Wednesday, July 31, 2013


 Newspapers are essential to the truth
For many years, newspapers have insisted on knowing the source, and having proof of the source, of a letter to the editor. Even if, for good reason, a newspaper will run a "name withheld" letter, it will still insist on proof from whom the commentary comes. There's an important reason for this; without that necessary and careful precaution, a lot of rumors, untruths, innuendo and damage can be done.
This brings up the issue of newspapers vs. electronic journalism. News in an internet website, more often than not, is anonymous or close to anonymous, and yet too many people automatically, or by habit, accept it as truth.
Yet there is no accountability in internet news. Anyone anywhere can post anything on line, and even if it "looks" like a legitimate site, you can't know for sure if you don't know who's posting it. You don't know if it's researched from good sources, or if it's researched at all.
Even if you realize the posting doesn't bear the ring of truth, you as a reader have little option in correcting or protesting the written content. If you feel the posting is a blatant lie, or if it has damaged you, your community or your nation, who do you scream to; where do you protest; how do you set it right?
A newspaper, on the other hand, sends its reporters to local political and official meetings and happenings, and the reporter's story of the meetings are screened by editors before the printing, to assure truth and clarity. In addition to the reporter's byline, each of the people along the chain from editor to publisher are listed in the masthead, where you will also find contact numbers and addresses.
Perhaps because of this ability for the reader to protest or question a story directly and more easily, or perhaps because the printed journalism culture is so markedly different than that of electronic journalism (including TV and radio), newspapers tend to be more careful to get the story right. Getting the story right, to us, means presenting it more fully and keeping the line strong between truth, half truth and outright untruths. Untruths and half truths, after all, can arise from simply leaving something important OUT of the story.
Printed journalism, unlike electronic journalism, has to answer for a good long time (perhaps forever) to its correctness, incorrectness, truth or untruth. A newspaper story will exist forever in print through a broad number of historical and genealogical archives, where its stories will be forever open to censure and judgment.
Even with that other electronic journalism known as radio and TV news, the expense of air space has led to a sound-bite framework that shallows things out. Sensationalism has become more and more the draw, and the line between journalism and showbiz is blending more and more. And, as with the internet, the whole truth is often hard to find.
We the newspapers (weekly and daily) don't present our news in sound bites. The closest we might come to sound bites are our headlines. But there is a full story printed beneath each headline, going into depth as to individual circumstances, the history of an issue, the different sides of controversy (with direct quotes attributed to the people who made them).
It's the newspaper system that does the bulk of analytical and investigative research used by radio, TV and the internet. The results are lifted from newspapers by electronic journalism, without compensation. From that point on, the newspaper organizations' footwork can be chosen selectively and warped and twisted into the blogger's slant, means or motive.
In this get-your-information-quickly age, younger people seem more and more prone to accepting what they read on the internet, without further study. Even students' research reports these days are often written from the internet, and educators could probably attest to the fact that these reports are often strikingly similar to each other or exactly alike. That shows that little individual research is being done. It becomes a matter, again, of passing on half truths or untruths.
In the eyes of more and more people, the internet is to the printed press what email is to "snail mail." But fast is not always best. It takes more time to brew the truth, and truth is an important commodity and a safeguard of democracy.

If newspapers should eventually disappear, you would miss us for a myriad of reasons.
And you just don't know it yet.

CUTLINE: This 16-year-old photo displays a favorite pursuit of one of Rose's granddaughters. And though she seemed to enjoy immersing herself in her grandmother's newspaper, journalism is not among this girl's career goals today!