Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Thank God for Journalists

This is Lent, and I must confess my sin. I confess that I have not been fair to the news media. I have not gone so far as to call them “the enemy of the people” like President Trump or “the drive-by media” like Rush Limbaugh, but my opinion of them has not been kind. In fact I have been shunning the television news for the last few months. Today I repent.

It is not that the evening news has changed. It is still as sensationalized and partisan as ever. It still attempts to scare the living daylights out of its viewers. The three old mainstream networks are so partisan that they make me cringe. News anchors can barely contain their contempt for any official of the Trump administration that they interview. Just turn off the volume and watch their facial expressions, and you will see that I mean. Body language speaks louder than words.

On the other end of the spectrum, Fox News has become nothing more than the Republican Ministry of Propaganda. They specialize in ridicule and disinformation. Conservative talk radio is even worse. I was listening to a Christian radio channel the other day while driving, and I could not believe the misinformation they were spouting. What ever happened to “Thou shalt not bear false witness”?

I never assume that anything I hear or read in the news is true. That is why I am in the habit of testing anything that seems questionable by verifying it. No alternative facts or fake news for me. If you are not in the habit of checking the accuracy of your news sources, here is a link to the top ten sites to get you started.

You can probably already tell from my remarks that I still harbor some ill will for the national news media – both on the right and left. But the coronavirus pandemic has improved my opinion of journalists. That is especially true of local and state journalists – print, radio, television and internet - who are more in touch with regular people, rather than celebrities and politicians.

Journalism is at its best when there is a real emergency. The problem is that the national media cries “Wolf!” so often that it takes some time to realize when there really is a wolf. This coronavirus pandemic is a wolf, and the news media is helping to make things better. They are giving us timely information and advice about how to respond to a genuine public health crisis.

Reporters have put themselves in harm’s way and have faithfully reported on this burgeoning and ever-changing global crisis. They have undoubtedly saved many lives in the United States by sounding the alarm from the very beginning of the crisis in China.  

As a result I have much greater respect for the news media now. Without a responsible press – sometimes called the fourth pillar of democracy - our federal and state governments would not be taking the action they are now. Thank God for journalists.