Questions about the Press?

Questions about the Press?



A: Hold on, buddy, I’ve got a few questions about all this press stuff.

B: Fire away.

A: What about the “give a voice to unfortunate people” issue you mentioned?

B: This is a noble idea also, but I’m not convinced that it’s really the responsibility of the press.  The argument is that certain people cannot have their voice heard except the press publish it.  But if these people could not have had their voice heard, how did the press know how to find them?  Obviously somebody got wind of it somehow; how then can somebody claim that they can’t express their own voice?  And anyway, isn’t it those particular individuals’ own responsibility to let others know of their plight, or whatever it is they want the world to hear?  It’s not as if there exists, or even necessarily should exist, a fundamental human right to “equal air time.”

Everybody has means of communicating with others, even if those means are severely limited.  Heck, even infants are capable of this to some degree: how does a parent or a babysitter know when they’re unhappy?  Really, the description “unable to express their own voice” applies to almost literally no person: some of those with whom a person or group of people can communicate will have the wherewithal to contact the press, and then the press can decide whether or not they want to publish their story.  If those contacted members of the press decide not to publish it, the go-betweens can try somebody else in the press, or simply do it themselves.  Everybody has something to say, but some things are less important than others, and anyway, why should it be the responsibility of the press to say it?  The press are entitled to their own freedoms too!  If you want your story told, it is therefore your own responsibility to see to it that it is heard by as many as you would like it to be.  As for the phrase “give a voice to those unable to express it” itself, I imagine it’s used most often by media types who are just looking for an extra excuse for their story to be told, in case they can’t come up with a decent reason.

The press, really, is simply people talking.  If we define “press” to include all recorded statements of any kind, then everybody is potentially a member of the press.  Is it therefore everybody’s responsibility to make certain that somebody else’s voice is heard?  The only time it would be a responsibility, that I can think of, is when it’s a person’s civic duty to report when somebody else’s life, liberty, or property is being threatened – in short, when the law is being or has been broken.

A: What if the press is biased because they’re controlled by a group that leans in a certain political direction?

B: Well, so what?  If you don’t lean in that political direction, you don’t need to pay attention to what they say.  If you do sympathize with them, then you’ll probably agree with what they say.  Just remember that the press may put a slant on whatever they report, whether or not you agree with it, and it may or may not be the truth.  And it’s still the responsibility of the press, regardless of their bias, to tell complete and untainted truth.  If you feel that some media put a slant on what they report, why should you not feel free to express that feeling to others?


A: What, the police?

B: Huh?  Why the police?

A: Because if there’s a slant on the news, it must be a lie, and I should report it to the police, shouldn’t I?

B: What?  Poppycock.  Why should a slant necessarily be a lie?  It’s true that when somebody relates information with some bias, it’s often not completely true, but that’s no reason it couldn’t possibly be.  In any case, do you know the truth?  If you do, and telling lies in public is against the law (which I don’t think is in our country anyway), then feel free to tell the police, but be prepared to present irrefutable evidence supporting your assertions.

A: Eh.  I suppose the truth doesn’t sell enough papers, or get high enough pageviews or ratings.

B: I couldn’t tell anyone for certain if it does or not, but a decline in circulation can be offset by an increase in overall quality; furthermore, it may only be temporary.  Who knows, if people begin to recognize that a certain media outlet is more trustworthy than others, then why shouldn’t that be a boon instead of a burden?  Regardless, I’d like to think that the press would want to be noble enough to resist selling their souls.  I believe it is possible to be completely honest and yet successful, even in the competitive atmosphere of the press.

A: How about if the press is owned or monopolized by the government?

B: Well, first off, there will probably be a slant.  Why shouldn’t there be?  The government isn’t immune to bias; it’s run by people too.  The slant will be whatever the government produces it to be; usually such a slant is in favor of whatever the government is trying to do.  And there’s not much anybody can do about such a hold the government might have on the press, short of a revolution.  You could try to loosen the government’s stranglehold on the press peacefully somehow, but some Socialist regimes of the past – the Nazis and Soviet Communists come to mind – have had monopolies on the press, and in some of those cases it took the crumbling of the entire government before the monopolies were removed.

A: Why are you even talking about the press, anyway?  I mean, weren’t we just talking about blind faith?

B: Because, young bloke, in the unlikely yet possible event that others (meaning the press, if we use the loose definition I gave just a minute ago) report what I say henceforth, I perceive that words or ideas might be taken out of context.  Or perhaps undue emphasis will be placed on certain topics or terms that are “buzzwords” or likely to rile the public in some inappropriate way.  Both of these practices have, at their core, great potential to produce confusion and/or misinterpretations.  My intent is to “beat the press to the punch” by saying right out that honesty – complete and unadulterated – as always, is the best policy.

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