Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pressing Issues

Those of you who follow the Marmelade Gypsy know that I rarely post politically-oriented pieces. I believe that one's political opinions are their own and whether or not they agree with mine, it doesn't affect our friendship (or family relationships) -- and shouldn't. We keep our distance on that topic and when it's too hot to handle, I back off, remove myself from the situation if at all possible.

First, if anything good has come from the chaos of the past few months it is this: People are becoming engaged. They know the names of their Senators and Congressional Representatives. They are reading and watching news, most of which is not fake -- it may be opinionated but it's not fake. And it's pretty clear we care about our country. Care passionately -- and that is a good thing.

I learned a long time ago that you can't convince people who are deeply entrenched in a thought -- on any topic. And that, I'm sorry to say, sometimes includes me.

But if I had any advice to give to our president it would be "Stop talking about the press and fake news. It makes you look like a buffoon."

Whether he is or not isn't the issue. His continual harping on the issue doesn't help. It just makes him look paranoid and unpresidential. It doesn't help.

I know some of you may not agree and I hope that we'll still be "friends." But that's up to you.

Without the press we wouldn't know about Watergate. Sunday, Feb. 19, on "Face the Nation," Reince Priebus was advocating the concept of reporters revealing their sources. One of the tenets of the press is that sources are protected. That's how you find out things that merit investigation. Some play out, some don't. But without Deep Throat, Woodward and Bernstein would have had much less to work with and one of the great cover-ups of all time would have remained a secret.

This is personal for me. For more than 30 years I worked in public broadcasting and the station I worked for had both radio and television coverage of news and politics. I was also part of a university department that housed the school of journalism. Over the course of years I worked with many journalists in one capacity or another. I remember being in the newsroom on election night tweeting results as they came in. It was exciting and exhausting.

credit: Bill Richards, WKAR
I've seen debate production and let me tell you, these politicians are picky. Podium height must be the same, note pads provided. They haggle on dates and who is in and who isn't till you're ready to pull your hair out. You talk about prima donnas in the performing arts? Honey, you ain't seen nothing yet -- and some of these folks are just running for Governor or Mayor!

Since 1972 our senior capitol correspondent has anchored a weekly show on Michigan politics with a rotating panel whose members alternate. I worked with "Off the Record" host Tim Skubick for decades and I could not tell you if he is a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. And this has been the topic among many of my colleagues and none of us know. And Tim's not telling. It's interesting to observe that after a particularly feisty program we would get calls saying both that "He was too hard on that guy," and "He was giving that guy softballs." The same guest.

credit: Stacey Hoxsey, WKAR
Our radio staff, as well, hits hard topics and does it unflinchingly. A little over a year ago, one reporter's interview of our university president following the controversial topic of selling broadcast spectrum angered her to a degree heard over the radio in terse snotty-nose answers. The anchor himself faced direct wrath. And, I'm proud to say, was backed for journalistic integrity both in-house and from listeners.

Now, you can say, "Well, that's local. It's different with the president."

No it isn't. It's just bigger. And the reporters aren't different either. They're just better known.

There's an important document we should all be aware of -- the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. You can (and should) read the link. But basically, there are several key principles: Seek truth and Report It, Minimize Harm, Act Independently, Be Accountable and Transparent.

In the section of this document on "anonymous sources" the ethics code says: "Few ethical issues in journalism are more entangled with the law than the use of anonymous sources. Keep your promise not to identify a source of information and it’s possible to find yourself facing a grand jury, a judge and a jail cell. On the other hand, break your promise of confidentiality to that source and it’s just possible you might find yourself on the receiving end of a lawsuit." (there's more at the link.)

In fact, laws protect the journalists in this action. They are called "Shield Laws" and they provide statutory protection for the “reporters' privilege” — legal rules which protect journalists against the government requiring them to reveal confidential sources or other information. 

Remember when Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) went to jail for not revealing a source? Check out this National Law Journal article to see how that episode was mentioned in a later, related case. 
20th Century Fox / National Law Journal
The point is, as Bob Woodward of "Woodward and Bernstein" said on "Face the Nation, "The press is not our enemy... democracies die in darkness." Or, as Senator Lindsay Graham (R, SC) says "The backbone of America is the free press and independent judiciary and it is worth fighting and dying for."

John McCain defended the freedom of the press on "Meet the Press" this week, reminding viewers that suppressing the press is "how dictators get started." He admitted to host Chuck Todd, "I hate the press... but the fact is we need you. We must have a free press." (source here. Link to program not yet posted.)

I'm not sure that our president understands what a clown he makes of himself with the repeated attacks on fake news and the press. (Clarification: fake news is "The Onion" (and often that term reflects satire). Fake news is "The National Enquirer." Fake news is not the standard press organizations. They may or may not have some bias but they are calling it as they see it..)

When one witnesses a train wreck, there will be different descriptions of what happened. When I witnessed the train wreck of a press conference the other day I thought, "Of course you have to report on this. A man who is leading our country becomes completely unhinged in public -- and you can't have a bigger public than television. He doesn't listen to the questions (remember the reporter who said, "I know you are not anti semitic but what does your administration plan to do about the increase in hate crimes?" and he was railed at for being perceived as saying Trump is semitic.) It was a legitimate question and a very good one that I'd like to know the answer to myself.

He insulted an African American reporter and he repeatedly referred to fake news.

Well, he made news with that one -- as he predicted in the conference he would. And he should have.

My plea to you is to ignore his Fake News rant. Clear your mind and prejudices and try to listen, and objectively. And I know that's hard. I force myself to listen to Fox News but I do sometimes, because I need to hear that take. Listen to different sources. You will see a variety of viewpoints and clearly some are more liberal and some more conservative.

It doesn't mean that one or the other is wrong necessarily. It means it doesn't match with your view or mine.

I am reminded of my first Consumer Behavior Class where we learned about something called Cognitive Dissonance.

This psychological theory is defined as the mental discomfort or stress one has when holding conflicting beliefs or values or when confronted with new information that contradicts an existing belief. For example, if you buy a new car, we are inclined to hold onto our belief that it is the right choice even when confronted by recalls, airbag problems or defects. "Well, I love my Toyota, I will probably even get another one."

We hold tight because we didn't want to be wrong. It's our attempt at internal consistency. Or, as I find in myself, a real tough challenge to admit we may have made a mistake. (Flip flop!)

I hear a lot of cognitive dissonance regarding the election. We make choices based on what we know, what we think is right or on one issue that overrides all others. And sometimes that's what you have to do.

And sometimes it isn't.

If I want to change things, I have to take action (one of my words of the year). We all do. Sitting around and complaining gets us nowhere if we don't do something, large or small (write postcards, march, attend meetings, call to make our voices heard.) So I will continue to do what I do and expect or hope others will do the same.

One last story. When I was in high school choir, we had to sing a song made popular for choral groups by the Fred Waring Singers. The words, "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." from Emma Lazarus' poem on the Statue of Liberty, took a satiric turn ("Give us Fred Waring and we'll ring his neck, huddled in the corner till he dies...").

We didn't have a clue, some many of us being little white-bread and white-bred kids. Then my mother told me about her friend Mrs. Lepkongs, to whom she taught English when they fled Soviet-controlled Latvia after the war with few belongings. And in the years since, I've studied history -- the horrible mistakes the US made during World War II in imprisoning our Japanese immigrants, the tragedy of the Holocaust and a narcissistic, psychotic dictator (who also silenced the press). I've learned that we must open our doors as well as our hearts.

What counts most now -- at least to me -- is that we go forth in love and in measured thoughtfulness. Do what we need to do -- but think about our words, our actions, our hopes for our country as a land of the free.


Lynne said...

Happy to have read this post . . .
and happy I can encourage others to listen/read as well.
Than you Jeanie . . .

Becca said...

This is marvelous, and so well stated. I really appreciate your take on this whole thing because I know you speak from experience of being in the media trenches.

Mary@mydogsmygardenandmary said...

Great post, thank you very much.


I need orange said...

Nice post, Jeanie.

It's a time when all of us have to speak up. It's important that those of us who care about truth make clear what our positions are.

People care what "everyone else" thinks. When we are silent, they can tell themselves we agree with them. We may, or we may not. But if we care about outcomes, I think it is important that we take a visible stand.

Good job.

A Joyful Cottage said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I make it a point to never discuss politics on my blog or on others. I wish you well.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Excellent! Your words ring so true and you background gives you so much knowledge. I am appalled at the ranting about fake news and all the press are liars. That is such a slippery slope to losing freedom and rights we hold so dear in our country. When the leader of our country says these things in such a 'crazy' manner it embarrasses me and even more, it scares me. I don't often discuss politics on my blog either but it is time for those who have been quiet to stand up and shout.

Pam~ Virginia Retro said...

Here, here! So well put.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I really enjoyed this. Even though I try not to discuss politics (or religion), it sometimes bleeds into my posts. Much like my post today, in fact.

However, mine doesn't come from the trenches, like your experience. I appreciate that you share the what, why, and how of these political events.

I would like to add a couple of things you mentioned. We not only imprisoned Japanese IMMIGRANTS, we also imprisoned American born Japanese. And look what we did to the native Hawaiians with Japanese ancestry. That is disgraceful.

Additionally, we turned JEWS back just prior to Hitler invading Poland that preceded WWII. They came to America looking for refuge, yet we sent them back home on the same ships they crossed the ocean on. Does this sound familiar? Slower return, but just as effective.

Thanks for sharing this. I have an internet friend who is a Muslim hater. She constantly rants about them and shares things like Michigan going down in a hail of Muslim bullets. One day I left a rather testy comment because I was offended by what she wrote. She asked why can't I understand what is going on. She said I needed to "get with the program" and see things as they are/were. I commented back with the fact I knew EXACTLY where she was coming from and I respected her opinion, but she obviously didn't respect mine. After all, that's what America is all about. We may not like what is said, but we need to accept it, regardless. Even the buffoon of a president is probably right once in awhile.

Joanne Huffman said...

Well thought out and well stated.

My name is Erika. said...

Thank you for this post. The only fake news is that coming out of the mouth of our president. The press needs to keep him in check. Also any president who has been in office less than 1 month and is already campaigning isn't doing his job as president and is only making himself feel better. Great article Jeanie, and I won't get on my soapbox. Hugs-Erika

Marilyn Miller said...

Thanks so much for sharing from your experience in the world of news. Really well spoken/written. I was so glad to hear John McCain speak out this weekend. Let's hope more come forward.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

I am with you on every issue. If anything, this president has caused us to UNITE but not in the way I think he was hoping, under HIS rule. No, we are uniting for a different purpose, out of necessity to maintain sanity, unity and justice for ALL.

La Table De Nana said...

Not my place to comment at all..but may I say how very well written you are!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Bravo, Jeanie! I appreciated hearing your insight as someone who has first-hand knowledge of the working of the press. I also do not like to share political posts on my blog but I was moved to write something recently, too. I struggle because many of my family members and some of my friends voted for Trump and some of them continue to blindly follow him despite huge red flags. I think that when John McCain is speaking out against him, that is a sign that something is terribly wrong. There was also a clip that I saw recently on facebook where Chris Matthews of Fox News was talking about how problematic it is that Trump has labeled the news as the enemy. He said that Obama complained about Fox News a lot but he never called the press the enemy and that is an important point of distinction. So when a conservative news group is raising a flag, again, it's time to pay attention.

I have always leaned more towards Republican views, but this election I had to put my political affiliation aside and consider what was best for our country. So I feel like that gives me a bit of extra credibility when speaking against Trump because in a normal election year, I would have voted for a Republican. But I just couldn't this year and I voted for Clinton. I am disappointed that there are many that continue to support him despite the terrible things he is trying to do. I really hope that senate Republicans start to speak up more, even if that means putting their reelection at stake.

Sandra Cox said...

Kudos. This may be the best post you've ever written.
Though I avoid political topics at my blog--because I know some of the buds are on the opposite side of the fence and that I'm not going to change any minds just cause hard feelings--I feel very strongly about what's going on today. It scares me...a lot.
Our country is so deeply divided. Middle ground is gone. You are either for or against, whether it's right or wrong. How can we survive without compromise? And even if you support a political figure and or party how can you turn a blind idea to things that are blatantly wrong or untrue?
Even with politicians I strongly support, there are things they do I don't agree with. And that's not an acceptable response in today's climate.
Again, thoughtfully written post. Good for you for speaking out, Jeanie.

Janet said...

I haven't visited in a while and I'm so glad I found time to stop by today. Excellent post. The only thing I could add to everyone's comments is the famous quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Bonnie said...

Well written post, Jeanie

Your last sentence is so true. To think about our words are very important.

BeachGypsy said...

Very interesting post! I also just read the post about your grandma Minnie and wow that is so amazing!! And what a neaT picture of her--she looks so happy and friendly!! I love genealogy and learned so many neat things doing our family tree!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Thanks for this. I have been learning so much every day from the excellent reporting of several major media organizations. And I have responded on Facebook but not on my blog, though I've been thinking about doing that. Glad you did.

Jeanne Washburn said...

Beautifully written Jeanie. Words that we - the world - all need to live by.

Red Rose Alley said...

I agree with you, Jeanie, that one must not worry about the press so much. Sometimes the press can tell blatant lies, and sometimes they get it right and can be helpful, but we shouldn't worry so much, and this is a good reminder for just that. Actions speak louder than words. If we live a good life, what can they say?


Sandra Cox said...

I like Lindsey and McCain because they do speak their mind regardless of party.

Cheryl said...

Very well written, bravo :-)

Arti said...

Thanks for a timely and candid post, Jeanie. Kudos to you for standing up and speaking for the journalists and media professionals. Despite being an outsider, I wake up every morning to news about what's going on in my country and my Southern Neighbor, albeit often quite unpleasant for the past months. Nevertheless, I know journalists are doing their jobs. They're not there to make me wake up happy, but informed.

Tracy said...

BEAUTIFULLY expressed, Jeanie! And just loved hearing your stories! I feel very much the same way about so much of what you are sharing here. There is a LOT of toxicity flying around these days... It has been very stressful reading/seeing the news sometimes. We can only combat what's happening with love in our hearts, thoughtfulness in our words and clarity of actions. This is not a time for us to be silence. We have to stay awake, and stay engaged, and keep talking, and finding some compromise. And I hope the Senate starts to speak up more too, and be more effective in stopping some of the horrible things our current President it trying to do. LOVE and GOODNESS... Love must be our first response. Love can heal the divide, if we let it. ((HUGS))

joared said...

Excellent post! Appreciate your discussion of the Press as I've focused on some, too. I concur with much of what you say from my association with a commercial TV station in a nearby state years ago. We all do need to take action and continue speaking out.

Wandering Wren said...

Congrats on this great post. I was only saying yesterday how tricky it is for me to get a good perspective on all this. At the moment as having moved to Asia I am yet to find what I believe to be my reliable source of news. So for now and perhaps forever Jeanie you're it!!! Yes I have CNN and BBC World and I have people I meet here (who have left the US who talk the Impeachment word), I have other US friends who say don't believe what you read and give him time...
Soon I will be back in the UK to catch up on the Brexit news... 2017 is certainly shaping up to be a moody year on the world political stage.
Thank you for your insights :)
Love Wren x

Danielle L Zecher said...

I think this is probably one of the best political posts I've ever read.

I appreciate the fact that you mention the need to take action. I'm so fed up by the people, on both sides of various issues, who seem to think that ranting, pontificating, whatever you want to call it, on Facebook, etc. makes a difference. It doesn't. Taking real action does.

Snickelfritz said...

What is a person suppose to think when the news repeats something over and over again and you know positively it is not true? That is fake news. I do believe certain news outlets make up or at the very least stretch the news to make people believe something that may not be true at all. I try to listen to all views, but when some views are always lies. I stop believing them any longer. CNN is one of them. I cannot watch it nor do I believe most of what they report.

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