April 10, 2017
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Some time ago, at a table of friends and family through marriage, the talk was of newspapers — media in general, actually — and how you “can’t believe what you read, what you hear, maybe even what you see.” One person in particular, a good man who has shared and enhanced important moments, was the most vocal, practically considering the messenger an enemy. I kept quiet — as a newspaperman I was used to disdain, some of it deserved. The relative seemed not to care that I was in the fraternity, almost as if he were excusing me. “Oh, not you, Art,” he was saying by not saying it, by the absence of directed comment.
Retired now, the unspoken oath that includes “who, what, where, when, why and how” is not forgotten though the daily deadline clock no longer ticks. I am always looking for a story, a photograph, something to comment on, if only to myself. In this era of so-called “fake news,” I wish there were a gig, just to emphasize that while bias and deliberate editorializing and misinformation have always been there, so has the real deal, the guy or gal with a nose for news gathered in competence and delivered straight up. Those people quench our thirst for information.
News-gathering is full of characters, mostly suspicious, rejecting authority, irreverent. They can be unlikable, even irritating until you understand that it takes someone out of the regular rhythm of life to describe life, to show the warts, the horror but also the beauty. Especially life that can become jingoistic, pushed by the slogans of those with an agenda, who promise the moon to folk who will in the end receive hypocrisy.
If you must, hate the journalist, the commentator, the one who delivers information you do not want to hear. Distrust all messengers, yes. Digest news with a grain of salt, yes. Those are requirements of the educated reader, listener, viewer, because even the most balanced, neutral media toiler gets things wrong and can be influenced by bias.
But also pray for the information gatherers. The best of these save the world by spotlighting greed, inhumanity and evil and also restore faith while reporting on individual heroism and goodness.
Fake news is weed. It’s always been invasive. But then there is the hardy crop that feeds humanity. Water it.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. firstname.lastname@example.org