Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The highest compliment

Twice today, people in the midst of controversy around here - one public-sector, the other private-sector - complained to me about the daily paper's treatment of them, and paid me a compliment I don't take the time to appreciate nearly often enough.

They called me fair. And while fishing for compliments is a hazardous sport, with little chance of success, I (perhaps naively) don't believe they were simply sucking up. Too many times, I've heard how people in high-visibility positions simply pray that the media doesn't foul up the basic message they are trying to get across, much less agree with them on the editorial pages. And so many times, the press comes up short in the basics of accuracy and fairness.

As a reporter for a local Website for the past five years, I've been very blessed to have a boss who doesn't tell me what to write, or how to write it. I have no idea how many times he's bitten his tongue to keep from doing just that, but I've tried to make clear how much I appreciate his trust in my news judgment.

I can mess up, like any other human. (Oh boy, can I.) But when I tell folks "I don't play gotcha journalism," I mean it. I drool over a juicy story as much as the next reporter, but I don't believe, as some editors obviously do, that if you don't make the people you cover mad at you, you must be too cozy with them and not doing your job. That if the folks you write about like your stories - especially if they are in government - you must be doing something wrong.

Telling both sides of a story seems to be out of favor any more, as journalism magazines question the very worthiness of objectivity. I've engaged in my share of newslist fistfights with those who believe that reporters shouldn't give both sides equal weight if one side is "obviously wrong." Get real. We don't wear robes, and we're not on a jury. We fail in our mission if we pretend that we can sort out the crooks from the heroes, and I firmly believe most readers are smart enough to see right through one-sided "position journalism." They know when they are being spun.

Trouble is, if you believe what you read these days, a lot of folks are rather enjoying "preaching to the choir" news sources that do what the right-wing talk show hosts do: Tell you that you're right and the other side is wrong, that just about everything is black and white, and that one day, when your side prevails, Utopia will exist. Very scary.

The beauty, value and worth of objective news reporting is that you get to hear the other points of view, the other side or thought you hadn't considered. That it becomes less easy to live in your cozy world view of preconceived notions. That you realize that the problem you thought would be so easily solved if only everyone believed as you do ... isn't that simple at all. And maybe, just maybe, we all nudge a bit toward the middle, toward common ground, toward that far-too-maligned notion of compromise.

A friend who's a state senator points out that even the most black-and-white of issues have grays to them. Darn straight. If we buy simple answers, we'll be disappointed with the results every single time, IMHO.

Maybe I'm an old-fashioned dinosaur. Maybe "position journalism" isn't just an editorial or column masquerading as a fair, balanced story. Maybe a story without "spin" is too boring to be read by far too many folks. But I still believe it's the right way to go, and that the idea of all media proclaiming their political (or other) ideologies is downright chilling.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Eating Larry Hagman (or JR takes the cake)

Sometimes, the edge is the best part of The Oregonian (and if it's posted at Oregon Live, I haven't a clue where;-)

Take, for example, these two tidbits:

Larry Hagman has stipulated that upon his death, he wants his body to be ground in a wood chipper and scattered in a field, where wheat is to be harvested for a cake to be eaten by his friends and family one year later. (This from USA Today, no less).

Now does that sound like a paaartaaaay or what?;-)

Followed by the tale of "a Turkish gas station attendant who lost his cell phone dialed the number and was surprised to hear it ringing from his dog's stomach."

The headline was just right: "Can you hear me NOW?" (Beats "This Too Shall Pass";-)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Nothing brings a smile...

like word of an imminent release of a new album from one of my Top 5 favorite artists of all time, Elton John. "Peachtree Road" is the name, and after listening to 30-second clips of each song, I know it's another great one. I feared "Songs From the West Coast" was so bitter about music in the lyrics, etc., that he might pack it in, but this one sounds superb.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

OrBlogs testing 1-2-3;-)

I think I just added the code that gets me seen at OrBlogs, a fast-growing repository of Oregon blogs. (In fact, this blog and my other, Please Release Me already are listed there!) Now I just gotta think of some important things to say;-)

Healing nation? (Or more screams at extremes?)

How long will it be before we see a set of lawn signs/bumper stickers that say "Don't blame me, I voted for Kerry!" and "Wake Me in '08" (and/0r Hillary '08")?

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush said the right things today. We'll see how that translates into action (or inaction) in the next four years, and whether the country can heal or we need a move toward the center through such things as the "Radical Middle."

We really need to find a way to move away from the screams at the extremes. I was just listening to an old friend and philosophical foe, Lars Larson, on the radio, so mad he was shaking (I could tell) about punks who threatened him and his wife, posted his home address on the Net, forced him to move, etc.

Ideas/views I disagree with me don't scare me. That kind of punk behavior surely does. Our own homegrown terrorists deserve nothing better than the ones overseas. If you say someone who speaks his mind on the radio "deserves it," you're part of the problem, and you scare me, too.