I am always amused at the reasons readers give for canceling their subscriptions. Oftentimes, these same readers are usually voracious consumers of the words that we print. Unfortunately, they usually claim that something we printed has offended them or that we violated the precious sanctity of journalism. Out of protest, they no longer will support the newspaper and, hence, cancel their subscription.
It is these same readers that dismiss the veracity of the information provided to them despite being researched and written by professionals who have been doing so for decades, often since being trained to do so at universities of higher education. In my case, it was Texas A&M University’s School of Journalism, a fine, upstanding, conservative school.
The irony here is that for these well-informed readers, they have cut off a source of information, most importantly, local information. Usually it is their only source. They have cut off their nose to spite their face. I’m not worried. After years of experience in the biz I can tell you subscribers who cancel almost always come back. Such is life in the newspaper biz.
As for myself, I embrace all opinions and ideas, even if I find them distasteful. I read both conservative and liberal sources of information, from Drudge Report, to Fox News, MSNBC and Mother Jones. It’s my job to know what both the left and right are thinking. My career is journalism and the goal is objectivism in this profession. By broadening the scope of information that I ingest, I gain a deeper understanding of what colors those rose-tinted glasses that many on the left and right wear.
Some argue that there is no such thing as objectivism in journalism. That no matter how hard a journalist tries, subjective views and personal opinions leak in to stories. Since the objectivism reform following the age of yellow journalism a century ago editors have attempted to denude the news of opinion, leaving just fact. In recent years, however, opinion has crept back in to some news outlets in various nefarious ways. It has happened more on television, but newspapers have seen new owners with blatant political leanings. If you argue that I am expressing an opinion, not fact, need I remind you that this column is in the opinion section of this paper? It still does not let me get away with reporting false facts.
With the rise of the internet, blogging and advocacy reporting sponsored by political entities have exploded blurring the line between objective journalism and something this side of Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Public Elightenment and Propaganda. All one has to do is follow the money.
For example, IdahoReporter.com, a “source for uniquely watchdog and free-market oriented coverage of state government agencies, the Legislature and state elected officials,” is a “product of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan education and policy research organization based in Boise, Idaho.” Idaho Freedom Foundation is funded by the Koch brothers who have bankrolled Americans for Prosperity, the group behind the “grassroots” Tea Party movement.
You think that this has nothing to do with Kuna’s levy vote? Think again. Steve Ackerman, noted for debating against the supplemental school levy and authoring several anti-levy articles published in KMN’s opinion section is on the Board of Scholars for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. The IFF is part of the State Policy Network, a group of over 30 state “right wing funded groups posing as independent investigative media outlets,” according to respriv.org. It is interesting to note that one of the State Policy Network’s main missions is to “push for privatization of public services and public schools.” If you connect the dots, privatizing the bus drivers and janitorial services in Kuna schools may not be a local idea to begin with.
On the left, organizations and groups funded by George Soros and other liberal leaning billionaires exist as well. His funded organizations include MoveOn.org, and America Coming Together which gear up much more in presidential election years. (For more dirt on national political maneuverings visit www.opensecrets.org.)
Attacks on the “liberal” media are easy to make, the media usually do not defend themselves. They rarely have to. When you are the messenger, it has always come with the job to take it on the chin. Media tend to eat their own children when they behave badly. Furthermore, the mere process of being a newspaper editor makes one a target for those whose opinions are not given a perceived fair share of the page. Being a messenger, since ancient times, has been a dangerous profession. These days, however, the “liberal media” have become the excuse for the rise, and some say need, for the “conservative media.” We’ve divided the playground.
In recent weeks, I have brought you the Apples to Apples series of articles attempting to inform readers about the complicated issue of school funding so that they may make an informed decision regarding the upcoming school supplemental levy vote on May 20. If the litmus test for whether or not I’ve done my job is letters and phone calls saying so, even negative ones saying I did a horrible job, then I’ve done my job. At least people are reading. I can say that the ratio is about four good to one bad, numbers even Edward R. Murrow would like.
In addition to the series, I have published opinions from both sides of the issue. For the reader that cancelled their subscription claiming I did not, obviously you haven’t been reading the paper enough. I publish even more of them online. Yes, there are some I haven’t published, either they being redundant, having nothing to add to the debate, or perhaps (and I may be subjective here) my attempt to keep things civil. I have even taken the extraordinary measure to respond to letters to the editor when my own research has found the facts authors cite to be incorrect. People are entitled to their opinions, but facts are facts, and when misstated, they need to be corrected. I even published a clarification of my own article when I was enlightened to additional information I felt would help readers understand complicated school funding.
Over the next week, I expect that voters in the Kuna School District will be subjected to last minute calls, political signs and mailers encouraging them to vote one way or another. I can tell you that I haven’t seen any pro-levy propaganda that incorrectly uses directly sourced data to make their point. I have, however, seen plenty of anti-levy information being presented that is manipulated, irrelevant to the levy issue, or downright wrong. Accusations of school district not being transparent I find blatantly false. I have had no problem getting access to data that is publically available. No doors have been shut in my face and nobody is denying information to me. Of course, my mother always taught me honey attracts more flies than vinegar.
Be wary over the next few days about the information you are being presented with. I stand behind my research and have brought you a neutral point of view of the levy debate. It is important to know which messenger is telling you information.
Mark Twain is credited with saying, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
If you don’t trust what we’re telling you, look for yourself. Visit www.KunaSchools.org where you can find budget and expense information on the front page going back several years. Visit the State Board of Education (www.boardofed.idaho.gov) where you can find financial information about school districts, levies and more. Visit the Ada County Assessor’s land records page (www.adacountyassessor.org/propsys/) to find out exactly how much your property taxes are going back several years.
Whatever you do on May 20, don’t sit at home. Make a difference and go vote. It is your right. Be your own messenger.
Feel free to re-read the series Apples to Apples online at KunaMelba.com where you can access it for FREE with registration.