28 July 2010

Who Do You Trust?

Who Do You Trust? By Lorelei Roberts

Everyone expects a snake in the grass: that's where they live. We don't expect them in our reading material. Too often, the more a periodical declares an unbiased presentation of the facts, the more you can assume a hidden agenda.

Words are vehicles for expressing thoughts. Books, letters and periodicals are a collection of words made formal. Oral or written, words are initially an expression of the ideas of the speaker or writer alone. Words collected together and presented before groups may create a following; others quote them, or adopt them in some way. Words delivered in various media often develop just such a following, and can be said to form a special interest segment. In this logical progression, a medium sometimes assumes that it represents the will or interest of a majority of people. This is where a specific journal, newspaper or broadcast steps over a very fine and possibly dangerous line: they become the self-appointed arbiters of opinion.

Such a juggernaut becomes proportionally more dangerous as it is more able to control the flow of information.

Ever notice the editorial pages in periodicals? It is a curious exercise. The publication is saying, in effect, "We absolve ourselves of editorial responsibility by presenting you with these token alternate opinions." You must trust that the editors have chosen a democratic distribution among the letters they receive. And you must trust that these letters have not been truncated or edited in some way.

Reading current opinion pieces then becomes a two-fold exercise: reading an article for information and reading the particular bias of the publisher.

Not everything has to be dispassionate to be of informational value. It's acceptable to have an opinion, making it clear from the beginning that you are not making an effort to be balanced. In this case, you acknowledge that there is always more than one point of view, but you feel strongly because... But, it is uniquely informative when you can present a case without all the baggage. Some issues are simply too complex to resolve by taking sides. Sometimes the reader must be trusted to be intelligent enough, or sensitive enough, to figure it out for themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment