SEABROOK SAYS: Until recently, the now retired Tim Gause was Duke Energy’s go-to man for Gaston County. Gause’ words help us better understand the words coming from the media, specifically the Gaston Gazette and the Charlotte Observer. He, too, challenges us to help the media by offering them good stuff to print and showing exceptions of fair, honest and balanced news. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?
You are busier than ever and your appetite for fast but reliable information has never been more significant. Whatever your interest – sports, politics, business or local events, you expect to receive information that is fair and balanced. News that you can take to your workplace or social gathering. Solid information that measures risk and influences your perspectives, decisions and outcomes. This editorial is not about protecting the First Amendment, nor is it a popularity commendation for journalism.
So, how would rate your local media? Can you rely on the six o’clock news, the Gaston Gazette or Charlotte Observer? The talk show with celebrity appearances? Is your iPhone the fountain of truth?
A recent Gallup poll suggests that only 32% of the public has confidence in the media. Why is there a presumption of negativity from the media? Is the media seeking conclusions in lieu of reporting the facts? Standards have dropped, hurting everyone.
In my former working life – there was often a frustration with the media —- the quality of the reporting or the intent of the media. Has this happened to you or to your business? During the recent political campaigns and following the elections, my family became entwined in the news, including the “Wiki-Leaks”, Facebook posts, and Twitter. We were continually challenging each other about the most reliable networks to watch and which newspapers maintained reputational values. So what did we learn?
Here are take-aways that will make you a more discerning media participant:
- Have an open mind but keep a healthy skepticism for what is being reported. It’s no longer your grandfather’s media.
- Your first step as you read an article should examine who authored it. A local reporter or a syndicated columnist?
- Are they reporting the news, attempting to create a larger story, or writing for entertainment? Did the story pass judgment or convict its subject ahead of the fact gathering process?
- Ask you read the Gazette or the Observer or watch the six o’clock news, ask yourself: Did they report the facts or did they express an opinion? I would never suggest that our Gaston Gazette or Charlotte Observer create “fake news” (fake news seeks to mislead, rather than entertain readers for financial or other gain).
- Validation of sources. Often, it’s not what is reported, but what has been left out of a story or in some cases, just not reported. Fact checking is often left to the reader or a rebuttal because fact checking takes time and reporting deadlines have to be met. In this day of instant messaging, the pressure to get it out there often overrides the contextual value of the event.
- Did their headline or opening statement used to capture your attention really match the story? The guy that writes the story doesn’t always create the header.
- Here’s a favorite: When a reporter starts a question with “ some would say” or “it’s been said” – here we go. That reporter is taking you on an expedition.
News is a tough competitive business. Smaller media companies are facing difficulty with declining home delivery succumbing to digital delivery. Large media syndicates are buying or shutting down the smaller hometown outlets and media markets are being consolidated. Media is a business with owners and shareholders who expect reasonable profit.
So here in Gaston county, let’s work together to raise our expectations and our standards. This is our home, with so many wonderful attributes. So, when an investor or a relocating family looks at us, let’s be polished and positive in how we present our community, whether it’s in our personal expression or in the media. We can help our local media by supplying them with the good things to report and by letting them know that we EXPECT a standard of excellence in reporting fair, honest, balanced news.
Retired Utility Executive