Today’s media needs less opinion, more facts

Published 5:32 pm Thursday, April 25, 2019


Contributing columnist

Fact:  1a. something that has actual existence b: an actual occurrence 2: a piece of information presented as having objective reality  — Merriam-Webster

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Example: Elaine Wilson-Reddy is, in fact, 56-years old.

Truth: 2a: the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality c: fidelity to an original or to a standard  Id.

Example: Elaine Wilson-Reddy is 56-years old.

Opinion: 2a: belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge b: a generally held view   Id.

Example: According to many second graders, Elaine Wilson-Reddy looks much younger than 56-years old.

Back in the day of Walter Cronkite, fact, truth and opinion were terms that were fairly clear-cut. He covered the moon landing and space walks. He announced that President Kennedy had died. He reported on the Vietnam War. If Cronkite said it, it was the truth and was factual.

“And that’s the way it is …”

These days, it’s hard, nearly impossible, to know the facts and truth in news. The 24/7 news cycle and clamor for ratings has blurred the lines so much, news anchors and reporters offer their own opinions as if fact while reporting on current events. Throw in news networks that have obvious political agendas, bloggers, YouTube influencers, and Facebook live streaming, it would appear as if Pandora’s Box has been opened and laid bare.

It is stunning how microscopic the collective view of our country has become by its citizens. We watch only the networks that agree with our political, social and moral views. We use subjective sources like the Christian Bible, the U.S. Constitution and our favorite news source to bully and condemn any and all who don’t view the world from our perspective.

I do it, too. When I see information with Fox News, Breitbart or the Heritage Foundation as a source, I immediately discount it. Many others do the same when they see CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times or the Washington Post. All of these tell their version of the story with some truth, some fact, and often a lot of opinion.

It’s easy and comforting to stay in our news/personal silo. We don’t have to think too much because someone else is telling us what to think. We don’t have to stretch our intellect or worry about the integrity of our news because we agree with what they are saying.

What would happen if all of our news sources began telling the entire story instead of just giving us sound bites? What would happen if we discovered that we, the people, had more in common than that which divides us?

Don’t we all worry about having access to quality health care? While some have easy access, there is a fear that it could easily be stripped away. What about those who have no insurance? Don’t they also worry about needing quality medical care and how to afford it?

I talked with a friend last night about her sister who is in her early 60s and has breast cancer. The sister is fortunate that she has a job (she’s a second-grade teacher in Illinois). She could retire but her extremely costly cancer treatment is paid for through a grant that is connected to her job. If she retires, she loses the grant.

Don’t we all worry about the safety of our food supply? Between chemicals used on produce and hormones and antibiotics used on animals, who truly knows what we ingest when we eat and drink?

Don’t we worry about the well-being of our families? We all want safe secure housing whether we live in a million dollar gated community or government-assisted housing.

We don’t live in a black-and-white dualistic world, no matter what your news source or favorite politician tells you. We live in a complex society where every single human looks different on the outside, but we all look the same on the inside.  Isn’t that an astonishing miracle?

Imagine what would happen if we, the people, started demanding all the facts, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Hearing the whole truth can be painful, but it’s honest and provides a firm foundation from which to operate.

What if we turn off our news silos en masse and demand better? We certainly deserve better.

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”  Abraham Lincoln

G. Elaine Wilson-Reddy, JD, is a professional educator, consultant and advocate. She lives in Danville.