November 21, 2016
By Arthur H. Gunther III
“All the News That’s Fit to Print” has long been the masthead motto of the New York Times. The intention and obligation of that phrase to help keep a society free cannot be underestimated. It also is in sharp contrast to today’s social media postings that are half-baked or even deliberately false. Now, misinformation lay as nails ready to halt a progressive journey in humanity. Disinformation surely influenced the presidential election.
I worked 42 years as a newspaperman for a hometown-based sheet that while it did not always have the trained talent or born-with-talent and the financial resources to cover all the news in full balance with the “who, what, why, where, when, how” given, it did a mighty decent job of giving birth daily to a full news report, including stories that uncovered political wrongdoing as well as details of PTA events and local sports. While we were occasionally blessed with brilliant writers, editors, photographers and other staff worthy of Pulitzer papers, the regular home team did a more than credible job of presenting news despite our humble roots.
That has been the story across America fir centuries. Until now. Today print journalism has lost most of its circulation and so its advertising revenue. Bean counters looking for maximum profit have severely cut jobs. The daily report is difficult to present, and that means government local and above can more easily act in secret.
Into the vacuum has come word bites through Twitter, Facebook and other social media that is usually not fact-checked nor researched, that is often written from prejudice by people with an ax to grind. Even more seriously, some of the information is deliberately false, planted to sway people. Propaganda.
It has always been buyer beware when reading any news story or report, to take things with a grain of salt, especially with some city tabloids, but by and large, you could depend on the news being accurate.
We will all have to be vigilant in the years ahead as more newspapers fold, doing our own research and questioning everything.
The hope is that enough papers will remain and be willing and able to report “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”
Perhaps it is time for a national newspaper entirely well-funded by public donation, just in case.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org