in the World looking in on your news products and laughing at all the stories that reference either NO source or state they come from “unnamed” or “anonymous” sources? Then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!! Why not get back to a novelty of what your company should be best known for: “reporting” the news — REAL news — using credible and verified sources? And why don’t all news folks who sit upstairs who are responsible for all the news their underlings are slinging around the airways and internet dial up some accountability for the accuracy and reliability of sources and stories? Hold yourselves and your reports accountable! Maybe not take them to the suburbs and stone them. But why not fire a couple of them that continue to rather than research stories, (wouldn’t that be a novel news approach?) literally make stories up, quote “anonymous” sources, and talk you into putting those stories out for Americans to see?
Try that and I promise, the word will get out that your news outlet is doing the journalism thing the right way. You’ll get some credibility back with Americans. And maybe your children and grandchildren will talk and think about you with some respect rather than disdain (like they do now).