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Truth and the Press

I ran across a quote by Thomas Jefferson today on the Quote of The Day site. Jefferson said I read no newspaper now but Ritchie's, and in that chiefly the advertisements, for they contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper. I feel a much greater interest in knowing what has passed two or three thousand years ago, than in what is now passing. I read nothing, therefore, but of the heroes of Troy, of the wars of Lacedaemon and Athens, of Pompey and Caesar, and of Augustus too, the Bonaparte and parricide scoundrel of that day. The full letter to Nathaniel Monticello can be found here.

In some ways it is comforting to know that press was as biased 230 years ago as it is today. While advertisements must hold to a level of truth or be sued for false advertising (or libel against another product or service), nothing keeps the reporters, columnists or editorialists from making what ever statements they please. I often find it curious that statements buried several paragraphs into an article often say the opposite of the headline. Read half a dozen news pieces in a paper of your choice. Can you find one which reports only the facts of the subject without either omitting relevant information or including biased information? How many of those articles contain some kind of value statement supporting or opposing the topic being discussed? So much for an objective press.

All people have biases, reporters included. So they should quit trying to call the press objective and acknowledge the inherent slant. Leave the editorializing for the editorial page and teach reporters to report without spouting opinions. At least then we might get most sides of the story and be able to form our own opinion.