PUBLISHER: Back to basics can save journalism, democracy

 

I stood at my senior seminar in front of my liberal, progressive professors and presented my research on liberal bias in mainstream media.

That was in 1995 and somehow I passed and received a degree in communications from USC Upstate.

A conservative journalist entered a field that slants to the left. I wanted to help bring that slant back to the middle.

By the Grace of God, I survived and thrived in journalism, as most of my colleagues saw the world much different. By the Grace of God, I worked myself to the position of publisher.

Now I can make sure things are fair and balanced, offering both conservative and liberal points of view, and letting you, the reader, decide.

After all, that’s what journalism was supposed to be all about, according to those ethics classes in college.

Some journalists don’t see it that way. They believe their job is to drive progressive change for the better. It’s OK to offer those beliefs in opinion, but not in news stories.

In truth, it is hard for a writer to convey a story without some of their beliefs getting mixed in.

So along the way, journalists put their two cents into their stories, sometimes blatantly and sometimes almost subliminally.

And the result is a profession hated by the masses.

Oh, you can blame it on President Donald Trump. To be sure, his attacks on the media don’t help and are dangerous — “enemies of the people,” “fake news.”

But most of the damage to our profession has been self-inflicted. Along the way, the readers got tired of being told what to think.

The polarizing political climate that started with 24-hour cable news and continues to rage like a fire on Facebook has made everyone and every issue more divisive. Journalists by their very nature can only join in the conversation.

Where do we go from here?

I believe journalists need to get back to basics. Try to stay in the center and give both sides of every issue. We need to strive to be fair in our coverage.

National journalism may be too far gone, but local journalists can save the day.

October 6th-12th is National Newspaper Week. This year’s theme is “Think F1rst — Know Your 5 Freedoms.”

What are your five freedoms?

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Religion

Freedom of the Press

Freedom to Peaceably Assemble

Freedom to Petition the Government

Why is National Newspaper Week important to you?

Newspapers serve as a check-and-balance of government at all levels. They keep readers informed. They shine light on indiscretion.

Maybe you trust your elected officials to do what is right? I’m sure some will. But the thing about absolute, unchecked power is that it corrupts. Newspapers exist to check the power-hungry that want everything done their way, regardless of the consequences for those who don’t have power.

Without newspapers, you’ll find out what “fake news” is all about. Political memes and CNN/FOX slants will feed you a steady diet of nothing. You will be ruled by those in power as a pawn in whatever game they choose.

You may have heard someone say — “Nobody reads newspapers anymore.” Subscription numbers are falling across the board, and we as a people are dumber, more sheepish for it.

Pockets of democracy can remain. Pockets like Clinton, where The Chronicle’s readers like to get both sides of a story and make an informed decision.

It’s an old-fashioned notion, but progressive enough.

 

Brian Whitmore is the publisher of The Chronicle. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chronicle. 

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