B: Much of what we learn today is thrown at us by the press. Therefore the press have a big responsibility to teach us things the way they actually are, without bias. This isn’t to say there is no place in a newspaper or a website for an opinion section; what I’m talking about has to do with the reporting of the actual news: it should be as close to the pure, unadulterated truth as possible. A good number of reporters feel this is their noble responsibility. I would like to warn, however, of the occasional overblown story. This often comes of situations where an issue receives more than its due mention, or of over-ambitious reporters feeling that part of their responsibility is to give “a voice” to people who, in their view, would otherwise be unable to express it. And then there are those stories with headlines that, while technically true, completely misrepresent the truth.
Let me start off with an extreme example: let’s suppose that I start preaching that we should love everybody, regardless of who they are, what they look like, what they believe in, what they’ve done in the past, etc., and some newspaper prints the headline, “SOME WACKO IN A RETRO SUIT SAYS WE SHOULD ALL LOVE HITLER.” While this headline would still technically be true (since I, the “wacko,” did, after all, say that we should love literally everybody), it would give everybody the idea that I’m a Nazi sympathizer, which is completely false. And what difference does this make? Namely, it changes anybody who might potentially have been receptive to my ideology, who then sees the headline and nothing more (which is often the case), to someone who feels that I should be, at the very least, stopped from spewing forth “whatever kind of vitriol (I) must surely be preaching.”
If and when the press report something irresponsibly, as they hypothetically would have in this extreme example, they are misrepresenting the truth and misleading their audience – and very often they know that they are. And while the words may technically be true, this practice is nothing short of dishonest, since honesty is more than simply words that are communicated. As anybody knows – somewhere in his heart of hearts – any attempt to deceive, in whatever fashion, to however small or big an extent, is dishonesty. Complete honesty consists of telling “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” and when I say “telling,” I mean communicating in whatever fashion, taking into account the use of certain words, word order, and connotations, other likely implications and inferences, intonation, visual cues, timing, etc. And the press, just like everybody else, should be completely honest. It’s my opinion that they should have a generally greater responsibility for fidelity to the truth, since it’s more likely that the statements that they make will be known among larger numbers of people. In general, mountains should not be made of molehills.
A: Buddy, I’m not going to remember to keep track of every possible way somebody could misconstrue what I say.
B: No, you won’t, and neither should you. There are going to be mistakes made, of course, because people are people. But the press (and everybody else) should try to be as honest as possible, at least to a reasonable extent, striving to be a bit more honest every day, testifying of truth as it really is.
The press know what sounds “good” or “bad” and should therefore resist the temptation to put things in a way that skews the opinion of the reader, when reporting the news. Perhaps the press sometimes skew the truth because they are too motivated by the desire to get a story, or their lack of patience. Or perhaps they are, quite bluntly, too eager to twist the truth simply for sensationalism, whether or not they have any other agenda.
A: Well, so how about –
B: Sorry, buddy, outta time. Save it for later.