The good news will outweigh the bad

If you’ve watched a lot of news reports, especially since many stories air over and over again at noon, 5:00, 5:30, 6:00 and 11:00, and every hour in between, you may soon come to believe that the world is in terrible trouble. Violence, crime and tragedies permeate everywhere you look. How many of you have asked, “What is the world coming to?”
I know I have in the last couple of weeks.
I have heard one of the first things some therapists do to treat depression is to encourage the patient to stop watching the news. Amazingly, it often helps.
People often carry the weight of what they see and hear in the news with them. They worry about the family or business person who lost their home to a fires, the child who disappeared from his home, the children of a mother killed by a drunk driver, the elderly woman who was a victim to a robbery, a man losing his life by the actions of another, the victims of riots, a foreign plague creeping across our land, or violence of war.
Have you ever heard someone say, ”People just don’t care about others anymore.” I think it’s obvious there are some that some do not, they care only for themselves, but the majority do care. I think people earnestly care, but often do not know what to do about it or do not think they have the time to show it.
Each week, I have an opportunity to read through a volume of news, good and bad. There are a number of tragedies in the pages and on the screens, sadness because of loss of family and friends, crimes throughout our country and the like.
But also within the pages are stories of people who do care. People who go the extra mile to make a difference. People who are being honored for their service by awards. Politicians and public servants who try their best to serve the people to the best of their abilities.
Within your local community calendars each week are organizations needing volunteers to help relieve many of the horrors which are reported on the evening news. I would like to encourage you to take the time to read these. You can make a difference right in your hometown. It might be something as little as buying a suitcase to donate through a local organization for a new foster child so he/she will have a place to keep belongings rather than in a paper sack. It might be giving time at your local Literacy Center to help someone read, or just to watch their children while they learn. It might be giving blood to help an accident victim. It might be cleaning out your closet to donate items which can be used by someone else through your local thrift store which provides help to area families in need. These are just a few of dozens of groups and organizations that are in the good news. By sharing a few hours a week, or just a hour every now and then, you could really make a dent in making our world a better place.
I cannot explain the sadness, and the unjust actions we have seen in the last weeks, but I am sure that there are ways each of us can rise above it, make a difference in the communities we love, and show the world that those who try to divide our country and destroy what we are will not win our souls, our minds, our hopes and our dreams. We can send them packing, if simply by turning off the outside world and focusing on our neighborhoods, our towns, and uplifting all within our arm’s length.
I hope all of you can find something here that makes you feel good. Strive to find the good news that always outweighs the bad.

Is 24-hour news and information good for the American experiment?

As a former newspaper journalist, who covered government, I am perplexed and baffled by the last few weeks as we have watched the American media and the American president debate the place of the press in our joint endeavor of our American experience.

For those who take the time to study history, the relationship between our press and the elected leaders have always been that of a give and take, back and forth, love and hate. Presidents from the earliest days of our nation have expressed their concerns about media coverage they have felt to be detrimental to the relationship and the experiment.

That is in essence what it was, up until current day, a relationship between the doers and those who were tasked with watching the doers to make sure they were on the straight and narrow path.

Now, that relationship is not as necessary, the media gatekeepers have been usurped by the advent of the internet and social media, allowing leaders to carry their unedited message straight to the people. At a time when the normal news delivery platforms are struggling, this adds even more tension for media to fight to stay relevant.

I think the constitutional charge for the press by the founders is to seek out and expose excesses which break the laws of our great nation, our states, our communities.

That was why our founders gave us freedom of the press, so that leaders may be held accountable to the people. I think that is the badge of honor that anyone who has carried a press card in their pocket wears.

Unfortunately, in this world of 24-hour news brought on by cable and now the internet, sometimes, it looks like the need to feed the beast in that open drain, outweighs good journalism. Also, there are many now credited with being journalists, who are not.

Probably, my standards are different than some of my former colleagues but I have never believed in use of anonymous sources. If they won’t go on the record and stand behind what they are saying under the light of day, then I question their ultimate motives. Also, every effort must be made to have both sides revealed in the story before it is taken to the people, so that the news recipient can decide the truth for themselves. There is nothing I hated more than writing the words: “After repeated attempts, …. was unavailable for comment” or something similar. Sometimes though that is what you had to go with when someone simply did not want to provide a “No comment.”

Today, often “expert” opinions are provided as facts for a story. Cable news brings on a panel of paid or unpaid talking heads, generally with a majority on one side of the issue and one on the other to provide an entertaining forum on whatever story premise they are putting forward. It doesn’t matter whether the story has any legs to stand on, just whether it will make a good debate for a television segment. I may be mistaken, but that is why I think there is such a bad taste in the mouths of the American people in relation to their respect of what journalists do. I think news for entertainment brought on by the need to fill endless broadcast hours started putting the nails in the news media coffin years ago.

Do I consider journalists the enemy of the American people? No, but sometimes I consider us our own worst enemies. I have lived through the media coverage of more presidents than I care to count, I have never seen the level of media animosity and focus on negative stories tied to a president expressed in the first 30 days of a presidency. I have seen headlines and reports that have no relevance to anything President Donald Trump has said or done while in office but yet the president has been connected in some way. That is simply stretching it a bit folks. I don’t blame him for his response, in his shoes, I might have considered doing something similar. I am reminded of the story of the boy that cried “wolf,” when something comes up and we really need the American people to listen, will they? At this point, I doubt it. They are tuning out by the millions.

In answer to my opening question, is 24-hour news good for the American experiment. In my humble opinion, no, it is not. Providing the news that keeps our democracy strong takes time and often feeding the media beast results in sloppy reporting to meet a deadline. Will our experiment continue? Yes. Will the role of the press continue to lessen? I hope not, but the current course doesn’t look good.