THE PRESS DOESN’T MAKE UP STORIES

WHAT IS TRUTH? DOES IT MATTER?

I don’t have a lot of friends in the Republican camp, but there remain a few. It didn’t used to be such a gigantic divide, but it has loomed hugely since the last election.

The other night I heard from an old friend who lives down in the middle of Georgia. Not Atlanta. The less expensive part where the non-city folk live. She is a warm, sweet, kindly woman, but times they are a’changing.

I don’t know what I said — probably nothing I really thought about — and she said “But we don’t know what the truth is. The media just lies all the time.”

Pause. Longer pause.

“Garry spent his whole life in news and many of our best friends were or are in the news business. Sally, they DO NOT MAKE UP THEIR NEWS STORIES. They never did and they don’t do it now. They spend their lives searching for the facts. For proof. For truth. They do not lie.”

An even longer pause. “But what difference does it make anyway?”

If she cannot understand that there is an uncrossable gap between truth and lies, then what is there to discuss? Perhaps that is the bottom line of our current issues with truth, that so many people on both sides of the political lines don’t care about truth and don’t think truth matters.

If the truth doesn’t matter, then I am not sure what does matter. For me, the truth always matters and I can’t even imagine a time when that would no longer apply.

64 thoughts on “THE PRESS DOESN’T MAKE UP STORIES”

  1. I’m with you. I have found it very hard to remain friends with those who voted for 45 and continue to believe the news is fake and that he really is doing “great” things. I have had to distance myself from them… and also wonder how people I know to be intelligent, could possibly find anything good about the state of the states and the current administration

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think I was doing okay until she asked me what difference the truth would make? That was when I lost it. IF the truth doesn’t matter, then everything I have learned and understood — my entire education and life experience — has no meaning. I’m not ready to sit and sip Futili-Tea while my meaningless life slithers past.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Daily, I have a former colleague who voted for 45 and posts the most vile things about liberals. We used to share laughs about crooked pols we covered during our working days. He never understood how I could maintain a straight face, civility and professionalism when interviewing really vile people. i always explained he was the guy BEHIND the camera. I was in FRONT. My job was to ferret out the truth, report it without bias and let viewers draw their own conclusions.

      That’s the way it was…even during the worst of times.

      Like

  2. Yes the truth matters and it should matter. I do have a certain wariness about what I read in the media, mostly because these days a lot of it is based on the political leanings of the owner of the media outlet. Politicians certainly lie and their lies do get published and people believe them. One of our former PM’s , Tony Abbott, was interviewed more or less saying that politicians lie during election campaigns. He didn’t quite say “Get over it.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good reporters don’t just report quotes. They analyze and examine them. But there are stations — Fox news comes quickly to mind — who not only report lies, but make up their own.

      Real newsies work extremely hard to be neutral, objective, and find the truth. Reporters get fired for NOT doing that. Brian Williams exaggerated his story and got sacked and he was a top anchor on a major network. There are standards and despite Fox and other alt-news lying outlets, reporters ARE required to adhere to them. You need to make sure that you are getting your news from responsible group, though. There are a lot of fake “news” groups these days. That’s one of the perils the Internet has taken us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was lucky. Grounded in ethics by my Parents. Mentored by guys who worked with Murrow. I came into “the biz” determined to do it the right way. Ironically, even people with opposing views, radically opposing views, respected my work and often would sit with me socially. Respect was a heavy weapon. It also made my job easier.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is. We don’t have a lot of choices of newspaper here. I daily in Hobart and the Australian, the national paper. Both Murdoch papers. I tend to take my news from the ABC radio or TV as they don’t tend to dramatise the news just report it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Your friend is right – the media does lie all the time. The question is WHICH MEDIA OUTLETS? If you are talking about Fox (which your friend probably watches), then it is true. One can get more ignorant and misinformed from watching Fox all the time. There are news media that are relatively honest, but they don’t tell you everything. I watch MSNBC a lot, and unfortunately, they spend too much time talking about one “breaking news” item and ignore all the other things that are going on.

    As for the Internet, every time I see a story that seems too weird or over-the-top to be true, I check its veracity with snopes.com. If I find out it is false, I then let whoever posted the item know. But just the other day, I read on Facebook that Iowa gives gun licenses to blind people. OK, I thought, this can’t be true…So I looked it up and found out it IS true!

    I think our society is going to hell in a handbasket.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That the distribution of stories depends on what the news director thinks will get the best ratings has been true for decades. Maybe since the news went on TV. But that reporters work their asses off to get the facts right is ALSO true. Reporters don’t get to choose their stories and whether or not a story gets featured — or even shown — is also not up to reporters. Sometimes, not even up to New Directors. Which does not change how hard those guys worked to get the story right. I live with one of those guys.

      As for Fox, is that really news? As far as I can tell, it’s entertainment. No news that I can detect.

      That all those weird little sites on the internet are now considered “news” and there are no criteria to establish what news IS makes a difficult situation worse. That the people supposedly watching the news don’t even CARE if it’s true — THAT is a tragedy.

      Hell yes, but no handbasket.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi, Amoralegria! I made it a point, EVERYDAY, to read many papers, absorb as many media reports as possible, and let my brain parcel out all the differing accounts about people and events. Truth is often very complex but simple when you sample many voices. There’s usually a common thread that gives you the truth.

      The media does NOT lie. That’s a false generalization. A generalization used by the used car sales folks at the White House. It’s a diversion used by many in the past, including the Nixon folks.

      Yes, some would be “journalists” play fast and loose with facts. They don’t represent all the hardworking men and women who work hard to get the truth, often at great risk. This comes from someone who logged over 40 years in television and radio news, covering international, national and local news that shaped our world.

      Yes, I was THERE.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “But what difference does it make anyway?” Whooo boy! are we ever in trouble. This is a person that you like.., and is likable. These are the folks Trump and Company are counting on.., nieve, well-meaning, but oh so ignorant.

    It’s an insult to the numbers of dedicated newsmen who were embedded in our major wars, risking their live to get at the truth and bring it back to us unaltered. Granted mistakes have been and will be made but nobody in the news business, that I know of, was above retraction when warranted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. I live with one of those guys. We are all people who have been involved with news and all of us care. I don’t know anyone in the news who intentionally wrote a wrong story and the few who knowingly did got fired forthwith when discovered. It is still — in the REAL newsworld, an absolute no-no to lie on the news.

      Not counting Fox, of course. They aren’t the news. They are entertainment for people who want to pretend they watch news.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, but when you live with someone who spent a lifetime in the business, this stuff really gets up your nose. Because these guys work incredibly hard to get the facts right and always have. They may not always succeed in every detail, but it’s not for want of trying.

      Except, of course, for Fox which doesn’t broadcast news.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post.
    Yes, having pathological liars in positions of power call legitimate news organizations “fake news” is damaging to the reputation of journalism. However, my major long-term concerns about journalism have more to do with the overall need to use sensationalism to attract the attention of viewers/listeners/readers. Not because it leads to false info but because they end up leaning towards unimportant lowest common denominator stories that are more gossip and hearsay than actual newsworthy issues.
    Society needs to find a way to finance quality news reporting and journalism that is independent of and unobstructed by the need to generate profit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is a concern shared by everyone in the business and it’s legitimate, to a point. The thing is, even news you get from the non-profits like WGBH have their own agendas and positions. I suspect it is unavoidable. Anyone who thinks has a position about what is important and what it means. But that does not stop a reporter from discovering things that don’t agree with their position and exposing it. It certainly never stopped Garry. They could in theory prevent his material from being broadcast, but they didn’t. There’s a baseline belief among newsies that truth matters. In small and large issues, truth always matters.

      Do they blow up things that are not all that important? Right now, there could be a major military coup in DC and all anyone would be watching is the weather. Is tonight’s snowstorm the genuinely BIGGEST news of the day? I doubt it, but we are obsessed by weather in New England. It’s a thing. There have been a few local murders and each has gotten a few minutes on the news. Not as much as they might have gotten in the past because the audience — US — isn’t all that interested in it

      The audience drives the market. News media won’t broadcast stuff the audience doesn’t want to watch.

      Garry always said — still says — if you really care about the news, read newspapers. Because TV news is, in the end, headlines. If you want to get the guts of the news, you need to read and not just the first couple of paragraphs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Even the ones you don’t like work a lot harder than you think. People don’t realize how hard these people work to put their material on the air. It often takes a whole day for a 2 minute bit. Reporting is hard work.

      Like

    2. Leslie, respect is hard earned. You have to put in many years and be able to go face to face with the newsmakers, asking questions beyond the softball variety.

      Like

  6. Sadly there is a large (and growing larger) proportion of the population ( yours, mine and many countries all over the world) who have similar ‘thoughts” to your friend. 😦
    Not helped by the reporting (true and otherwise) of the actions of our leaders – the politicians and others in a place of power who have turned the act of telling the ‘truth’so as to reinforce what they want you to believe it means not what it actually is, into an Art Form.
    In doing so they have taught us to distrust what we hear – especially when it is being claimed as true but does not fit with our pre-conceived notions of what is and what is çommon sense (How i hate that term. Common sense is far too common and far less sense).

    People are more inclined now-a-days to believe what people tell them only when it fits with what they already ‘know’or are willing to believe might be true. to them ‘Truth’is completely a relative thing, not a factual thing not up for debate.

    This is exacerbated by today’s Social Media and the glorification of ‘Opinion’ over Analysis. Feeling over critical thinking.

    Real journalism today MAY be something like you and Garry remember – but it now has to compete for public attention and private money with Facebook, Fox, Breitbart and foreign agencies dedicated to reducing American influence in the world.

    It’s a race to the bottom.

    The Truth these days is more likely to be determined by how one interprets reported ‘facts’ than than the ‘facts’ themselves. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Race to the bottom is a perfect way to put it. It makes me sick. It makes Garry sicker. We don’t watch much news, but he still reads the newspapers. I think he can’t help himself. But he doesn’t read one newspaper. He reads MANY.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Bob, the social media is a boon to many but a hinderance to legit reporters. So many stories, bereft of corroboration, are posted as the truth. Many people accept these “stories” as the gospel without asking “how do you know?” “What’s your verification?” “Where’s the evidence?”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So Right! That’s part of the trouble of living in an ever faster paced world. Many people don’t have or make the time to seriously consider or research their facts, they just want the main point fed to them – one they already agree with – and disregard anything that doesn’t fit right with them. Self-interest rules. Their time is too precious to waste actually reading and analysing for themselves! 😦

        Funny you use the word ‘Gospel’ as believing that , for most people, requires nothing but blind faith. Don’t dare question it with annoying details like facts.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Sadly true, Bob.

          During my working years, when I got a “solid” tip which initially looked good, I would still check it out with other sources to verify. That’s just basic reporting. Some folks didn’t like the footwork or time required in pursuing verification. They just wanted to be first in breaking the story.Never thought much of them. Still don’t.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Some compromise their standards, some don’t.

            Glad you were one of the latter ones. 🙂

            Used to be there were more people who appreciated that to get the full facts it took time. These days many people are willing to sacrifice the full facts (or truth) for speed as they ‘don’t have the time’ to wait for, or read all of, the details. 😦

            I think what the world needs is a computerised ‘truth checker’ – like spell check only it scans for debunks of some of the bulldust that some press and reporters publish and auto-corrects it with true facts. 😉

            Hey, Mr Gates! … if you’re listening…?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Bob, the clock is always ticking for the media in this 24/7 social media world. The game has completely changed.

              We used to have some time. Maybe hours if lucky. But there was a method/ a “MO” to work. Check the rolodex, notebooks, work 2 or 3 phones simultaneously, dispatch runners, etc. It was a whirlwind of activity. A lot of PHYSICAL stress. I used to thrive on adrenaline highs until the drive home and entering the house.

              Couldn’t do that today.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. We reached the limit quite a while back where increasing speed and accuracy could not be maintained simultaneously, i fear. 😦

                Stress will catch up with you sooner rather than later – we need some way of winding down. Retirement is the extreme version! 😉

                Liked by 1 person

    1. I always assume that politicians are twisting the truth, if not lying. In fact I rely on news and reporters to untangle it. That is what the press is FOR. That is their job. There are untrustworthy organizaions, but that doesn’t mean they are all untrustrworthy.

      I will say it again: reporters do NOT make up stories. They simply don’t do that except at Fox and on some places on the Internet.

      Real newspapers and news organizations do their absolutely damnedest to find the truth. Whether or not you are listening is a different question, but just because we have a lying leader doesn’t mean you should believe him. And HIS dishonesty should not impugn the honesty of everyone else. He is like some kind of evil filth that spreads itself on everything. We will have a long road of recovery from this hideous administration.

      Liked by 1 person

            1. Some are well-intentioned but I think the nature of politics doesn’t lend itself to personal honesty. It’s a system that essentially forces people to make a lot of deals and bow to a lot of pressure. Even when they are trying NOT to do it, they don’t really have a choice. And I think that is true everywhere. We are having a very extreme case of it, but we aren’t alone.

              Like

        1. Julz, that’s a popular tune…like you can’t trust lawyers or used car salesman. It’s an easy tune but not entirely true.

          You gotta be careful about who you DO trust.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I can no longer discuss politics with anyone who even remotely supports Trump. I’ve lost a few friends because of their (and my) political positions. And the few remaining Republican friends I have agree to never bring up politics when we are around them. It’s too damn frustrating to hear what crap they believe to be true.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fandango, it’s almost impossible to discuss politics these days. I’m a seasoned (Overseasoned?) old reporter. Yet, I find myself going into a silent rage as I watch the network news coverage about politics. When I see that one face, violent images flash through my brain.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I keep watching the news and hoping that one day the breaking news will be that Trump has been indicated and thrown in jail or has resigned. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, is it?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I think when the (reputable) press “reports” things like, “White House may dispute alleged comments by XYZ” that’s made up news. It is still technically true, but it’s click-bait that those who are semi-conscious will read as “White House disputes XYZ”. Even the most conscientious press cannot predict the future and that kind of “reporting” is playing for ratings and attention. OTHERWISE I’m with you 100%!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Martha, forgive my French (?), it’s a “kluster-fuck” these days gaining access to key Pols who could make a difference. Even if you DO get them, all they offer is double talk.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have no problem with “colorful” language. I have problems with people who are shocked by it. 🙂

        I think CNN needs to publish less. I sometimes agree with his Orange Mess that it’s “fake” news. Not really fake, but not really “news.”

        Liked by 1 person

            1. You need to read at least two. Preferably on the opposing sides of issues. I’m always seduced by excellent writing. I don’t know if it’s true, but I am more inclined to believe anything with grammar and punctuation.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Thoreau’s point was more that the news is pretty much the same all the time. Politicians are corrupt, someone dies, there’s a war somewhere not so much that you just need to read one paper, but that the news is an endless repetition, sort of “same story, different characters.” I’ve found that to be true.

                Like

            2. Martha, you really need to read several papers to absorb differing views on one subject. I always did that during my working years. Also, if possible, engage people you respect in conversation – even – if they have different political views.

              I like checking op eds from different papers on the same subject. You’d be surprised how sometimes liberals are conservatives and vice versa. On television, you frequently get the same spin. Some reporters are satisfied getting the required number of sound bites for a story and that’s all you see and hear.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. You’re right, Garry. I’ve whittled down my perspective on my personal power to a realistic vision of it — I can vote and I can contact my representatives. I hate polemics and avoid them as much as I can. I think my whole desire to debate issues died during the endless Viet Nam War arguments of my youth.

                Liked by 2 people

    1. This whole “all reporters” lie thing pisses me off because they really DON’T. The thing is, when a lie is repeated often enough and loudly enough, you wind up with Hitler running the government. I have this nagging worry that we are heading there.

      Liked by 2 people

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