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Tue, Oct. 22

Commentary -- Editor Engler: caveat emptor?

Michael C. Westlund

Michael C. Westlund

Let us be clear here. Fake news has existed since the first chisel hit the first stone. It’s only gotten worse from there, not because the reporters have gotten worse, more or less, but because the breadth of available public-access media’d information and concomitant expression has burgeoned, be presented information and/or expression accurate or otherwise.

Go back to post-WWII years, when news came to us from radio, TV, newspapers, and magazines. We trusted what we heard and read. After all, that was the Fourth Estate and, per the intent of our Founding Fathers, the watchdog of government. Spin and fakery existed, sure (our Spanish-American War was more of the making of Hearst than of any alleged action taken against the USS Maine). But for the most part, the Press did its job – as journalism, not as not opinion shapers.

Budding journalists (myself included) were taught that reporting involved WWWWH. That’s “Who – What – When - Where – How.” That is:

• Who did it

• What did he do

• When was it done

• Where was it done

• How was it done

That’s it. Editorializing, meaning the “Why,” was left to the opinion columns and commentaries. That is not news, it is opinion, and opinion has no place in a pure news story. Real journalism – as true news reporting – once took a page from the old TV show “Dragnet” and Joe Friday’s classic line, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

But several decades ago came the Mayflower Decision. Within that federal decree, if you will, was the notion of equal time for political candidates. However, buried therein was the “liberty” to allow, as it were, so-called “hard-news” stories to allow in-text editorializing as legitimate news. As a result, WWWWH soon became WWWWW; that last “W” – the “Why” instead of “How” – opened the door to subtly opinionated and then increasingly biased news reporting.

The relentless bias of the Press toward President Trump is unprecedented in the history of this nation. Even Abraham Lincoln didn’t suffer similar. What’s more, the nationwide “cooperation” of the media to a simultaneous attack on our president borders on anti-competitive collusion, if not a call to revolution.

What do you think would happen if ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN, and FOX joined tOr let me put it another way: What do you think would happen if Exxon, Chevron, and the other oil companies announced that in protest they would simultaneously hike the at-the-pump price by 30 cents per gallon? Not the same, you say? Well, it sure sounds like monopolistic collusion. And you can bet that if Big Oil went public with this kind of protest, Congress and the White House would be outraged.

Apples and oranges? Maybe. But Big Oil and “Big Media” both sell product. Why should one be scrutinized for any hint of industry collaboration when the other openly collaborates? Print and broadcast media outlets are businesses. Like Big Oil, they’re in it for the money. So why should newspapers and such get a Mulligan for apparently collusive and monopolistic actions?

Editor Engler makes some good points, yes. But in the conclusion of his defense, he says, “We very well could be telling the truth.” “Could” is the operative word here, as per his headline “...let the buyer beware.”

Great counsel. It took nearly a month for the entire nation to learn the Chicago Tribune’s headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” was false.

But as we read the issues of the Verde Independent and its sister publications, should we assume that these papers are “telling the truth?”

Editor Engler: caveat emptor?

Michael C. Westlund is a resident of Clarkdale.

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