Integrity Matters
November 16, 2005

World's complexities require careful thought

Question: (E-196)

Dear Jim:

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 resolution.

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.

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