Sunday, August 27, 2006

Learning the truth is hard work

"There is no such thing at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you that dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my opinion out of the paper that I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish to write honest opinions would be out on the street looking for another job."
- John R. Swinton, British-born US journalist speaking to a meeting of fellow journalists

If you think that Swinton's quotation applies to your country today, you may be interested to learn his pertinent dates: 1829-1901. He wrote during the 19th century.

As a former full time and now part time free-lance journalist myself, I can assure you that the political persuasions and preferences of the newspapers I wrote for always played a role in my writing. In every case, the boas of the owner is a "given."

The closest any journalist or broadcaster will come to speaking against the favoured political party of the medium's owner is when he or she presents a news item that is said to be balanced in the sense that it presents material that all parties would be comfortable with. Few of these appear because they take too long to research and to present.

The political preferences of newspapers and television stations (and networks in the case of the US) are usually well known to everyone who goes out of their way to find several sources for political stories. The casual viewer or reader may not know them.

Learning the point of view (and the rest of the facts, if any were omitted) of all parties to a story is hard work. Even writers have difficulty getting all sides.

It's a lot of work. For many of us, it's too much work.

But, based on information we know to be biased, some of us freely express our opinions on political matters about which we often know very little. Biased opinions emerge from biased sources.

That's democracy. It's also democracy when people have the right to search other sources for facts and opinions so that they may express considered opinions of their own and cast ballots from an informed perspective.

Whether the informed among us point out to the ill-informed how biased and paltry their information is and where they can learn more of the facts is a matter of personal choice.

We live with the results of our actions.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to present a thorough and balanced point of view.
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