“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain, but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”— Dale CarnegieAmerican writerAnd lecturer(1888-1955)———Rarely in …
Rarely in my life have I, or in this case my profession, been assailed as savagely as in a recent "Letter to the Editor" published in a neighboring newspaper.
More on that in a minute.
Sure, scathing words come from time to time, but most responsible critics try to stick with facts.
In my lifetime, the first incident of such babble came during my college years. The foaming mouth belonged to the dean of the School of Business Administration who reportedly declared during one of his lectures, “Communications majors are economic ignoramuses.”
As a senior editor of the university’s student newspaper, not only did the words — once they made it back to me from business students in the classroom — infuriate me, they emboldened me to type out a letter on newspaper stationery taking the dean to task for his unjust criticisms.
The memo achieved its purpose. A couple days later, I received a call from the dean. I was away from the newspaper office at the time — probably out somewhere raking more muck, or in class — so another editor took the message.
His handwritten scribbles read something like, “… Dean Baker called for you. He’s fit to be tied. Said he’d call you back. Been nice working with you. Send us a Christmas card from whatever university lets you in."
Back in the day, we students were a brash bunch. Student newspaper editors were even worse. Our mission was to save the world. As adults fortysomething years later, I guess we’re still trying.
Dean Baker must have cooled down. He never called back, and I never reached out to him. The closest we came to talking was during a student reception for the business department that I attended with my fiancée — who was majoring in Business Administration.
While she and I talked with friends near the food line, out of the corner of one eye I spied the dean staring at me from a distance. He took a step in my direction, but was intercepted by a department colleague who must have wanted to make some small talk.
I’m glad he did. It wouldn’t have been good for the department head to associate one of his prize business students with journalism riffraff like me. Incidentally, that business major and I have been married almost 41 years. Not sure how the dean would have felt about that either.
Moving on ...
As mentioned, about two weeks ago I became aware of a “Letter to the Editor” published in Chattanooga's newspaper, a metro that reaches out to a lot of counties in the region. Like Dean Baker, the letter writer attacked journalists. He pretty much fingered the lot of us.
His inspiration came as no surprise. His words mimicked the feelings of our own President Trump who, I suppose, still sees the news media as “… the enemies of the American public.”
Here’s what the letter writer had to say.
“It’s time we tell the truth about ‘journalists.’ Journalism is not the most difficult college major.”
On this, he is correct.
“It’s [journalism] basically something people with below-average IQ and an ‘idiot savant’-type writing talent do when they can’t do anything else.”
I had to look up “savant.” On this, he is wrong.
“Basically, it [journalism] enables the student to party all the time, study less and give a pick-up line in a bar.”
Again, he is wrong. As a college student, I took a full curricula of courses every quarter, worked for the university newspaper for 2½ years and held down a part-time job (first, in food services and later in university public relations) all four years in order to help pay for my books and tuition. And for the record, I didn’t meet my fiancée in a bar; rather, it came in the student newspaper office.
I might add she was quite a knockout. She still is.
“Today, the majority of ‘journalists’ are just blatant propagandists for liberal causes. It has been shown that ‘journalists’ are over 90 percent liberal, and all but one major ‘news’ organization had less than 90 percent negative Trump news stories.”
He is part right and part wrong.
I do have a progressive bone or two, or three, but I have just as many conservative ones. As I’ve said before in this column, I am not a brand. I am a human. I have diverse ideas and I want all voices to be heard — liberal, conservative and moderate.
“Simply, these ‘journalists’ hate Trump. Why? Trump is a smart, successful businessman who is their polar opposite and who beats them at every turn.”
Again, he is incorrect; at least, on the "hate" part.
I do not hate our president. I often disagree with his views, and I believe he sometimes talks, or tweets, without thinking. Yet, I want him to succeed. If he succeeds, America succeeds. And if America wins, then Americans win.
I would say the same if a Democrat, or an Independent, occupied the Oval Office.
Frankly, I’m appreciative of the Trump tax cut, and our tax professional tells us our refund next year will be even better. I hope she's right. But I also have concerns about our nation’s future. That $20 trillion national debt isn’t going to get paid off with good intent. And if it doesn’t get paid off ... well duh, that’s why I’m an economic ignoramus.
Here's another eye-opener from this "liberal" journalist: About the president's wall? Hey, the idea's got merit. But I’d like some insight into its repercussions.
The letter writer goes on to state, “A biased press is worse than no press at all.”
He is correct.
It is why news media outlets — print, broadcast or social — must hold themselves accountable to fair comment. It’s OK for us to be dubious, but we must remain balanced in our approach. We must assure all voices are heard.
That’s my take on Journalism 101.
Of course, I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, as Dean Baker would attest.
But I do believe this: Like in any profession, those who take irresponsible liberties, and who rely on too many unethical practices, are dooming us all to a deepened level of public scrutiny and distrust that is as much undeserved as it is unwarranted.
As for IQs, mine might rival a slug’s. But in the day, I was sure smart enough to attract the prettiest girl on campus in the class of 1977.
Almost 41 years later, she's still the prettiest.
(About the writer: Rick Norton is an associate editor at the Cleveland Daily Banner. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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