Saturday, May 12, 2012

Honesty, Not Media Bias Will Promote Wisdom

In 1819, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to Nathaniel Monticello, “I read no newspaper now but Ritchie’s, and in that chiefly the advertisements, for they contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.”

America’s love/hate relationship with the media is well established and not new. Allegations of bias are frequently heard and usually based in hard fact or evidence, as we saw the Watergate scandal grow under a relentless media until we saw the first ever resignation of a sitting President, Richard Nixon in 1974.

Efforts to demean another president, George W. Bush weren’t successful in ousting him from office, but the effort convinced a lot of people he was a very poorer leader when he in fact was much better than he received credit for.

On the other end of the scale we see the media not very interested in what the current occupier of the Oval Office did or does, willfully covering up scandals such as the administrations involvement in the Fast & Furious scandal, a faltering economy, high unemployment and more.

There seems to be little interest in Obama’s college days using drugs, involvement with agitators, domestic terrorists or even claims of scholarly writing, unlike the media’s interest in Mitt Romney’s High School Days or Sarah Palin’s position on her High School Basketball Team.

Locally we see our own newspaper of record operating in much the same way. We even see what might be considered ‘Freudian Slips’ in Editor Lou Brancaccio’s latest column, Of legacies and why we do stories.

The column, largely centered around the claimed legacy of giving back to the community and providing non-profits with free advertising often, also sets out to explain why those non-profits are not deserving of news stories very often.

As Brancaccio wrote, “the main reason we do a story is because we believe there is a large interest among our readers.”

Another way to put it would be, “we determine what is news and what you will read.”

Numerous times now we have seen just that. From their relentless pursuit of Richard Curtis in 2007 to granting Jim Jacks pretty much of a pass over his abrupt walking out on the constituents who had just elected him, weeks later writing an article only saying he had admitted to be an alcoholic who sought treatment and not even mentioning the strong rumors of sexual improprieties with staff members.

We see it how they give glowing coverage to 17th legislative district Representative Tim Probst for his so called fiscally conservative stand, while ignoring nearly every bill he has ever proposed would require massive spending increases to cover.

In the meantime, 17th legislative district Senator Don Benton, who Probst hopes to defeat later this year and who really is a fiscal conservative proposing tax reductions, spending cuts and holding the state government in check, cannot receive a kind word in the Columbian.

Of late we saw it once again as a true fiscal conservative, County Commissioner Tom Mielke also cannot receive a kind or supportive word, seeing 4 separate mentions, including a front page article because he is 3 days late in paying his property taxes. His opponent, Joe Tanner, a Democrat, was questioned by this blog and Clark County Politics blog over questionable claims of “numerous combat medals,” prompting Tanner to correct the misleading claim, and the Columbian’s Stephanie Rice says that “is not newsworthy,” but only merited mention on the Columbian’s All Politics is Local blog. And then, their focus was more towards how dare they question his claim.

Tom Mielke’s real “combat medal” for his service with the 82nd Airborne in Vietnam merits no mention by the Columbian, though.

A recent “Our Community Salutes” event to honor over 200 graduating High School Seniors from the region who have enlisted into the various branches of the US Military, the largest event of its kind on the west coast also did not make mention in the local newspaper.

Probably no more egregious example exists than the Columbian’s continued support and appearance of covering up for the scam we know as the Columbia River Crossing project. $150 Million spent to date and the proposed bridge cannot even meet the height requirements of the US Coast Guard for river traffic, stay under height requirements for the FAA, and cannot even receive funding to begin construction.

In spite of the Oregon Supreme Court ruling that included the glaring admission by Portland’s Metro that their prime reason in agreeing to the new bridge was the force light rail from Portland into Vancouver, something opponents have long claimed but now is verified, the Columbian chooses to ignore such a claim.

That still struggling taxpayers, in our fourth year in a row of double digit unemployment will be stuck for generations paying for a project turned down by those same taxpaying voters receives little or no mention, only supportive articles.

An independent financial audit by a forensic auditor citing numerous questionable practices and dealings drew not support from the “inquisitive” reporters who waste no effort in maligning elected officials like Don Benton and Tom Mielke, but her findings were questioned because of who hired her to perform an independent financial audit.

The examples could go on forever and just the few I can recall off of the top of my head was enough to make me laugh reading the words, “The main goal of a newsroom is to inform readers” in Brancaccio’s column today.

The column ends with Lou Brancaccio claiming, “The Columbian believes strongly it should leave a legacy of giving to this community. And the Columbian’s newsroom believes its legacy will be providing news and information that will help bring our community together.”

In Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Nathaniel Monticello are also the words, “honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

Nowhere is that honesty more in need today than for the public to be given objective facts and honest reporting, something that has been sorely lacking in America for many years.

Just imagine what could be uncovered if the national media pursued Barack Obama as they did Sarah Palin and Richard Nixon.

Just imagine what we might learn if the Columbian pursued the CRC in the same fashion as did The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they did with Nixon.

In an Oct. 13, 1785 letter to G. K. van Hogendorp, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The most effectual engines for pacifying a nation are the public papers... A despotic government always keeps a kind of standing army of news writers who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, invent and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.”

How prophetic that we see that very thing so blatant today.

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