November 16, 2005
World's complexities require careful
Television "news" has become a "show." Biased
reporting attracts those who demand support and justification
for what they already believe. Can this be a good thing?
No. When respectful give and take is replaced with
caustic harangues, built upon rigid principles, then
constructive communication is lost. Today, litmus-tested
performers, wearing camera-friendly make-up, preach doctrinaire
positions in the name of news reporting. With biting
sarcasm, they feverishly attack those who challenge them.
Mindless party-line "sound bites" weaken a
society (now a world) dependent upon mutual understanding,
international business transactions and civility in conflict
So, how did we get so far down this road of distrust
and intolerance? Americans over 50 grew up at a time
when many decisions had already been made: Generally
speaking, parents were either Democrats or Republicans.
Most adults purchased one of three automobiles: Chevrolet,
Ford or Dodge. News came from three sources: morning
or afternoon newspapers (one, Republican, the other,
Democrat); radio commentators who were ex-newspaper veterans;
and, television broadcasters from NBC, CBS, or ABC. People
were Protestant, Catholic or Jewish. Families and neighborhoods,
even sections of the nation, had their traditions, often
perceived as somewhat mysterious to outsiders. This was
life, with little challenge or change.
By contrast, today's world feels topsy-turvy. Issues
demanding understanding are far closer to home than international
terrorism, the collapse of Soviet communism, disease
and starvation in Africa, the politics of energy and
fresh water or even complex international monetary policies.
The soul of society has been infected with plummeting
confidence in leaders, soaring rates of teen pregnancy,
drug abuse, divorce and criminal activities among the
powerful. Said the poet: "Oh, the times, they are
a' changin'." Political perspectives are no longer
dogmatically carried forward by children. Choosing an
automobile is complicated by hundreds of options. Try
ordering a hot drink at an upscale coffee shop!
Wise-appearing television newscasters from yesteryear
were welcome guests in millions of homes because it was
assumed they would never say or do anything to harm society.
Today's airwaves are filled with "talking heads" eagerly
mouthing any perspective, loudly and energetically, to
satisfy clamoring fans. Noisy personal attacks have displaced
the reasoned argument.
The time is now to listen thoughtfully, especially to conflicting
opinions. Shouting down, or simply ignoring, those who
think and behave differently discourages openness and trust.
Civil discourse is the most intelligent pathway to discourage
demagoguery and build confidence. Integrity demands graciousness,
respect and discipline. Listening is the key.