I am going to apologize up front for the length of this column. Before I even write it, I know it is going to be long. But I hope you will take the time to read it because I believe it is important.
In the past year or so, the term “fake news” has been bandied about like a shuttlecock in a badminton match. It seems every time you turn on the television, someone is screaming about “fake news.”
But what is fake news?
I think that is a core question that has to be addressed.
I learned something a long time ago in this business. It’s really a simple rule and does involve facts.
That rule is there are not two sets of facts. There can only be one set of facts and that leads to the truth.
Take a courtroom, for example. Lawyers argue different versions of events yet, in the end, only one of those versions is actually true. Sure, sometimes the false set of facts is believed by the jury or judge, but that doesn’t mean the real facts are not the truth.
Facts are a funny thing. Sometimes, they make people feel uncomfortable. But the truth is, life is sometimes uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean we can just ignore the facts.
Another part of this analogy has to do with the national news media. As a small newspaper, we sometimes get lumped in with the national media. We are a long way from being the national news, for sure, but in some ways, the goal should be the same and that is to report the facts as presented.
Is there bias in some national news reporting?
Certainly, and on both sides of the spectrum.
But when you dig down into the nuts and bolts of everyday reporting, for the most part, it’s pretty good.
People can scream about the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal being slanted and in some cases, they might be right. However, even in those publications, and many others in this nation, the bulk of the reporting is nothing but good, hard work by journalists.
Large news organizations are made up of human beings. Most of those human beings are just like everyone else. They have families, mortgages, car payments and children in school. For the most part, they are hard working folks who are just trying to do their jobs.
If you look inside national news organizations, the majority of the reporters are as described above. They are reporting about real issues like agriculture, water rights, education and so much more. The pages of large newspapers are filled with these types of stories where reporters are digging into the issues and reporting the facts fairly.
But what most people see when it comes to the national media are talking heads who have agendas. Most of the cable television shows people see are actually not news. They are opinion shows. In print, they would belong on this page of the newspaper.
Yet many take them as news and that’s where the issue of slanted media comes into play.
Certainly, the media has every right to take an editorial stand on any issue. You will be seeing that in the pages of this newspaper when the issues warrant such action.
But taking an editorial stand is totally different than fair reporting on an issue. Those two have to be separate and at this newspaper, that will always be the case.
We can cover news events without bias. In fact, that is what we strive to do each and every week. To be fair, in some cases, only one side will talk and it might appear we are only reporting one side. However, you can be assured we give every side the opportunity to tell their side.
What sometimes gets me a little bent out of shape is when people email me or call me and begin talking about the “bias news media.”
Those people are doing what they scream about on a daily basis and this is lumping people into groups. Some will say everyone who leans a little left is a screaming liberal and others will say those who lean a little right is an extreme right wingnut.
Neither are true.
People can have opinions on various topics but that does not mean they should be lumped into one category. Yet that is the direction things seem to be going these days. Either you are with me or you are against me.
And that is dangerous.
Again, what gets lost in all of this are simple facts. Oh, those darn facts.
Anyone can say the sky is green, but the fact is the sky is blue. Rocks are hard. Grass is green. Smart phones are generally smarter than their operators.
These are facts. They can be disputed, but in the end, they remain facts.
As someone who has been a journalist for more than 40 years, I have always made it my mission to report the facts. That will never change and I truly believe for the vast majority of hard working journalists in this country, they operate in the same fashion.
Everyone knows there are bad people in every profession. Journalism is no exception, just like education, law enforcement, legal counsel and the list could go on forever. But even in all of those, the majority of folks are just like the rest of us — they work hard, support their families and want to do the best they can in the world.
I hope in some ways this column has at least made you think and that’s always the goal. We, as a newspaper, want to do what is right for the community and to tell the truth. That is our simple goal and it will never change.
That is a fact.
Greg Little is editor of the Mariposa Gazette and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.