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Knowing keeps us free?

A Feb. 10 commentary by the Times-Republican posited several major themes: that news organizations give you knowledge, that journalists (and through them journalism) make communities better, and, that the future of journalism is in the hands of the consumer.

News organizations give you knowledge — News organizations are made up of people with opinions and biases. Collectively they have organizational opinions and biases. Being for profit, they also have a bottom line to manage. When consuming even the simplest of stories, ask these questions to determine if you are being provided the whole truth and nothing but the truth: Does the lead fairly represent the body of the story or is it “click bate?” Are “desirable” facts presented early and the “undesirable” facts toward the back where they will less likely to be discovered? Are there relevant facts omitted and, if so, why? Is the timing of the story important to either maximize or minimize the consumer’s attention? Are the descriptive words universal or were they selected to elicit a particular response? By asking these questions you will discover that few news reports are without bias, even if not intended. The days of who, what, where, when and how are gone. Recent journalism students have admitted that they aren’t emphasized in today’s journalism schools.

Journalism makes communities better: But by whose definition is it better? That very statement is an admission by journalists that they have an agenda. Because of this their stories can be presented hinting their desired outcome. In as much as journalists are admittedly, in part, motivated by making a community better (as they define it) how can they then ask the consumer to trust the reporting to providing the whole truth and, thereby, receive knowledge?

Journalism’s future is in the hands of the consumer. On this the consumer has already spoken and their plea is the following. Return to reporting the news fairly, objectively, completely and without bias. Keep opinions to the opinion page. Following these simple steps will give the consumer the opportunity to believe you once more and appreciate that what you say may truly be deemed as knowledge. Trust is earned not granted.