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VIEWPOINT: Credibility key for media and consumers

There has been a lot of talk recently about the media and its truthfulness. Media usually comes to us in three forms: objective, subjective and sports. For this conversation I will leave out sports because that is a different reporting angle altogether. Media also comes to us in different ways. We have the print media and electronic media. Electronic media comes to us in the form of television, radio and the internet.

Print media uses the objective and subjective forms in the main context of its pages. Reporters write stories based on what they see and hear in an objective way without editorial comment. They are only reporting the facts, be it a city council meeting, a fire, scandal or any other item that is worth reporting without passing judgment on what has happened.

Subjective articles can be found on the newspapers' editorial pages or in personal columns written by someone who is attributed as writing the column and is responsible for the content of the column. The content may or may not be the interests of the editors or publishers of the newspaper.

Most of a big daily newspaper's editorial pages will be slanted to the left or right. They concentrate on national columnists who are either conservative or liberal. The editorials would also fall in line with the values of conservatism or liberalism.

Electronic media is quite different. The readers of the news are very talented and trained to read the news without any editorial inflections in their voices in their presentation. Their presentation will be different if reporting a death or a happy ending story. Most are highly professional and have had years of training to present the news without a bias.

The political pundits — such as Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow — are the ones who vocally present their view of the world. I often wondered why they did not run for public office. They earn millions a year. It is not hard to figure why they would take a large pay cut and then have to back up their message with facts. The only pundit I know of who has run for public office is Jason Lewis, and he was not an active vocalizer when he ran for office.

It really comes down to credibility. Is the news they are reporting credible and are those who are presenting the news also credible? The reading and listening public has to accept the news as being truthful. If not, the news person usually gets a one-way ticket out of the profession. Look at what happened to Brian Williams when he over emphasized his involvement in the Iraq War. Fortunately, he still has a career in broadcasting and is doing quite well at MSNBC.

The public is fickle. I find that most people will navigate to the news that fits their values. Most are able to pick the news items they think are truthful and what is a bunch of bunk.

I was watching something on the internet the other day where a man was being interviewed. He said that he wanted to get to the bottom of the story that Obama was in the Oval Office on 9/11 and doing nothing about it. Incredible.

Gary Spooner is former owner of the Bulletin.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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