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COLUMN: What happened to objectivity?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 | 12:42 p.m. CDT; updated 6:00 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I overheard some people discussing the fact that Campbell Brown was stepping down as an anchor/reporter for CNN. These people felt that her ratings had plummeted because the audiences were no longer interested in straight news. They were of the opinion that people now preferred their news flavored with opinion from the right or left.

I certainly hope they are wrong. There are still a few of us who like to make up our own minds about the issues. What happened to objectivity? And more importantly, where do the news networks go from here? As it is, we have to listen a long time before we can get beyond the newscaster's opinion to find out what the story is about. I would venture to guess that the majority of Americans don't know what is in the health care legislation even though they know the left's and the right's opinion of it. Is this really the direction we want to go? What happens when we get ready to vote? Will we operate on the basis of who we believe instead of the facts?

I like hearing the truth and nothing but the truth. After I hear the truth, I'm willing to listen to anybody's opinion of it. We have many important problems on our table, and I think it is essential that we know exactly what they are.

Now, I think we all understand dollars-and-cents issues and that television networks, like all other businesses, are concerned about the bottom line. They are in the process of downsizing and cutting budgets just as we all are. Actually, some of us believe that the interests of the television audiences would be better served if the networks would make a concerted effort to separate news from entertainment. Most of us sincerely don't want the world's news delivered to us in a show business package. Really, we live every day with some pretty serious realities. Some of us have to deal with unemployment, others are battling illness and disease without health insurance, and many have to pile up with other family members to have a roof over their heads. So I truly believe that we can take the news unvarnished.

A good idea for the networks might be to design a talk show for these newscasters who want their opinions heard. They can be relieved of presenting the news, and print journalists who are accustomed to leaving their personal beliefs out of news stories could handle their jobs. These journalists understand that their opinions are not part of the story. Or maybe the networks could just have actors reading the news, and that way we would all know that their performances are entertainment, not news.

Like most people, I am aware that many Americans prefer entertainment to reality. The problem is that we make up the "we the people" who are charged with the responsibility of running this country. In order to do that, we have to have an accurate report about what the problems and issues are. It's bad enough that we have many in positions of political power who seem to be indifferent to the will of the people. I would say these politicians would be delighted if we would stay out of the process. Then they could run the government to suit themselves and never have to be accountable to anyone.

As for newscasters who are trying to do a good job but are having a hard time getting the public's interest, well, they shouldn't think that it's personal. There are large numbers of people who spend all of their free time using social networking sites, viewing pornography on the computer, text messaging their friends or playing video games; these people's attention would be difficult to secure even if their houses were on fire.

Those who are determined to remain centrists will simply have to make up their minds to ward off attempts being made by party loyalists to influence them. Many millions of us still rely on the nation's newspapers to give us the facts. And certainly they are needed today as much as they have been throughout our history.

This is just one more area that demands our concern. When are we going to get serious about our role in the world? How long can we afford to continue ignoring our social and political problems by playing games and participating in other forms of escape without paying a severe price for our neglect?

That is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Ignore it at your own risk.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.


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