Papparazzi of opinion

Published 4:16 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

Several weeks ago while surfing through the channels, potato reposing on the couch, I happened to accidentally surf Sean Hannity where during an interview with a news guest I heard him seriously proclaim, “If it weren’t for the Drudge Report and talk radio, we would never get to the truth,” or words to that effect.

Meaning of course, that the liberal-leaning biased national news media—CNN, FOX, the major networks, the daily newspapers and wire services—are all involved in this giant conspiracy of untruths and disinformation.

I have never read the Drudge report, because I heard Drudge himself once proclaim, that if he didn’t have enough news on a particular day to fill his on-line Internet news report, he would make things up.

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Drudge is part of this new hoard of amateur bloggers on the Internet, proponents of the “New Journalism”—never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Yet people of substantial intellect freely quote Drudge and others like him as their relevant and truthful source of news.

Also, I have never been a fan of talk radio. I don’t consider talk radio a news source. Certainly none of it is liberally biased, its opinions liberally slanted, its untruths and disinformation the result of a giant left-wing conspiracy thrust upon an unsuspecting electorate.

Talk radio hosts are required to be rude, loud and obnoxious. Civility be gone. Be bombastic or be unemployed.

Now comes the Fairness Doctrine.

There’s a move in Congress, actually the law is now languishing in a House committee as we speak, to require talk shows to present both sides of a controversial argument of great public interest and debate.

Conservative critics complain that the fairness bill is simply a ploy by the liberal Democrats to sew a zipper across the lips of Rush Limbaugh and others like him.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly has some 400,000 petitions on her desk protesting enactment of the Fairness Doctrine, which would amend the 1934 Communications Act that now says the FCC cannot by law require talk radio stations to broadcast varying views on controversial issues.

The critics of the fairness bill refer to it as the Censorship Doctrine or the “Hush Rush” Bill, arguing that it would essentially end conservative talk radio programs because the stations would not have enough funds to meet the new requirements. (Speaking of enough funds, to be fair, did you know Rush and Hannity are paid several million dollars a year in salaries?)

As one who has practiced 25 years as a professional journalist, I have conflicting views on these issues.

As a news reporter, we were always religiously taught fairness and accuracy. There were no substitutes. Facts were to be checked and double checked. All sides of issues and opposing views were to be accurately portrayed, balanced and reported.

No editor ever told me to slant a news story, or write it from a particular biased point of view. And, when I became an editor, I never instructed a reporter on how to write their news story, only to be sure of their facts, balance and fairness.

Every newspaper publisher or owner I ever worked for or ever knew always insisted that his reporting staff do the job they were professionally trained to do. Despite their own deeply personal political preferences, not once did any newspaper publisher or owner ever dictate how a news story was to be written, to be slanted or biased.

I believe in a fairness doctrine, but certainly not as a zipper law. I don’t like radio or TV talk shows because folks perceive those opinions as truth, and those opinions are presented without balance. Opposing views are dismissed without exposure..

Yet, as an American and a defender of First Amendment Freedom Of Speech, I will put up with it. Once you start dictating opinion by rule of law, then there goes another freedom.

The Patriot Act has taken away enough freedoms, enslaving us with so called “security” issues in nearly every aspect of our lives today.

The right to bear arms is another example.

I don’t like guns. Don’t own one. Don’t want one.

The last time I squeezed a trigger was in 1958 on the rifle range at Fort Jackson, S.C. Yet I must defend others rights to enjoy their Second Amendment freedom to bear arms just as I grudgingly defend Rush and Hannity to utter their constitutional rights to be outrageous.

The late conservative columnist and editor William F. Buckley was one of the first to bring us a talk show format, his famous Firing Line, the hour-long discussion where he liked to bust the balloons of the liberals. But liberals loved being a guest on his show, because Mr. Buckley was a gentlemen, and he allowed his guests to fully and freely explain their viewpoints without rude interruption

Honor, Mr. Buckley believed, comes only from victory over worthy opponents.

So we must let them shout at us, legally with lips unzippered, their constitutional right to be obnoxious, rude and opinionated without government interference. To justify their millions of dollars in annual salaries, Sean has to be Sean and Rush has to be Rush.

They and those like them are the Papparazzi of opinion, there for your entertainment only, not your enlightenment.