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Shaw: Being thankful for 'mainstream media'

thank God for the much maligned “mainstream news media.” I am talking about news operations such as ABC or CBS News, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and yes, The Forum. If you want accurate and unbiased information, that’s where you should turn. If you want to know how your elected leaders are operating, what happened in a court case, or crucial medical information, this is where to go.

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

Thank you so much for electing me as “Best Newspaper Columnist of the Red River Valley.” I am honored, touched and humbled. I’m also not sure I’m worthy. The other four nominees: Tony Bender, Mike McFeely, Tammy Swift and Don Kinzler are outstanding columnists, and deserve enormous recognition.

While columnists give their opinions, it’s important that those opinions are based on accurate information. Ideally, columnists should have a background in straight news reporting. Having experience in checking out information, using credible sources, seeking all sides of a story and remaining neutral makes for a better columnist.

With that, I would like to speak out on behalf of journalists. Reporters generally don’t get rich, work bad hours, face lots of pressures, and have to react at a moment’s notice. There’s little glory in being awakened at 3 a.m. to cover a fire when it’s 25 below zero. I know. I speak from experience.

Aspiring journalists often get into this business because it’s a calling. They want to write and report what’s going on in an objective way. Any biases they have need to be checked in at the door. It’s OK to have opinions, but unless you’re a columnist or a commentator, those opinions should not show up in their news stories.

Thank God for the much maligned “mainstream news media.” I am talking about news operations such as ABC or CBS News, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and yes, your local paper. If you want accurate and unbiased information, that’s where you should turn. If you want to know how your elected leaders are operating, what happened in a court case, or crucial medical information, this is where to go.

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There are checks and balances in the “mainstream media.” Reporters have to be thorough in their research, and convince their bosses that their stories are accurate. Yes, reporters can make mistakes, like people in any other profession. However, I have never known anyone in the “mainstream media” to fabricate a story. If that ever happened, that reporter should be fired.

Unfortunately, many people are relying on biased sources with no checks and balances for their information, such as social media. Lies can spread quickly. Bravo to the North Dakota Department of Health for turning off comments on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube “to curtail the spread of misinformation being attached to the agency’s posts via comments and replies.”

I’m also not a fan of most cable news networks. They aren’t really objective news operations, but propaganda outlets. Sadly, people watch them to reinforce their own biases.

Some of the “stories” on FOX and OAN spread things that are merely preposterous, such as “The War on Christmas” or President Biden is against eating red meat. Other misinformation is dangerous, such as saying the presidential election was stolen or vaccines against the coronavirus are ineffective and unproven. The former contributed to a violent attempt to overthrow our government. The latter led to many preventable deaths.

For this democracy to survive, we need an informed citizenry. So, let’s appreciate the news media.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

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