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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sarah Palin Shows What's Wrong With The Media

By: Thaddeus S. Kaczor, Jr.
Let me first say that I don't always agree with Sarah Palin. Ask my family, and they'd tell you I rarely agree with ANYONE! But when I do disagree with someone, I try to listen to the argument they present, and weigh it against my own beliefs and the facts and principles that support them. But then, I also try to do that with President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie and any other public figure- and those in my private life as well. Recently, Sarah Palin put out a response on Facebook    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=463364218434    to those who wish to, in her opinion, unfairly single her out for singular and extraordinary scrutiny, well beyond their 'standards' they hold others to. In disagreements I have found it is ALWAYS better to look for common ground and give the other person an even break, until they prove to you they neither want nor deserve one. Media today in all it's myriad forms presents a challenge for not only the average man and woman searching for relevant and reliable information, but also for those upon whom a high public profile has been either sought or thrust upon them.

In these days of a '24-Hour News Cycle' and 'Infotainment', too many 'reporters', 'anchors' and print journalists (is that even a job title these days?) will ignore substance for superficiality, ignore the facts for a good tale, and promote a palatable fantasy over the bleak and unappealing truth. Unfortunately for them- aside from the ever-dwindling numbers of 'true believers' and partisan hacks- the vast majority of Americans of all political views have left the 'Old Media' in the dustbin. Sure, when there's a natural (or 'man-made' disaster it's great to have the major networks to get the immediate story, but after a while, the smirking, pompous and patronizing 'experts' come on and drone on about what 'really' happened'. There are still a few good journalists out there, swimming upstream against the tide of lazy, partisan shill-meisters. There are even some shows and (gasp) networks that actually give a reasoned, and balanced analysis. And that's even factoring in an inherent bias that all of instinctively give to our own beliefs.

But the best reporters, anchors, print journalists and even on-line reporters, bloggers and posters are the ones who challenge their own biases by intellectually engaging those with whom they disagree. Too many people these days, from the President, to the news reporter, to neighbors talking over a fence are seemingly unwilling or incapable of considering another's point of view in a reasoned, civil discourse. Just because someone disagrees with you (and is obviously SEVERELY misguided!) does not mean that it's morally acceptable to resort to ad-hominem personal attacks, made-up stories and half-truths, or whisper campaigns of innuendo and inference. Confrontation should be a last resort, not the first verbal tool you grab out of your rhetorical tool box. But all of those unseemly tactics pale before the two REAL threats to modern journalism; Laziness and co-option.

Upton Sinclair, Edward R. Murrow, Woodward and Bernstein and countless other renowned journalists and writers relied upon the FACTS of a story taking them where they may. 'Who, What, Where, When and Why' may be basic facts of ANY story, but there seems to be one or more of those important anchors missing from many news stories these days. Not to mention Attribution. Good Journalists know that 'anonymous sources' and 'background' need to be used sparingly, and ultimately must be supported by attributed statements and valid and reliable expert supporting documentation. When sloppy and lazy journalists base stories (or seemingly entire CAREERS) on unsubstantiated rumor, anonymous sources and misleading or hateful invective. Sometimes this results from a personal bias against the subject, but in too many cases it is simply a reporter or writer just 'running with' the story, despite the facts and lack of evidence, merely because it 'fits the narrative'. Everyone has a bias, but when a reporter allows it to become such a big part of their being that they throw out the rules of objectivity, then they have lost not only their readers, listeners and/or viewers, they have lost touch with their heritage as American Journalists. 

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